When I used to go on road trips with my family, we would bring maps – a lot of maps. Maps for every state and county through which we would be traveling. My folks were like that – we also always had kitty litter and snow chains in the back too…even though we lived in the Bay. Dad was a former boy scout!
Back to the topic at hand though – maps. We needed them. But today, we have every map we need in the palm of our hands. Smartphones and apps give us access to tens of thousands of different routes, helping people get where they’re going quickly and safely.
So what’s the big deal? We’ve had navigation apps for sometime now (and even before that we had MapQuest!) so is this old news? In fact, what we are actually looking at is a market just getting its feet under it.
Navigation apps for Android and iOS have spent years mastering their one primary feature: mapping. Seems pretty easy, right? It doesn’t take that long to pick a route on the old accordian maps, after all. But creating a route in and of itself is not difficult part. Tying it to a GPS moving at the rates of a motor vehicle – now that’s a different story.
Up until recently, GPS devices outside military grade equipment was barely accurate to 20 feet. So creating an algorithm that could create the most advantageous route plus offer live directions based off a phone’s app took some time. Fast forward to modern times and we have navigation apps that, for the most part (*cough* Nokia Maps *cough*), do quite well.
Why do our market specialists think that this is a money making opportunity? For a few reasons:
1. Now that the actual navigation algorithms are pretty functional, we’re really starting to see some cool features and different twists. Developers, entrepreneurs and investors can now experiment and play around with what you can do with a navigation app. This is still in its infancy, so it’s the perfect time to get involved with your own unique twist;
2. Navigation apps are extremely practical and useful (though they can be more – see below) and are unlikely to go out of style anytime soon.
3. With as much work that has been done to create excellent turn-by-turn navigation algorithms, they’re actually exceptionally inexpensive.
That’s the why you should do it; what about the how? Let’s be honest, there are tons of navigation apps out there. That being said, a lot of them are basic, little different from Google or Apple Maps. Like any other industry, the innovative entrepreneur must come up with something to differentiate themselves from the field’s heavy hitters. You have to give your users something new.
There are two main ways (as we see it) through which this can be done:
1. You can go the normal route of a traditional navigation app, but offer unique features. The be example of this right now is Waze. We will go into more detail as to constitutes unique ‘traditional’ navigational app development down below; for now, suffice to say, Waze is excellent;
2. Alternatively, you can take a route similar to that of the Australian app (built by SDI) iKoast. iKoast crowdsources local events (Waze also crowdsources), shark sightings, and water conditions to users, based upon their geographic location. What we’re talking about here are social navigation apps, essentially.
These two categories roughly cover most (successful) navigation apps, but what are the particular features that lead to success? Let’s cover some of the things that lead to the success of an app, broken down by the aforementioned categories.
The Traditional Navigation App
All navigation apps need to be able to give turn by turn directions, but traditional apps meant specifically for driving directions really need to get this down. With apps for social purposes there’s perhaps some leeway, but apps like Waze need to be spot on. Increasingly this also means that traffic needs to be monitored and the route updated in real time.
Other excellent features include roadside hazards, general traffic alerts and an excellent search function. One of the best parts Waze, both from the perspective of a consumer and a business person, is it’s crowdsourced hazard, police and traffic warnings.
Without this crowdsourcing aspect, Google (the ultimate owner of Waze) would need to rely upon local media and other sources to include these warnings. This is, at best, an expensive endeavour and at worst, close to impossible. For the consumer, it means an early warning source – and it makes users apart of a bigger community.
That being said, the warnings could use a bit of fine tuning, as they tend to be out of date. Sounds like a great opportunity right – get in touch with our team now and we can create a navigation app that will blow away the competition!
The Social Navigation App
This particular field is especially a new idea – though we made our first one a few years ago ;). Basically, the idea is to leverage a user’s location to push notifications of events, stores, news, or even friends who are nearby.
While our example of iKoast focused on Australia, this is really can go as broad as you want, or as niche. Suppose you want to create a navigation app that focuses solely on Dungeons and Dragons; you’d want to connect users to one another, local games, events and stores. Pretty niche right?
Or you can cast a broader net and target all sorts of users. This gets more complicated because now options like narrowing the field by type of gaming, but has a much wider possible market. The point is that you want to find something that interests users and create an app that informs them of related local news.
This also includes the actual directions, of course. While the turn by turn in the car functions don’t have to be as excellent (though it’s a good idea to create as comprehensive an app as possible – i.e. one that combines both categories), walking directions should be spot on. If I want to visit all the best bars in a few mile radius of me, I’m probably looking to walk, not drive.
Ready to get started on building your own navigation app for Android or iPhone? Give us a call at 408.802.2885 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call by week’s end to get 30% off your first project.