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Google Maps Navigation: Another Shot at iPhone

Posted by: Rob Hof on October 28, 2009

Amid rising competition between Google’s Android mobile operating software and the iPhone, Google this morning is sending another shot Apple’s way. It’s debuting a free beta version of a new navigation service, a la TomTom’s or Garmin’s popular devices, that offers turn-by-turn, real-time navigation with Google Maps—but only on devices using its new Android 2.0 software.


In particular, that’s likely to be Verizon’s much-anticipated new Droid phone that was introduced this morning. Mobile expert Greg Sterling of Opus Research, who like me attended a pre-briefing yesterday at Google, notes that the service could give Verizon at least temporary bragging rights over the iPhone, advantages it has been touting in recent in-Steve-Jobs’-face ads on the Droid. “It’s going to be a strong competitive differentiator in the short term,” says Sterling, who’s impressed by the navigation service.

In fact, the service offers bells and whistles beyond those of dedicated navigation devices, such as integration with Google’s Street View, satellite imagery, and the ability to search destinations by name rather than address. For that reason, TomTom, Garmin, and the rest of the dedicated GPS navigation crew have even more reason to worry than Apple.

Google didn’t rule out offering the service on the iPhone and said it’s working with Apple but didn’t provide a time frame or any promise that a similar service for the iPhone would be forthcoming. Vic Gundotra, Google’s vice president of engineering for mobile and developer, said the software has “stringent” hardware requirements.

Anyway, here are the features of Maps Navigation, from Google’s press information site (Google’s blog post is also up now):

Google Maps Navigation (Beta) is an Internet-connected GPS navigation system that provides turn-by-turn voice guidance as a free feature of Google Maps on Android 2.0 phones.

Google Maps Navigation uses your phone's Internet connection to give you the latest maps and business data. You never need to buy map upgrades or manually update your device because you're always using the most recent data from Google Maps. And this data is continuously improving, thanks to users who report maps issues and local businesses on Google Local Business Center.

But that's not all that's different about Google's approach to GPS navigation. Google Maps Navigation was built from the ground up as an Internet-connected GPS system, making the following features possible:

* Search in plain English. No need to know the address. You can type a business name (e.g. “starbucks”) or even a kind of a business (e.g. “thai restaurant”), just like you would on Google.

* Search by voice. Speak your destination instead of typing (English only): "Navigate to the de Young Museum in San Francisco".

* Traffic view. An on-screen indicator glows green, yellow, or red based on the current traffic conditions along your route. A single touch on the indicator toggles a traffic view that shows the traffic ahead.

* Search along route. Search for any kind of business along your route, or turn on popular layers such as gas stations, restaurants, or parking.

* Satellite view. View your route overlaid on 3D satellite views with Google's high-resolution aerial imagery.

* Street View. Visualize turns overlaid on Google's Street View imagery. Navigation automatically switches to Street View as you approach your destination.

* Car dock mode. For certain devices, placing your phone in a car dock activates a special mode that makes it easy to use your device at arm's length.

Reader Comments


October 28, 2009 11:09 AM

Google has announced this will be available for other mobile OS's including iPhone. Apple will have to decide if it wants it released on the iPhone. Given these statements, how is this a Shot at iPhone? It may very well be a shot at TomTom, Garmin, etc. but your sensational headlines are cheap tricks that erode any chance at good journalism.

IPhone Dude

October 28, 2009 11:18 AM

Time to take Google Chrome off all my computers, to include my office computers

JR Jake

October 28, 2009 11:20 AM


Christopher Smith

October 28, 2009 11:20 AM

Google said in the same press release it will release this for the iPhone too. What happened to the great journalism?


October 28, 2009 11:27 AM

I think that Apple can't stay behind this project, this getting exciting with all this bulky navigation software in the market. Now there's going to be a battle over who has the best and the most features that will benefit us the consumers that are paying a very high price for navigation software. Very cool idea, it had to be google! Please do a beta release soon for apple, ofcourse if they agreed to bring it on board.


October 28, 2009 11:28 AM

I'd love to see this on a dedicated GPS device. I do not want to have to pay for internet service to use it. For as little as i drive the garmin works, but i hate to pay anything monthly to use this. (internet)


October 28, 2009 1:08 PM

This is cool, but will it work in tunnels?


