Update: The rumour is no more. Google will indeed offer free navigation software to use on its Android powered mobile phones from today. Goes to show thats sometimes there's truth in even the biggest rumours.
Check out the official Google announcement for more information. Our original story is below:
The rumour mill has gone into overdrive thanks to a recent Forbes article that examines Google's increasing involvement in the area of online maps.
According to an interview with Google spokeswoman Carolyn Penner by Forbes, "consumers frequently ask the company to add navigation to Google Maps, but [Penner] declined to comment on future products."
While this is far from conclusive evidence that Google is about to launch a new GPS app, it did make us think about whether the mobile phone is ready to replace bigger dedicted in-car devices for navigation.
We've compiled a brief list of all the best (and worst) reasons for Google releasing a turn-by-turn map app, and why you shouldn't throw away your in-car GPS just yet. It could be another good reason to remember that Google still have a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to Android.
FOR: Google-based GPS on your phone
- Google's online map products are superior to much of the competition
- It'll [likely] be free. That'll hopefully give smartphone users the opportunity to dump their shonky map provider and embrace Google.
- Will provide motivation to get other map providers to work even harder to improve their product.
- A free map product would force the global big guns such as TomTom, Garmin and Navman to up the stakes in map quality, ease-of-use and cost. Yes, costs for updating maps on an annual or bi-annual basis (which have been prohibitive up until now) are one of the more expensive downsides to owning an in-car GPS.
AGAINST: Google-based GPS on your phone
- Cost. Your phone requires data and that data costs money. The best thing about your in-car GPS is that once you've paid for the unit, there are little or no costs throughout the life of the product to worry about.
- Accessibility. A decent map-enabled smartphone needs an internet service, meaning older phones may be out of luck. Those in rural areas or areas with poor mobile access will also face access problems.
- Slow 3G speeds in places where the connection is limited would severely hamper the quality of such map services. You get none of these problems with an in-car GPS, which work without data plans.
- Big Brother. Privacy advocates are already unhappy with the way Google collects and uses its map data (consider controversy surrounding Google Street View). More to the point, advertising could easily be targeted by geographic location.
- Screen size. In-car units still have the advantage when it comes to easy to use menus and superior touch screens.