Five Features Missing from Droid’s GPS

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By: Hillel Fuld

The tech world has been non stop talking about Motorola’s new Droid device. There is no doubt it is an exciting new development in the smartphone arena, and it will definitely raise the bar for the future of the mobile space. If I had to choose one feature of the Droid that is making the most amount of noise, it would have to be Google’s new turn by turn GPS app available for Android 2.0 devices.


Now, before I get into this, let there be no mistake about it, this new app by Google has and will continue to turn the GPS industry on its head. All the big GPS companies are watching their stocks take a nose dive, and Google has managed to set the future standard for GPS and possibly put the whole market for standalone GPS units out of business.  To just name a few reasons people are so excited about this new app, for starters it’s free. GPS apps have traditionally been the most expensive type of apps, and now Google is offering one that can compete with the best of em, and it is free.


Additionally, the app enables you to search for a location even if you do not know the address, basically, you can search for a location in the same way you would search for it in Google itself. You can say “Starbucks near Central park” and the app will find one for you. The app also enables you to search by voice while driving, something that will reduce the danger of playing with an in car device. You can also enjoy a Traffic View, which notifies you of traffic on your route, in real time. Lastly, one of the coolest features in my opinion is the Street View functionality. Basically, imagine you are arriving at your destination, but are not exactly sure which building it is, the app shows you the actual street view of the location, pretty sweet.


Now that we have established that Google’s new GPS has enough reasons to give GPS manufacturers reason to worry, I thought I would mention some things that this new Google app does not have and should. These features exist in other similar applications, so there is no reason Google should not be implementing them in their GPS offering.

  • A Social Layer: If there is any company that appreciates the importance of community, it is Google. I cannot think of any reason users should not be able to upload information about their journey and update other users in real time. I am imagining a world in which I come across construction on the way to work, update my Google GPS on the Droid sent to me by Google for review (sorry, just had to throw that in there), and thereby prevent my fellow drivers from taking my route. This could work for car accidents I encounter on the roads, problems with the actual roads, such as a pot hole, maybe even police traps, and much more. In today’s day and age when the world is so obsessed with social networks and online communication, Google has to add the ability to include user generated updates about the roads. Other companies are doing it, no reason Google can’t.
  • Offline Navigation: This is a tricky point, since some might claim that the fact that Google’s GPS app is online, is actually an advantage over GPS systems that have the maps stored locally.  Well, in my opinion, they would be right and wrong. On the one hand, the fact that it is online and integrates Google Maps with its 50 million users offers an advantage of updated and real time information. On the flip side, I am thinking about my data bills. Yes, some of the other apps might cost money, but I am essentially paying for the maps, which are stored on the device itself. Here, I am getting the app for free, but it is eating away at my data plan. So, in my opinion, Google should do the smart thing and offer two different packages, one for people who want to download maps and use the app in offline mode, and another for people who have unlimited data and want to use the app in online mode. Does that make sense?
  • Independence: The new Google App is only available on the Droid phone. It will probably be available on other devices that come with Android 2.0, and maybe even the iPhone eventually, but that is it. It will not cater to the same crowd that traditionally uses standalone GPS devices. My parents will never use the Google GPS system. In order for this app to be a complete success, it has to have its independence, that is independence of Android, independence of iPhone, independence of phones all together. If its so called simplicity is offered to consumers who do not use smartphones, then we would have a complete market killer on our hands. Right now, it is a cool product that will be used by geeks exclusively.
  • Convenience: This is really a continuation of the last bullet, but since the Google app is not available as a standalone service, you are stuck using a 3.7′ screen for your GPS needs. That will not work for some, when standalone systems come in 5′ displays and even larger. Additionally, there is something to be said about having your phone available to you even when using GPS. Whether it is talking on the phone (with an ear piece of course), not having to worry about cellular coverage, or not eating up your phone’s battery, a standalone GPS system still offers some advantages to the average consumer.
  • Augmented Reality: This might be a long shot, but if anyone could do it, Google can. With this new trend of apps that offer you real time data displayed on your screen, I can’t help but think how amazing that would be as part of a GPS app. The ability to view all the restaurants or businesses at a certain location, with the data about the vendor appearing on your phone’s display, can really put this new app over the top. Again, I am not a programmer or developer, so I have no clue if this is possible, but a man can dream, right?

In conclusion, there is no debating that the hype surrounding Google’s new GPS app is justified. However, just like the Droid itself is not going to be the last say in the smartphone market, Google’s GPS will not mean the end of standalone GPS devices.

