The worst fears of the mobile nav sector have been realized with Google’s launch of a free mapping and nav service for Android 2.0.
The service is currently only available in the US on Motorola’s new Droid, the first handset to run on Android 2.0, which was announced yesterday by Verizon Wireless.
Unlike the paid alternatives, Google said its service automatically updates itself with the latest maps every time users log on. Other features of Google Navigation include real-time traffic updates, the ability to switch between 3D, satellite and street views and voice search.
Nav sector players this week expressed worries that a competing service from Google could cut into their bottom lines, or even drive some of them out of business.
News of the Google nav app helped knock 21% off the stock price of GPS handheld maker TomTom, and 16% off rival Garmin.
Notes the FT.com tech blog: “Navigation devices gain greater utility as they become connected, and that plays to Google’s strength.” The challenge for TomTom and Garmin would be to show they can expand on the net, Google’s home turf.
The launch of the Droid, the first Android device to run on the biggest US mobile network, received heavy coverage in the US tech media. The phone will go on sale for $199 on November 6.
Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha said the phone had been developed following a request from Verizon a year ago. He said the company had junked its loss-making Symbian developer team, most of whom were outside contractors, and was now focused on just Android and Windows Mobile platforms.
Influential tech blog GigaOm concluded the Droid wasn’t an iPhone killer, but said RIM “better be worried.”