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.