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Summary:

Ford is joining Chevy in offering a smartphone-based navigation app that integrates with its connected car platform. TeleNav’s new Scout for Sync AppLink doesn’t have all of the features or a full-bore nav system, but it could fundamentally change the in-vehicle mapping game.

Ford Sync AppLink TeleNav Scout

Ford is offering up a way to put vehicle navigation into your car on the cheap. Instead of getting an expensive onboard nav system factory installed and paying an expensive monthly subscription fee, Ford drivers can access the company’s turn-by-turn navigation available over its Sync AppLink platform. Like its archrival General Motors, Ford has seen the connected car future, and it lies in the smartphone.

On Monday, Ford’s navigation technology provider TeleNav announced an Android version of its Scout navigation app to complement its already launched iPhone mapping app. The Google Play version works just like the iPhone version, with one exception: if you own an AppLink equipped car the app will automatically connect to your vehicle, turning your dash into scale-downed version vehicle navigation system. So far, the app only works on Verizon, AT&T and Sprint Android phones, but TeleNav said it would support T-Mobile users shortly.

You won’t get all of the bells whistles of a dedicated nav system. There is no big interactive map or 3D renderings of the your route. But AppLink’s more limited screen will display individual route instructions and give you voice prompts. The app also taps into Sync’s voice command system so you can access all of the preset destinations in your phone and uses the device’s data connection to search for addresses or points of interest. You can tell the app to take you home or to look for fast food or gas stations.

It’s the first time that Ford has integrated on-board navigation directly with a smartphone – so far it’s focused primarily on entertainment “radio” apps. And in the process it’s showing its willingness to rethink how it sells services in the vehicle. To activate Scout’s Car Connect feature you have to pay $25 a year annual subscription (or $5 a month if you go month-by-month), but that’s peanuts compared to what Ford could get by selling car buyers expensive embedded nav systems and their accompanying subscriptions.

What’s more the strategy allows Ford to bring navigation to much broader array of vehicles, as Sync AppLink percolates down to all makes and models. The app runs off the smartphone and uses Sync’s dash controls merely as an interface, so Ford doesn’t have to make a big investments in hardware to support it.

Ford Connected Services and Solutions Chief Technologist John Ellis will be at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference this week, discussing just how Ford is reinventing itself as an application platform on wheels. It’s not only Ford that that’s treading into the unknown turf of applications. All of the automakers are wrestling with same questions of how open their connected cars should be to third party development and what services they should control.

Chevrolet has set out on a similar course to Ford and has potentially more at risk. It’s introducing a new smartphone nav app in the fourth quarter called BringGo to its MyLink connected car platform, which will bring an even richer in-vehicle experience to new Spark and Sonic models, which could cannibalize revenues from Chevy’s OnStar navigation services. Unlike Sync AppLink, Chevy’s latest version of MyLink has a seven-inch color touch screen, and Chevy is taking advantage of it. Not only will BringGo display maps directly on that screen, customers can use the touch screen interface to interact with the app.

Ford hasn’t gone that far yet, but it easily could. It’s higher-end connected car system MyFord Touch features all of the necessary hardware to recreate the full embedded navigation experience in its pricier vehicles. Ford has made embedded navigation standard its in all MyFord Touch package, but since TeleNav builds that nav system it could easily integrate its smartphone apps with the on-board platform.

  1. Ford is really providing a lot of innovative features with their vehicles these days, great to see an American manufacturer back to making quality products.

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  2. The early days of the next big shift in mobility, the car is going to be a real hub of our mobile lifestyles in the future.

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  3. Well here’s the deal…
    Once you have and purchase something like this you discover, “why did I spend all this money on this thing when I could have bought it from the local electronics store for, like 1/10 the cost?”

    Why am I not getting support?
    Why do the tech tell me its my problem?

    What I am telling everyone is: don’t do it!

    Don’t get sucked in thinking you need any of this because your smartphone will do it all, and it will keep an update for you and it will work better because it won’t be last years model that doesn’t have the things the next year offers.

    I’m telling everyone this because I am a tech, and the techs for these products (and the manuals) don’t support the products.

    Sorry, folks!

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  4. No doubt a purpose-built unit in the car is best: styled to fit in, rugged, integrated electronically (perhaps). But it is also 10x the cost of a consumer version at the store ($100 Tom-Tom), often requires a $ervice contract (SiriusXM, OnStar…), and 2 years later is dusty because something better’s at Best Buy. I just got rid of a car with a cassette deck in it and have another with a CD. And those were long-lived technologies! Besides, who wants to pay car dealer prices for service & repair.

    I think the smart car companies will capitalize on the mobile platforms of the day (iPhone & Android now) and just be the display, input, and output for the intelligence that’s in the ever-changing portable device. Cars just can’t keep up with the pace of change of consumer electronics. But the car companies still have to provide solid support for ever-changing handsets, the same way Microsoft has to keep supporting more and more (s/w) drivers.

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  5. Good idea…By the way, Navigation systems do not require a subscription.

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  6. Soon our phones will control everything that we do in our lives.

    Wait!!! They already do don’t they?

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