Google Navigation Is Cool, But It's No Garmin-Killer

You'd think that Google just invented a way to make cars fly from the reaction to its new navigation software today.

Admittedly it is cool, but it isn't too much different that what they've already had in the iPhone Maps.app. I've used the iPhone Maps for navigation. It has the ability to map, get directions, see satelle imagery and find stuff along the way. It helps sometimes, but having maps stored on the device is the only fool-proof way to make sure I'll get where I am going. I've lost the data signal enough to know not to trust it 100%.

And the voice input thing? I am sure that is going to work really well. How many people use the iPhone Google search app with voice? I did, for a few days. It isn't that accurate when I speak right into the iPhone. I don't think it is going to be much better at four feet away in a running car.

Yet, the stock prices of Garmin and TomTom are tumbling 20% on the news.

The thing that everybody seems to be forgetting is that this is a different type of service. This is the Cloud. People have trouble with the idea of doing word processing and spreadsheets in the Cloud, let alone navigation apps.

I'm not sure how good Verizon's network is but I can't remember the last time I was able to complete a five minute phone call on AT&T's network while driving. I wouldn't put my hopes of reaching an important destination on whether Verizon was working along a route I haven't traveled before.

Sure the maps cache most the route once you get directions, but what if you can't get the signal in the first place? Or if you need to change something along the way, or have to restart your phone - or find that In-n-Out burger? (yum!)

As for being up to date, Google still has 5-year old satellite pictures of my home in their database so I'm not sure their maps are going to be any more updated than Garmin's or TomTom's. Theoretically, they should be moreup-to-date however.

Google Traffic is a nice feature, but we've already had that for two years on the iPhone maps.app. People shouldn't be selling their TomTom stock on that news. Plus other nav apps for iPhone have this functionality.

Perhaps most importantly, Google doesn't have text-to-speech allowing the device to read directions as they come up. This is a huge convenience and safety issue. Unless Google enables this functionality (which wouldn't be difficult or surprising), it will be much easier and safer to use a Garmin or TomTom. Correction: Google Navigation has Text to Speech

I feel a bit like Steve Ballmer predicting that the iPhone won't sell well here. And I am not saying that. Google Navigation will be popular. I just don't think it is time to give up on the portable navigation devices and software just yet.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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