Verizon Droid Gets New Google Innovation: Real-Time Internet-Linked Navigation

Last Updated Oct 29, 2009 3:03 PM EDT

Verizon Wireless is already cashing in on the benefits of Google's Android mobile operating system, and the first Droid phone hasn't even hit the market yet.

Google posted a blog today demonstrating its new mobile Google Maps navigation feature, which not only gives its mobile operating system a significant leg up on the likes of Apple's iPhone, but trumps stand-alone GPS units from Garmin, TomTom, Magellan and other vendors of global positioning system technology. According to Google, fewer than 10 percent of GPS systems are connected to the Internet in real time, which means they don't have the most up-to-date information.

But the new feature also further distinguishes the Motorola handset running Droid, expected to be introduced in early November, from other mobile devices, and the iPhone in particular, with driver-friendly features that other vendors and carriers will be hard-pressed to match.

Indeed, Verizon Wireless, Motorola and Google seem determined to avoid the fate of Palm's Pre, which failed to translate pre-launch hype into actual sales. The triumvirate have been very aggressive in their attacks on the iPhone in particular, and this new feature is probably the first of several we can expect to see displayed in the weeks leading up to the release of Droid. The new feature also plays into Verizon Wireless's onslaught of ads contrasting its broadband coverage area to that of AT&T.

According to Google, the Verizon Droid will come equipped with a specialized dock for cars to mesh with Android's "car dock mode," which is designed for easier handling while driving. The GPS features, which are part of the second Android release, include voice-activated search, plain English search, and live traffic data superimposed on maps.

The Google mobile product manager who demonstrated the application noted that, because the navigation application is Web-based, it can tap into any information available through standard Web search to supplement driving instructions. This means that users can formulate requests for driving instructions that don't include a specific address or name. His example was "give me instructions for getting to the museum in San Francisco with the King Tut exhibit."

The application can thus tap into Web-based information about exhibits at local museums to provide driving instructions based on natural language queries.

Android 2.0 also demonstrates how quickly an open-source-based operating system can offer significant improvements from one version to the next, and gives handset makers more reason to consider Android over Microsoft's Windows Mobile.

  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek, InternetNews.com, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator, Pseudo.com, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's WWD.com. Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.