VZ Navigator's Survival Depends on Facebook

Verizon just launched VZ Navigator 5.0. New and improved features include:

  • Improved Customer Experience – No need to wait for the entire route to download before starting their voyage because data will now be streamed, causing display screens to populate more quickly
  • Enhanced Points of Interest – Access to premium places of interest with detailed descriptions, clearly branded by Map Icons
  • Traffic Crowd Sourcing – Opt-in to anonymously send real-time location and speed to the VZ Navigator traffic reporting service, allowing quicker notifications and improved accuracy for all VZ Navigator users
  • Alerts for Other Road AttributesGraphic notifications for tunnels, U-turns, traffic circles and toll plazas  
  • "Say it Mode" – Select BlackBerry® smartphones and Windows Mobile® handsets allow customers to verbally search for and update destinations

The most interesting thing here is Facebook integration:

The service is now integrated with Facebook, allowing users to keep up with their friends, family and social networks by updating their Facebook statuses directly through VZ Navigator, with the option to include and share their locations.

It's this kind of value-add and expanded feature set that is key to the product's survival. Because it costs money ($9.99) and because the future of navigation is generally going to be free (see, Android 2.0 and Nokia), this product likely cannot survive absent big feature enhancements and price drops ($4.99 is probably sustainable or as part of a "bundle" with a more expensive data plan like Sprint provides). 

Putting aside the fact that there isn't an Android version available (Droid is a Verizon handset), there's no reason to purchase this if you're using a Google phone. I've been using Google Navigation and it works very well. That means the addressable market is Windows Mobile and RIM handsets. 

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That's a fair number of handsets but a thriving business it does not make.