When Google introduced turn-by-turn navigation in its Maps application for Android, Tom Tom, Garvin, and other manufacturers of standalone GPS products tried to brush it off as an inferior product that wasn't a threat to their business. Uh, yeah, OK. Now, with Google's Maps 4.4 update (downloading as we speak on my phone), the Navigation features just got more powerful, adding a Places search that is clearly aimed at Yelp and one of the features that differentiated many standalone GPS devices.
As the AndroidGuys blog put it,
Places offers you the ability to search and locate a place sorted by distance from your current location...With the update comes an updated Place Page where you can find out all you need to know about the location price, directions, reviews and other business details. The Place Page also incorporates Directions, Turn By Turn Navigation, Calling, Street View and a show on Map function as well.
So clearly Yelp and traditional GPS devices are in Google's crosshairs here. Although Yelp has users well outside the Android faithful and GPS users are, arguably, a different group with little overlap with the current market segment dominated by Android, Android phones are selling at an extraordinary rate across all major carriers. If you have a device in your pocket that can not only find a restaurant, tell you what other people thought of it, call ahead for reservations, and then get you there, why would you possibly buy a GPS? And, of course, you could browse to Yelp on your mobile browser, but why? Yelp is quite mature and well-liked by loyal users, but convenience and integration are key. Google has those two elements down cold.
It will take a while and Android needs to continue building critical mass, but as the phone-based GPS applications become richer and more full-featured, I fail to see how a standalone device makes any sense whatsoever. Similarly, it won't be long before iOS and other smartphone operating systems begin to support this sort of integration to compete with Android. If you disagree, talk back below.