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OPINIONS

Google`s Free GPS Service to Replace Standalone Devices?
By: Joe Eitel
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    2009-12-07

    Table of Contents:
  • Google`s Free GPS Service to Replace Standalone Devices?
  • GPS Manufacturers Hit Hard
  • Overview of Google’s New Service
  • Google’s Future

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    Google`s Free GPS Service to Replace Standalone Devices?


    (Page 1 of 4 )

    The team-up between AT&T and Garmin may have cleared the way for something even stranger: a partnership between Google and Verizon that throws GPS into the mix. What's going on here? And how does this change the market? Keep reading to find out.

    Quite a few people were confused when Garmin and AT&T recently teamed up to create what could only be described as a GPS cell phone. Their Garmin Nuvifone G60 seemed like a bizarre high-tech pairing that didn’t make much sense, but to the surprise of many the device didn’t perform as poorly as originally assumed.

    As we all know, Garmin has long been the go-to company for GPS devices and this was the company’s first foray into the mobile phone world. The phone aspect of the Nuvifone needed work, but the company came through and delivered a stellar GPS system on the phone that some would argue rival the best GPS devices currently on the market.

    AT&T and Garmin, though doubted at the time, may have inadvertently created a trend that’s here to stay. The much-discussed partnership between Google and Verizon resulted in the highly anticipated release of Verizon’s new Droid phones, which have reportedly sold a quarter of a million during their first week of release. The company expects to sell over 1 million by the new year, but the phone’s current numbers have already established it as the best-selling Android smartphone of all time, and the biggest rival to Apple’s iPhone. Google is upping the ante even further by announcing they are going to provide free turn-by-turn GPS directions to all Droid phones, and eventually, will also provide this service to other smartphones, including the iPhone.

    Google’s announcement has ramifications for other companies -- which we’ll discuss in a moment -- but it also illustrates a broader shift toward consolidation as it pertains to gadgets. As Jenna Wortham, a reporter for the New York Times, recently wrote (paraphrasing), the smartphone has become the Swiss Army knife of the digital age. Thus far, it has the ability to transform into a camera, MP3 player, and gaming device all with the swipe of a finger, and now we can add navigation device to that list as well.

    Though the future doesn’t look very bright for navigational device manufacturers, it could be argued that a large percentage of people still prefer straightforward GPS devices. Gadgets from TomTom and Garmin are capable of displaying maps more quickly because the data is stored in the device, as opposed to having to be downloaded over a wireless network.

    That being said, the list of smartphone shortcomings is drastically shrinking, and fast -- especially when you consider that smartphone users can now download applications offering spoken directions and live traffic updates in the blink of an eye. Not only that, but the average smartphone costs between $100 to $300, which means smartphones are competitively priced against GPS units, which typically fall in the same price range.

    Google’s announcement to provide this service obviously delighted consumers, but what does it mean for the future of GPS manufacturers like Garmin and TomTom? And not only that, but what does Google’s new service entail?

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