Vodafone (s vod) has shuttered Wayfinder — just 16 months after spending $30 million to acquire the Swedish navigational software firm. The move underscores just how drastically the mobile navigation market has changed in the last year thanks to the emergence of free services from third-party developers. It’s also a sign that U.S. operators won’t be able to continue charging customers extra for navigation for much longer.
Navigation has been a lucrative space for carriers such as Verizon Wireless (s vzw) and Sprint (s s), both of whom continue to offer GPS-based services for $3 a day or $10 a month. Vodafone had acquired Wayfinder in an effort to create a suite of new location-based services and keep pace with third-party developers such as Google (s goog) and Nokia (s nok).
But both Google and Nokia have made their offerings free in the last few months, giving consumers turn-by-turn directions and other goodies for no charge beyond the cost of mobile data. So Vodafone will ditch its effort to develop its own products and look to partner with third parties for location services that it can offer for free. And that’s a clear indication that U.S. carriers looking to monetize their branded navigation services will have to find a way to do it without dinging their customers for additional monthly charges.
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