Google Maps Navigation comes to Android 1.6

Google Maps Navigation at work.One of the most exciting parts of the Motorola Droid launch was the inclusion of Google Maps Navigation, a free turn-by-turn GPS system from Google. At first the feature was only compatible with phones running Android 2.0, which is only the Droid. Today Google announced that it would be moving the nav system down to Android 1.6, opening up the service to phones like the MyTouch 3G and G1.

I’d call this a big win for Android users. Until this update the hope was that some enterprising developer would hack the thing down to 1.6. This still leaves out the Motorola CLIQ and HTC Droid Eris, but hey, it’s better than the original situation. The 1.6 release also adds layers, allowing you to overlay information on the map, like Wikipedia articles on local points of interest and public transit lines. The one thing 1.6 is missing is the “navigate to” voice command, so you’ll have to enter everything by hand. Life’s tough, isn’t it?


Verizon takes after Palm without pioneering an OS

Motorola Droid.On Saturday night, Verizon publicly declared it would be going after the iPhone with a new Android phone from Motorola. To do so, Big Red is using the same tactic Palm did, but it will probably see a much higher success rate. The reason: the OS.

It’s not just that I think Android is a superior platform (which I do), or that Palm continues to botch almost everything it tries with regard to the App Catalog (which it does). It’s really that Verizon isn’t trying to pioneer a new OS against the world’s most successful smartphone. Android is not the thriving development community it could be, but it’s not brand new either. That means there will be plenty of app support on launch day, but more importantly that developers are familiar enough to create apps that take advantage of specific features of the new Motorola phone – a big part of what makes the iPhone so good.

On top of that huge advantage, the phone looks really nice. It’s sleek and slim, has a landscape keyboard that far outstrips the cramped POS on the Pre, and it’s on Verizon. I don’t think I need to mention all the other features Verizon’s new ad points out.

This isn’t something Apple will take lying down, though. We should see the rebuttal in what promises to be a snarky little ad war before long.


Smartphone War: Are Apps the Deciding Battleground?

The touchscreen smartphones.Smartphones used to be the domain of supergeeks and tech professionals – people who needed or desperately wanted the functionality of a full computer in a tidy mobile platform. As the devices became more popular and the desire for on-the-go web capabilities grew you could almost smell the storm coming.

Then the iPhone came out and sold millions, spurring competitors to make their own touchscreen wonderphone. We’ve now got the Blackberry Storm, the HTC G1, the Palm Pre, the Nokia N97, and the Samsung Jet, all running on a different operating system. While the manufacturers tout the hardware features that make their phone the best (physical keyboards, a screen that clicks, a camera with a flash), consumers are starting to look to the software that runs the phone, and the applications they’re finally able to install, to make a decision.

Apple has been most successful with third party application sales and support due to their App Store, which opened in mid-July, 2008. Since release, the App Store has seen more than a billion application downloads and now showcases more than 50,000 third party applications. From games to translators, finance tools to ereaders, the Apple App Store has an app for almost anything, leaving its competitors lagging far behind.

It’s taken nearly a year for competitors to get their mobile application stores up and running, time during which Apple has continued to lure consumers with the promise of a robust app catalog. As Business Insider points out, consumers aren’t just investing in a phone, they’re investing in a platform, with application quality and quantity as a major component of that investment. In a similar article, BI adds that time users spend with applications is replacing time spent on the web. Apps like Yelp allow users quick access to restaurant reviews, where before they would have been using Google.

This isn’t just good news for Apple, it’s an important statistic for developers. Read the rest of this entry »