RealTime IT News

Google Debuts Mobile GPS App for Android 2.0

Google today served up more Éclair sweetness with Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0 -- a mobile GPS app with 3-D views, turn-by-turn guidance and automatic rerouting.

Still in beta, the app was "built from the ground up to take advantage of your phone's Internet connection," Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) software engineer Keith Ito wrote in a blog post.

He highlighted several features of the new app for Android 2.0, the latest iteration of it mobile OS software development kit, dubbed Éclair. In addition to street and 3-D satellite views, the navigation app sports voice search, real-time traffic data and proximity searches pegged to the route.

Ito said the Motorola Droid, which was formally unveiled today and is arriving on Verizon Nov. 6, will be the first device to run the new navigation app. This, of course, builds on the recent partnership between Google and Big Red to bring Android devices to market.

Google is initially rolling out the application for U.S. users only.

The arrival of Google's free app could pose a threat to established players in the GPS space, namely TomTom, Garmin and Navigon, who to date have been successful with stand-alone and mobile navigational apps and devices. TomTom recently reported that it had registered 80,000 downloads of its iPhone app, which it began selling in August -- for $100. Still, the iPhone operates on its own OS, not Android, so Google Map Navigation is not set up as a direct competitor, though it could be a powerful draw for users thinking of switching phones.

The appearance of Google Maps Navigation comes as mobile GPS is starting to become powerful enough to take on stand-alone GPS devices, and as the fledgling OS Android continues to win over developers.

Research firm Gartner has identified location-based services (LBS) as a hot sector in the mobile industry, projecting that LBS revenue will jump to $713 million this year, up from $327 million in 2008.

Android on the march

Google issued the Éclair SDK for Android 2.0 yesterday, which includes a slew of major upgrades to the open source mobile operating system.

The updates are generally pushed out to users' handsets by carriers within roughly two weeks of the SDK roll-out.

In the meantime, a slew of Android-powered handsets are debuting as carriers and manufacturers gear up for the holiday shopping season. In addition to the Droid coming to Verizon next week, T-Mobile is selling the myTouch 3G and the Motorola Cliq, with the Samsung Behold II coming soon. Sprint is offering the HTC Hero and Samsung Moment.