Yesterday, Google unveiled a number of features for its upcoming update of the popular Google Maps service. The focus of the announcement was on glitzy new features like 3D models of building and roof-top views as well as flyovers of landmarks. But one crucial update that was casually mentioned has the potential to be a significant competitive factor in the global smartphone market: offline navigation capabilities.
The lack of offline navigation has been a significant functional draw-back of Android phones compared to Nokia-branded devices that came pre-loaded with Ovi maps. This was a particularly strong value proposition for users in emerging markets who could not afford to be constantly online. There are open source offline navigation projects with applications for most platforms, including many for Android, but the maps often lack detail and can be tricky to install and operate for the average user.
The availability of off-line navigation will help Android grow even faster in emerging markets. For instance we expect the platform to account for almost 80% of the smartphone market in China in 2013.
Source: Euromonitor International