When I first purchased my original iPhone in 2007, I was a lot more excited about having a full web browser, iPod and access to my email all as part of my phone than the little Google Maps application. However, as someone with an admittedly terrible sense of direction, having maps always available has been invaluable.
As the iPhone (and other smartphones) evolved, the integration of GPS into the phone’s software has opened up a host of uses beyond the now-ubiquitous map and driving directions. Simple applications will update the weather forecast for you the minute you step off the plane, or send you news alerts specific to your location. More advanced applications like Loopt link your social networks to your location, so you can see where your friends are or view recommendations for business around you. There are even apps with a feature known as “augmented reality” – you point your phone’s camera at a location and it pulls down a variety of information about it (depending on the app).
The bottom line is location-based services (LBS) are quickly becoming a huge selling point for smartphones and a heavily used feature by those who own such devices. Compete’s Smartphone Intelligence product, which takes the pulse of smartphone owners every quarter, took a look at the variety of services people use with their LBS-enabled smartphones. Despite the many possible services on the market, widespread adoption has yet to take place.
While we saw that 71% of smartphone owners use at least one type of LBS, weather information was the only service that a majority of smartphone users take advantage of. This is truly a wide open market, with a variety of consumer interests to be filled by quality applications.
Google (GOOG), for one, appears to be making a play to bring LBS to the mainstream audience. While wireless carriers have been using navigation software to entice customers for some time, significant adoption failed to materialize (perhaps due to the $10/month recurring fee). However, Google and Motorola (MOT) recently made headlines when they announced that the DROID would come with full turn-by-turn navigation, matching the experience of standalone units. The real kicker was that this would be provided for free with the DROID, and all future devices running Android 2.0 (much to the chagrin of standalone GPS manufacturers Garmin (GRMN) and TomTom). With carriers, phone manufacturers and software developers like Google all fighting for a piece of the LBS market, consumers should have plenty of quality options to help themselves orient.