One of the most eagerly-awaited functions of the recent iPhone 3.0 firmware upgrade was the addition of proper turn-by-turn navigation. The first big-name effort has hit iTunes today: Navigon's MobileNavigator. It's a chunky $104, but that's no surprise.
Navigon's effort isn't strictly the first iPhone turn-by-turn app—that label goes to Gokivo, which hit Friday and costs $10 per month—but it's the first product from a big, well-known player in the dashboard nav market. The app is currently for Europe only, and covers the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and 32 other countries. A U.S. version is due soon.
It looks like Navigon has made a serious effort to deliver a product that's directly in line with its suite of dashboard navigation systems, and it's brought across some of the look and feel of the device's UI, 2-D and 3-D maps and the company's Reality View and Lane Assistant features, which are designed to help you negotiate tricky interchanges. Unlike the iPhone's in-built Google Maps feature, the app is also a one-off download, so it won't go eating up any of your 3G data allowance while you're out on the road. But that also means it's a whopping 1.6GB in size, which is a seriously big chunk of the iPhone's available memory—particularly if you're an 8GB owner.
And then we come to the price: $104 (€75). Some people were surprised that Gokivo was going to cost $10, and the guys at Gizmodo had a go at explaining why it made sense. But with this app from Navigon, the situation is even clearer—the company has to charge to compensate for business cannibalized from its main dashboard GPS sales by the iPhone. Since it doesn't have to sell you a box full of electronics, however, it isn't charging quite as much for the app as for a full-blown stand-alone unit. The cost will instead be covering things like licensing the embedded maps from Navteq, and Navigon notes that "Further languages and functions will be available soon in a free update."
There's just one last question—How did Navigon beat TomTom to the punch, when that company's iPhone GPS system has been talked about for a year, and was actually featured in the iPhone 3G S launch presentation? It's a mystery, and demonstrates some swift footwork by Navigon. We can only speculate that TomTom, which is a bigger enterprise, has to tackle its own inertia—and it also may be waiting for final word on the in-car cradle that partners its GPS app.