Maps May Be the Deciding Factor in Mobile Dominance

Smartphones have nearly put personal stand-alone GPS devices out to pasture.

It’s far easier to use the device you already have in order to find the newest restaurant or visit a new city. For that reason, maps may be the deciding factor in which company has the long term dominance in mobile. When consumers go to their smartphones for mobile maps, they want the most precise, informative and easy to use platform possible. Apple, Google and Facebook are all taking note and trying to meet consumer demand.

Discovery tools, like maps, are an integral part of smartphone technology and usage. Nowhere was this clearer than with the backlash Apple received over its iPhone switch from Google maps to their native tool. The inferior Apple Maps infuriated iPhone users and prompted a Google Map iPhone app. Not only does Google have millions of business listings, it also features Zagat restaurant reviews and street views of locations.

That’s one point in Google’s favor – and Google Now may be another one. The predictive tool will make suggestions, relay important information and help user’s stay on top of their calendar without being asked. It may be part of the Android platform as soon as late 2013.

Apple may be left behind for now, but they are in early discussions with FourSquare Labs to integrate the review sites local information into Apple Maps. Foursquare has a large database of reviews of local venues and an attached social network.

When it comes to social information, Facebook has its competitors beat. The local discovery tool was recently added to their mobile app, and although it doesn’t have complete maps functionality it can provide mobile users with information about nearby venues – including which locations their friends have “liked.”

Online media buyers will also be a driving force behind maps and local discovery tools. If they are able to buy advertising space on local searches, like they are with the mobile version of Google, then their purchases will fuel more development and refinement of the tools.

The race is on for the best mobile maps! With strong contenders from each major company, it may be a long and tough race for all involved.

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