I wrote last year that phone-based navigation would overtake both the in-built car systems and the devoted Portable Navigation Devices (PND) made by the likes of Garmin and TomTom, and that it would happen by 2013. Certainly Google's introduction of Google Maps Navigation on Motorola's Droidremoved one of the primary barriers to realizing this shift: price. Unlike the turn-by-turn navigation services offered by US carriers (primarily powered by TeleNav) that cost $9.95 per month or are bundled with other services, Google's application is included with the Droid (and its Nexus One) and costs nothing to use.
The iPhone has proven to be the 'Ironclad' of mobile phones. Everything that went before was obsolete overnight, both smartphones and dumb phones included. No prior phone could compete with the experience and the abilities of the iPhone. Sure, some phones were superior in very specific regards -- especially on cost and call quality -- just as very early Ironclad warships were not always the most sea worthy vessels. But overall, nothing existing could go toe-to-toe with the iPhone.
Other manufacturers saw this fast and reacted. Just like with the warships of the latter part of the 19th century the pace of innovation since, both from other manufacturers and from across the whole mobile ecosystem, has been ferocious. This week at CES we've seen numerous competing high end mobile phone launches that demonstrate that the pace of innovation in mobile is accelerating, rather than slowing.
Consumers use this new breed of high end phones in completely different ways to older 'smartphones' or dumb phones (we have consumer data on this, clients please ask!). This is especially true in Europe where consumer ownership of Nokia's Symbian Series 60 handsets is so great.
Much that's been leaked about the Google announcement later today is familiar and evolutionary. What will matter most is how Google communicates the news and how it's received. This will set the tone for the Android smartphone operating system for 2010 and influence how other firms involved in Android -- Motorola, LG, SonyEricsson as well as the operators -- react and adjust their strategy.