October 28, 2009 1:17 PM

I want to work in google navigation company

Robert Hof

October 28, 2009 1:18 PM

Nkrumah: Google claims that while the service depends on a connection, it pre-caches directions and can lose a connection for 10 or 15 minutes and course-correct if necessary when the connection returns. Of course, we'll have to see if this works in the wild.


October 28, 2009 2:06 PM

More competition means GPS app may come as part of any future iPhones which is great for consumers.

iPhone SE -

Samson Twain

October 28, 2009 2:27 PM

Nkrumah, does it matter? When was the last time you turned left or right in a tunnel?

John Lovell

October 28, 2009 2:36 PM

Nkrumah wonders: "Will it work in tunnels?" Think about it, Nkrumah: You are not likely to take a wrong turn while you're in a tunnel. You just keep driving until you go out. You don't need GPS in tunnels. Duh.


October 28, 2009 4:27 PM

@Samson Twain, @John Lowell

I-93 is a major highway that tunnels under Boston, MA and while underground there are multiple exits that bring you to different parts of the city. So while you could just keep driving until you reach the end, you might miss your exit on the way.


October 28, 2009 5:22 PM

Now, the Droid is for they say Moto has a Sholes that seems to be the same fone for GSM with 2 band 3G and a-gps ...isn't this, actually, the iPhone killer if it gets in the hands of the ATT crowd unlocked??

mehmet akalin

October 28, 2009 8:19 PM

if writers had time to checkout the daily usage of gps devices(hardware, options, etc) i think the article'd be much more objective..

Mark Adelia

October 29, 2009 11:28 AM

Actually one of the reasons that Google Maps Navigation was rolled out on the Droid device is because Android 2.0 is limited to ~256mb of space for apps. Google does not allow Android to load apps onto a SD memory card for fear of piracy. Most navigation apps run well over 1gig in size because they store the maps inside the app - for viewing when without a data signal. Funny how nobody is talking about the fact that the Droid is severely limited by allowable app space. The 16gig SD card is useless for apps - unless you hack (root) the phone.


October 29, 2009 12:34 PM

The "does it work in a tunnel" argument to claim superiority of non-Internet GPS is a red herring. GPS of any type needs a clear view of the sky to receive signals from the positioning satellites and calculate position. Google Nav won't work in a tunnel, but neither will any Navigon, Garmin, Magellan, TomTom, or in-dash system. About the best they can do is guess at your position based on your projected route and the speed at which you entered the tunnel.

Alan O'Sullivan

October 29, 2009 12:44 PM

This looks cool, iPhone will definetly be cashing in on the act!


October 30, 2009 9:16 AM

Uh,,,, don't think your dedicated GPS will work in a tunnel,, either!!! What a bone head remark.


October 31, 2009 6:44 PM

The strategy buy of Placebase by Apple reflects the same thing.It will sure follow from Apple a stand alone GPS with out Google Tag

AT&T will be the reason behind a possible Google Navi rejection on iPhone

November 6, 2009 3:48 PM

So will Google Maps Navigation come on the iPhone? If it doesn't, rest assured, millions of iPhone users like myself will be furious at not only Apple, but also AT&T for shoving aside such a great, free, product to preserve the interests of the respective companies.

Not only that, it might make the FCC launch a full blown investigation after the recent infamous Google Voice app rejection by Apple (more like AT&T). (Oh wait, I mean "under consideration").

As for Apple coming out with its own mapping software... that might be possible. It's building a $1 billion server farm in North Carolina, after buying that mapping company, Placebase. It might be possible, but Apple ought to know that Google Maps by itself have already displaced many, many, other companies that offered mapping services, such as MapQuest and Yahoo Maps, so I don't know if they really would try to idiotically challenge Google like that.


November 10, 2009 7:59 PM

Forget the tunel coment, I want to know if it will work in a submarine. Just in case color effects it's use,it's a yellow one


November 15, 2009 3:08 AM

Actually some in dash sstems come equiped with a speed sensor from the car and on board gyro and reverse sense thus making them completely operable in a tunnel


November 15, 2009 3:08 AM

Actually some in dash sstems come equiped with a speed sensor from the car and on board gyro and reverse sense thus making them completely operable in a tunnel

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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