With Foursquare And Sharing, Garmin Makes GPS App A Web 2.0 Affair

The Navigon GPS app is getting a very 21st century makeover, and turning your personal navigation experience into a group-sharing exercise.

Forget Apple's rumored courting of Foursquare: The Navigon GPS navigation app is getting integration with Foursquare today, alongside a new link to location sharing service Glympse, so you can make your driving and destination a social media affair.

Navigon's app (or rather Garmin's Navigon app since Garmin purchased its smaller GPS-maker sibling this year) has long been a popular GPS navigation solution for smartphone users. Thanks to its heritage, it recreates some of the feel of old-style dedicated car GPS units, and brings the advantage of having all map data pre-downloaded so you don't need to plan your journey beforehand, as you may with some systems like Google Maps—unless you want to eat up mobile data. In an age when Apple's maps are flagging, and Google's systems aren't necessarily just the ticket for every single user, dedicated navigation apps like this are almost the highest mapping authority.

And now Navigon has sweetened that deal considerably. Foursquare integration is included so you can discover new places to visit, and also perhaps check out popular local venues if you're visiting somewhere new on vacation. It includes the ability to check in within the app too, and also can serve up the same kind of special deals and recommendations that are popular with Foursquare users.

The Glympse integration is more subtly useful. By tapping on an icon on the main navigation screen, the app's users can then select someone from their contacts list to share their location with. The sharing comes with a time limit, so you can advertise where you are or where you're going for minutes or hours (a privacy matter). Recipients get an SMS or email with a link to a map showing details of your location, destination, speed, and predicted arrival time. Which makes it perfect for arranging meetings.

Social location sharing as part of navigation like this is something that Apple has long been exploring, and Google's tried similar efforts of its own with Latitude, albeit slightly differently. Garmin spokesperson Johan-Till Broer explained to Fast Company in an email that the company sees "location-sharing is a natural fit with navigation. This is especially true for smartphones, which are being used as social devices." Sensitive to the explosion in social media, Garmin decided that integrating this ability with its navigation apps "was a logical next step to offer drivers a safe and intuitive way to stay connected. All users have to do is send out a quick note with a link to a tracking map before they leave, and the recipient will be able to follow their location."

And as for the whole fuss about Apple's Maps app, which Garmin is now outsmarting, Broer explains that "We've been able to successfully compete with free navigation apps, which had been available even before Apple Maps launched."

Which leads to a natural question: Do you think Apple should buy a company like Garmin or TomTom? Or should Tim Cook's company concentrate on rocket-boosting its own maps effort to rival Google?

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