Navigation on the iPhone and “Killer” Features

Scott Francis
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The iOS6 release has two “killer” features in its maps implementation:

  • Beautiful (and useful) 3D renderings of cities.
  • Turn-by-turn navigation.

 Good article on TUAW about this navigation issue.

What’s the one big thing that Android devices — since 2.0, in 2009 — have been able to do with their maps that iOS devices, natively and without expensive third-party apps, couldn’t do? Realtime, turn by turn navigation. The feature that lets you replace your $100-and-up dashboard GPS unit with only your phone and your voice, included in the box with millions of Android phones. A specific, unarguable and easy-to-market differentiating feature. Droid does; iPhone doesn’t.

Exactly.  Apple had to eliminate this capability gap.  You can argue whether Apple’s maps are worse than Google’s, on specific data points. You can even be right. But it is easier to run advertising about the bright red line: our phone has navigation and theirs doesn’t.

So Apple now has turn-by-turn, voice-activated navigation.  It actually works really well.  The only problem I’ve had at all is with respect to identifying the destination correctly.  But it isn’t as if that never happened on Google Maps, with the “end point” dot being put in slightly the wrong place.  It appears to be somewhat higher incidence on iOS.

Now Apple is in the game.  It will be up to them to figure out how to keep innovating in this space and improving upon it, and it won’t be easy to differentiate positively from Google.  I wonder if they’ll acquire one of the good transit-directions apps that are out there. It seems like a logical play at this point, to augment the next version of Maps.

Update: Another article, this time on GigaOm, has an interesting take on how good mapping services will improve other Apple software and services in the near future:

The other priority for Apple will be to use its mapping platform to enrich its own services. A few predictions:

  • Siri will become significantly smarter, as she’ll learn a lot about locations, navigation, traffic patterns, and more.
  • Passbook, Apple’s hesitant entry into offers and commerce, will become truly smart. Apple will be able to control end-to-end solutions for location-based offers, recommendations, and payments that will compete with Groupon, Square, and Amazon.
  • Smart location metadata will be added to any photo or video that iOS users take, and the photos and videos will be able to be found and re-lived using location. User-created photos can also enrich any location entry, and Apple users might be able to “play” the media from any place.
  • The iOS calendar will take the location from your next calendar entry, it will calculate the time it takes to get there from your current location, and it will alert you when you need to leave.

When it’s more mature, Apple Maps will make a range of its services smarter, and the rich location data will also give Apple a chance of making credible and differentiated entries in key service domains like commerce, search, and social.



  • This is a classic Steve Jobs’s move; to develop own technology and not depend on 3rd parties. Next versions may eventually be better than Google’s, they only used initially to keep competitive.