Analysis: Google enters the navigation market
Google Maps Navigation now available in the US free of charge for handsets based on Android 2.0.

Google announced the first version of Google Maps for Mobile in 2006. The downloadable map application has gradually gained new features, for instance automatic location using GPS or network location data, Street View for street-level imagery of buildings and turns, as well as Google Latitude that allows users to locate friends and show their location on the map. The next logical step – full voice guided turn-by-turn navigation – was added in Google Maps Navigation, which is currently available in the US for handsets based on Android 2.0.

However, free turn-by-turn navigation applications for mobile phones are not new. The Dutch company Nav4All launched its free service at the beginning of 2006. During 2007, LocatioNet introduced amAze GPS, an ad-funded mapping, local search and turn-by-turn navigation service, while the German directory publisher DasÖrtliche announced the Ö-Navi service together with Jentro Technologies.

With its large user base and well-known brand, Google has played an important role in reducing the cost of basic mapping services for mobile phones. The new feature can be expected to increase competition for navigation services, especially in North America where most premium services cost US$ 10 per month. Nevertheless, premium services can be expected to account for a majority of total usage in the foreseeable future. Mobile users that do not want advertisements, or are unwilling to share their personal information will continue to opt for premium services. Yet, the willingness to pay for additional monthly service subscriptions can well be reduced. Instead, one time fees and bundles that for instance include navigation services with wireless data subscriptions or the cost of a new handset will grow in importance.

André Malm
LBS Insight

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