I recently picked up the T-mobile G1 running the Android OS and for the past few weeks have been comparing it side-by-side with a jail-broken iPhone still on AT&T. There are a lot of great applications for Android that have been created so far — such as Ecorio (profiled in this blog), Google Voice (I now have all phones, landline and mobile, synced to one number), and Wikitude, which I have to admit was the real driver behind this purchase.
Wikitude is a stunning application. Created by Mobilizy, an Austrian firm that specializes in location-based application for the Android platform, Wikitude was one of the top finalists in last year’s Android Developers Challenge. The application uses GPS to display points of interest — tapping into Wikipedia — for your location and this can be displayed in list, map or, most interestingly, in camera view.
On a recent weekend road trip to Baltimore it occurred to me that this sort of application will eventually supersede current in-car navigation systems for two reasons: 1) you can take it with you, and 2) it’s developer friendly. Let me explain.
As far as portability, the phone can be easily transferred to my pocket when I get out of my car and still allows me to use the maps and GPS capabilities of the device, not to mention make phone calls, scan for open Wi-Fi and a whole lot of other things. From an ease-of-use perspective, smartphones such as the G1, iPhone, etc. will trump in-car GPS navigation systems; it’s really only a matter of time. And, as mentioned in previous articles in this series, car manufacturers are already experimenting with docking stations for smartphones.
Then there is the Android platform, which is very developer friendly. Although the certification process for iPhone applications has been simplified, there is still a higher barrier to entry for developers targeting iPhone apps. This, and the fact that developers have greater access to key phone functions, accounts for why would-be iPhone developers currently are attracted to the Android platform. Not to mention that the concept of third-party application development for current in-car devices is basically non-existent. It’s a safe assumption that the greatest innovation in geo-location services will continue to happen on smartphones, not portable navigation devices.
We’re not the only publication predicting the imminent demise of the portable GPS unit. In Smarter GPS to let cellphones point the way, New York Times writer Roy Furchgott argues that it’s one-way communication is its Achilles heel. Users now expect their communication devices to be fully Internet-enabled, to share information and aggregate information from other users (think Carticipate, recently released for the iPhone and previously covered here).
Industry insiders know current GPS navigation units will be replaced by mobile devices, it’s only a matter of time. The real question is, which platform will dominate the automobile industry and what telecommunications and automobile manufacturer alliances will emerge?
- Android gets in the driver’s seat; Headlightblog.com, 12.16.08
- The Top 50 Applications; Android Developers Blog, 05.12.08
- Smarter GPS to let cellphones point the way; New York Times, 05.03.09
- Search, iPhone and GPS: Envisioning the future of digital automotive; Headlightblog.com, 08.22.09