While today might go down as the day the Droid took over, it’s just one handset. Oh, it’s a sweet handset — one that has me tempted to get a new Verizon account — but at the end of the day, it’s just one handset that will have the spotlight until the next great handset hits. The bigger news in the long term is what comes with the Droid, and other Android 2.0 phones in the future: the free Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0.
I’ve watched the above video demo — and I’m boldly going to make a prediction. Google has trumped just about every other navigation service on the phone and will own a majority of the portable GPS market within two to three years.
Yes, it’s that good. Why?
- The service leverages the cloud and Google’s massive search information. No need to download or purchase maps, POIs or any other updates.
- The easy voice search doesn’t require a specific POI or address. You can search for anything in simple terms, just like you can with a regular Google search. Example in the video: “navigate to the museum with the King Tut exhibit in San Francisco.” If you don’t know which museum it is, how will a standalone GPS device know where to look?
- Street view and satellite integration adds an extra touch that competitors just can’t match easily. And I can see the value of each because I’ve had some doubts when told to make a turn. Having a view of exactly what I should see is fantastic.
- Google is clearly working with the hardware vendors. The new Verizon Droid, for example, is built by Motorola and can use a car dock for the Maps software. When placed in the car dock, the phone intelligently knows to use “car dock” mode for easier navigation and button presses.
- The navigation service is free, aside from any data charges from the carrier. Essentially, you’re getting a superior standalone GPS as a free bonus with your phone.
- Android is on a huge upward growth path. Early predictions for 2012 are over 75 million Android devices sold — and most, if not all of them, are likely to offer this navigation software. Those numbers have to hurt if your a personal navigation device maker.
I’m not trying to play down the Verizon Droid launch here. The phone looks incredible and if I didn’t already have two monthly phone bills, I’d likely be snapping one up. Android 2.0 combined with great coverage is a potent combination. But I don’t want to overlook the long-term and bigger impact of what Google has done for navigation today. Simply put — they nailed it at the same time they put a nail in the coffin of the existing GPS market.