Oct 26 AT 3:48 PM Taylor Wimberly 15 Comments

Google Navigator for Android only a matter of time

Google will not confirm or deny it, but they are secretly working on their own GPS navigation software. I predicted this back in August and many thought I was crazy, so I’m back again to stoke the rumor mill.

1. Google already collects anonymous bits of information from mobile phones

It is no secret that Google collects data from your phone. They currently use this information to crowdsource the live traffic data on Google Maps.

Google specified which devices this affects over at ReadWriteWeb:

Google Maps products that include location services will make use of this information for traffic. This includes the downloadable Google Maps for Mobile product for mobile phones as well as the Google Maps application for Android phones. One exception is the maps functionality that Google provides for the iPhone – the iPhone does not provide any location data that is used for traffic crowdsourcing at this time.

Remember this screen?

Remember this screen?

2. Google is building their own map data

Everyone tried to debunk my original prediction by pointing out Google has a multi-year deal with Tele Atlas to use their map data. According to Forbes, Google ended that licensing agreement in early October, but will continue to use Tele Atlas for international maps.

Instead, Google will use data collected from their Street View cars and crowdsource the rest from mobile phones. This is a similar approach we have seen from Waze. Google has the clear advantage of pre-installation on most Android phones.

ReadWriteWeb was able to confirm that Google collects route data:

According to Dave Barth, the product manager for Google Maps, Google will “find the start and end points of every trip and permanently delete that data so that even Google ceases to have access to it.”

If you want more proof Google is using their own map data, just visit Google Maps and look in the bottom right corner.

Go to maps.google.com and check for yourself.

Go to maps.google.com and check for yourself.

3. Google allows you to make map corrections

Waze issued a direct response on Google’s crowdsourcing efforts by claiming Google was only using passive sources for data collection, but things have changed. Google now allows you to make map corrections.

4. Turn-by-turn directions are available on the Verizon Motorola Droid which features Android 2.0

Verizon worked with Motorola and Google to include a navigation app with their Android phones that is powered by Google Maps.

A source with access to a Droid phone shared their experiences:

There’s an app on the Sholes called Navigation that does exactly that: GPS based turn by turn directions, using the Text to Speech library available in Android 1.6/2.0. It even does the tilted map view similar to most commercial GPS units. I think personally the neatest feature in it is that it ties into the Global Search functionality of the phone, so from the home screen, you can tap the search widget’s “speak” button, say “Directions to San Francisco” and it’ll load, calculate where you are, confirm you want “Directions from here to San Francisco”, and when you say “yes” it goes to it.

This feature was spotted on the Motorola site, before it was quickly taken down.

Verizon Droid users will have access to turn-by-turn directions.

Verizon Droid users will have access to turn-by-turn directions.

5. Google will enter any market where they can sell ads

If anyone can monetize GPS navigation software, it is Google. The map data they are collecting could also open up new revenue streams as they compete directly with companies like Tele Atlas and Navteq.

Google has shown a willingness to jump into any business. They are rumored to be launching a music service this week and also offer their own Android phone in retail stores. Carriers control which software runs on their phones, but if Google bypasses the carrier, they can include whatever they like on the device.


If Google is allowing Verizon to use their maps data for spoken turn-by-turn directions, it is only a matter of time before we see a similar service on other Android devices. I was hoping we would see this navigation service coincide with the release of Android 2.0, but it appears Google is still hard at work on it. Look to 2010 for this service to begin appearing on mobile phones.

What features would you like to see included with Google’s GPS navigation software?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://codeshogun.com lordhong

    thanks for the write-up. with google maps, it’s just a matter of time before google rolls out its own implementation of turn-by-turn navigation system. i didn’t expect it to be out so soon, and on Droid as well.

  • http://asda Google-fan

    As I understand it, most of Googles maps are licensed from other companies with a contract saying that Google may not use their data for turn-by-turn navigation, it’s pretty obvious why it’s like that.

    So in order for Google to release such a software, they need to spend an awful lot of cash on buying world wide map data.

  • http://www.androinica.com AndrewKam

    Taylor, you and I have talked about this before and I agree 100%. Google has been making update after update to the Maps product service and this is the next logical step. I think they’re still using TeleAtlas service in Europe and other places, so the Google-based maps may be U.S. only for now.

  • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

    I’m not sure verizon would let google compete with VZ Navigator so easily. I guess we’ll see pretty soon…
    If it does happen, I would like to see API’s for developers to use just like google maps has now, except more.

  • John Thacker

    Interesting that Verizon seems to be going with this instead of their own separate service that they try to push. (Perhaps take-up on it is poor.)

  • sully

    This would be huge for VZW. Maybe they finally started thinking long term instead of trying to scam people into taking VZ Nav only to have that customer cancel the service within 3 months.

  • sully

    This would be huge for VZW. Maybe they finally started thinking long term instead of trying to scam people into taking VZ Nav only to have that customer cancel the service within 3 months.
    BTW I love your blog!

  • http://www.brennanmceachran.com Brennan Mceachran

    Location aware advertising on GPS units would be worth a fortune. Looking for a gas station? Esso could pay to show up first. Fast Food? Burger King could pay to show up before McD’s and steal some customers.

    That’s a business model Google wouldn’t, and wont ignore. Great article.

  • Lee

    when I go to google maps it does not say google map data. It still says Tele Atlas.

    • http://www.mutedsound.com John Perkins

      @Lee, Zoom in to view somewhere in the CONUS, it will change to © Google Maps.

  • Kenneth Johansen

    I like getting all the new features on my G1. I have noticed a lot more street views that were added to the 1.6 and bus routes for people walking. This is Google working hard on giving Android a better experence. The only thing I hate is the wait. I would like to see a garmin talk direction navagator app get into this update. That would be sweet.

  • Juan


    Found this on Google Maps for Mobile website:
    Google Maps Navigation (Beta)
    Google Maps Navigation is an internet-connected GPS navigation system with voice guidance. It is part of Google Maps for mobile and is available for phones with Android 2.0.

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