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Hillel Fuld is a global speaker, entrepreneur, journalist, vlogger, and leading startup advisor. He brings over a decade of marketing experience with leading Israeli and Silicon Valley startups, and currently collaborates with many global brands in an official marketing capacity including Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Huawei, and others.      Hillel covers the dynamic local tech scene for many leading publications including Entrepreneur magazine, Inc, TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more.    Hillel has been named Israel’s top marketer, 7th top tech blogger worldwide, has been featured on CNBC, Inc, and was dubbed by Forbes as “The Man Transforming Startup Nation into Scale-up Nation”.       Hillel has hundreds of thousands of followers across the social web and can be found on Twitter at @Hilzfuld. You can learn more about him on his website:


20 thoughts on “Five Features Missing from Droid’s GPS

  1. The data usage is a non-issue for the U.S., since all smartphone users are required to subscribe to unlimited data plans.

  2. The connected model is only a short term issue with data plans. In some countries/telcos it will be prohibitive and others a non-issue.
    However, within 2 or 3 years the problem will diminish substantially. Local data plans will drop in price rapidly and cheap data packs will be easily adopted for roaming users. Its already happening.

  3. Totally agree with Cliff – exactly this issue keeps me from buying an Android phone at all, as it is a kind of “useless” without an unlimited data plan which can be used everywhere. 🙁

  4. A> I think AT&T offers an international flat rate data plan for frequent fliers. a friend once checked it for himself. he’s an Israeli but travels a lot to Europe, but he said he discovered that if he gets one on his next trip to the US, it will mean $40 a month cover his data connectivity internationally. I hope more companies offer that by now, but I have not looked for this.

    B> Social layer – dude, it’s the first release, and most people use it while driving, how much interaction are you expecting for now? But noo doubt it WILL come because when they don’t deliver it, others will.

    C> Offline Navigation – I think they did say something about caching map data, maybe not on the first release? It’s needed not only for saving on air time, it’s also a privacy requirement by some users, I’m sure.

    D> Platform independence – why would Google want to do that? They prefer people to migrate to Android phones, silly 🙂

    E> Standalone device – Soon there will be tablets, netbooks, e-readers and other devices all running Android, you’ll have platform options coming out of your ears.

    F> AR – I’m sure that’s coming. It’s featuring StreetView already, and Bionic Eye will give it the needed encouragement to be developed.

    If those are your major faults of the app then it sounds like it’s perfect. I think the faults I would have listed are the fact it’s only on the Android 2 and not the first generation, and maybe the offline navigation as well, since no cell company in Israel offers flat-rate internet but more importantly, I’d like to keep SOME of my privacy…

  5. Works just like the iPhone app when not in a coverage area, which means it doesn’t work at all. These types of products will never replace standalone GPS as long as they don’t work when offline.

  6. Why isn’t there a simple app that stores GPS data location and breadcrumbs?

    I was in an area without cell coverage and the GPS signal was still fine, it just showed a little blue moving across a blank landscape.

    If you could store breadcrumbs or points, then you could use the GPS to find your way back to the car if you get lost in the woods – or at the parking lot.

  7. I would like the droid to have actual lat. and lond. I would like to be able to enter coordinates instead of names to find my hunting spots or fishing spots.

  8. Here’s another thing missing from the Google Navigation. The ability to select a night time driving color scheme. As much as I like Google Nav it’s pretty distracting at night. turning the brightness down to a non distracting destroys the contrast to a point where you can’t view it either. What it needs (and Google maps in general) is a method of rendering the maps in a dark color scheme that is easier to view while driving (or boating) in the dark.

  9. Greg, There is an app on the Droid (and the google maps web page) that allows you to edit your own maps. Al you need to do is make your own map and select it as a layer in Google Nav.

  10. Data plan = $80 a month
    Stand Alone GPS Unit = $90

    for those of us who don’t care about having an unlimited data plan (or any plan) the standard GPS options pays for itself in just 1-2 month(s).

  11. Will I be able to use the Droid’s GPS feature in Europe; i.e, are there Google Maps for say France already loaded or which can be loaded from some available application? (I know the “phone” features of a Verizon Droid won’t work in Europe, but was hoping the GPS features might.)

  12. @the_brigand

    My data plan is $30 a month (for my Droid). That doesn’t negate your point (stand-alone will still pay for itself), but unless you’re talking about something that spans outside the US, your information is wrong.

  13. my droid always says searching for gps and it never works. It’s an embarassment of a gps.

  14. the gps on my droid 2 works better than my garmin but i miss the info that the garmin displays (speed, elevation, distance to turn, arrival time, etc) that is not on the google gps

  15. Standalone devices are practically obsolete. For US users, it’s completely archaic. How much would you pay for a standalone that does something android doesn’t including everything it DOES? How much are you paying for your smartphone? Simple math.

    Data usage? If you’re relying on your GPS and don’t have unlim. data you’re a fool. On that note. If you have a smartphone and dont have unlim. data. you’re a fool as well.

    Size? Well. you got us there. You can get a bigger unit…but you’re not getting anything else the android is offering. That’s a pro for android, a con for you, collectively.

    Traffic updates, map updates, real time stuff… for….free.

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