August 7, 2012

Google Leverages Its Advantage Over Apple, Expands Traffic Data To 130 More U.S. Cities (video)

Google Navigation for Android has provided real-time traffic data since 2008. Today, they announced a huge expansion of this effort. They're bringing traffic data to 130 more U.S. cities and the capitals of Columbia, Costa Rica, and Panama. Google also expanded current traffic information in Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

When Google Maps first launched, people wondered why we'd need another mapping service. After all, we were pretty happy with MapQuest. But Google's was better. It was cleaner; it was faster; and it had more features. Within a few short years, Google Maps became the go-to choice for anyone planning to plot a route. Then, the iPhone came out. And then the iPad. They both had Google Maps embedded right into the operating system. This further solidified Google Maps as the ultimate mapping service online. They faced virtually no competition (even though MapQuest still existed and Bing Maps was heavily promoted by Microsoft).

But then Apple decided to enter the mapping game. What made them think they could do a better job than Google is anyone's guess. My guess is they know they can't do a better job than Google, but they're pissed enough to try.

Even though Apple still hasn't released iOS 6 to the public, Google must be feeling the pressure. It's time to compete again. And tech bloggers have long criticized Android for "fragmentation." Is that a real issue? Sure. It makes life harder for developers, since they have to optimize for hundreds of devices instead of just a couple. But people rarely talk about the advantage of Google's approach. By making Android open source and available to anyone to do with as they please, Google created an operating system that runs on a huge variety of devices in all different sizes and all different prices. This led to Android spreading much faster and much farther than Apple's iPhone, especially in poorer areas of the world like China, Columbia, Costa Rica, and Panama. People in these countries simply can't afford an iPhone. But they can afford a cheapo Android device. And that provides Google invaluable data.

Google is now using its advantage of having a more popular operating system to make significant improvements to the user experience. Let's just hope this trend continues.