If you’re the CEO of TomTom or Garmin, you may want to sit down for this. Google (s goog) is working on a turn-by-turn navigation app that it will be offering for free on Android 2.0 handsets. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s working with Apple (s aapl) to bring it to the App Store, too.
But hey, maybe it isn’t so bad for you, GPS industry. Maybe people will still want to pay way too much for single-purpose devices instead of installing a free app on the cell phone they already have, that works with the Google Maps and Google Search they already use.
According to CNET’s Tom Krazit, Google’s new app, appropriately dubbed Google Maps Navigation, was demoed Tuesday for reporters, and will be officially announced sometime today. The Google demo had the app running on an unidentified black Motorola Android 2.0 phone, believed to be the upcoming Droid device.
The good news for us Apple faithful is that Google announced at the event that it is working with Apple on bringing the game-changing software to the iPhone platform. The words “working with” are well chosen, because Maps Navigation requires a slightly different approach than the standard App Store approval process, since it won’t be a standalone application, but will instead work directly out of the built-in Google Maps app.
Direct Google Maps integration means that the new navigation app will be uniquely positioned among its competitors to deliver some really cool features, including Google Search for nearby points of interest (POI). Google Street View will also play a part, allowing you to see the actual street at upcoming turning points along your trip route, so that you’ll recognize exactly where you should turn. That should eliminate a lot of confusion in dense, layered urban areas where freeways and streets overlap, and many route divergences and convergences are subtle.
The version for Android 2.0 demoed also had a feature that recognized when the device was placed in a cradle or cupholder, and enlarged on-screen buttons to make it easier to work with while driving. The only feature not mentioned that is already present in many other GPS devices and apps is voice guidance, but even if not currently present, it’ll probably make an appearance down the road.
While I can’t see why Apple would reject or hamstring the introduction of this exciting, new feature, we’ve seen in the past that the relationship between it and Google can be tricky. I think Cupertino will realize, though, that in this case, the ability to market built-in, free-of-charge navigation is a great way to move more hardware, even if Navigon and TomTom won’t be too pleased with the decision.