Google Maps for the iPhoneEnlarge Photo
Google Maps Navigation app for Android 2.0 phonesEnlarge Photo
At long last, Google is set to roll out turn-by-turn navigation for the iPhone. Given that the service has been available on Android handsets for some time, we have to wonder: why the wait? It's probably because of Google's push to ensure that Android becomes the dominant smartphone OS -- though given the love/hate relationship between Google and Apple, the folks in Mountain View probably weren't eager to boost iPhone functionality for their neighbors in Cupertino, either.
Not so long ago, Google and Apple were comrades on the technology front. As cutting edge, outside-the-box companies, they've each built core audiences of zealous disciples. In fact, as recently as a year or so ago, features like Google Maps figured prominently in the marketing for Apple's major product, the iPhone.
Then came the Google Voice debacle, and the relationship began to sour. If you missed that fiasco, we won't bother to recap it here, since other folks have covered it so closely. Let's just say that the Google/Apple/AT&T menage-a-trois became a little lopsided, and Google wound up sleeping on a cot in the basement.
But back to the matter at hand: turn-by-turn navigation is long overdue for the iPhone, and for people who don't have satnav systems -- portable or in-dash -- the new service could be a very deal. That's especially true for younger people who may not have ponied up for satnav in, say, their Honda Fit or their new Ford Fiesta, but they'll likely use it on the iPhone, since the service will be free.
Obviously, this will have a major impact on automakers' bottom lines -- not to mention those of satnav manufacturers like Garmin and TomTom. But how is it social?
Turn-by-turn will, of course, be layered on Google Maps. And Google Maps -- as you might already know -- is an entirely social service. Apart from general maps available from Google's network of satellite, terrain, and street-view databases, anyone with a Google account can share a map with friends, family, or the world. So, although we haven't received confirmation of this from Google, it seems likely that turn-by-turn will be available on personalized maps, too.
The implications of that could be huge -- and hugely beneficial for individuals and corporations alike. Planning a party? Send a Google Map to attendees with turn-by-turn directions and landmarks already pointed out. Running a sale for your company? Email a Google Map to customers with your store locations marked up. Located in a construction zone? Provide a Google Map to tell drivers the easiest way to reach your door. And of course, that's to say nothing of other possibilities, which might allow for interaction with Foursquare, Gowalla and other popular geolocation apps.
Stay tuned -- this could be a game-changer. We'll have more details as the story unfolds.