Brady Forest writes: Google has announced a free turn-by-turn navigation system for Android 2.0 phones such as the Droid.
And with that we enter a killer app for the cell phone market and the end of the market for single purpose personal navigation devices. Everyone is desperate to get a sample of the Motorola Droid phone to see how well the mix of features work on the phone. Consumer Reports has tried out a number of iPhone navigation apps to see how they measure up to the purpose built navigators. For people who don’t need specific features or generally aren’t connoisseurs of turn-by-turn directions, they are passable. But for anyone who bought early and often from Magellan, Garmin and TomTom the re-purposed iPhone Apps will come up short.
The Motorola Droid however is trying to redefine the market by keeping most of the data in the cloud at Google Inc. datacenters and doing the necessary lookups as needed over the cell phone data network. This is the exact opposite of most personal navigation devices where all the mapping and point of interest data are kept on the device and manually updated through very huge, slow downloads of new data purchased online on an annual basis (at least for me). Depending on the results Consumer Reports gets, I’ll reserve judgment. This is not likely to shift the paradigm currently of personal navigation except that the devices are going to be necessarily even more multipurpose than Garmin has made them. And unwillingly made them at that. The Garmin Nuviphone was supposed to be a big deal. But it’s a poor substitute for a much cheaper phone and more feature filled navigation device. I think the inclusion of Google Maps and Google StreetView is the next big thing in navigation as the Lane assistance differentiated TomTom from Garmin about a year and a half ago. So radical incrementalism is the order of the day still in personal GPS devices. But with an open platform for developing navigation services, who knows what the future may hold. I’m hoping the current oligarchy between Garmin and TomTom starts to crumble and someone starts to eat away at the low end or even the high end of the market. Something has got to give.