By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
MapQuest and Dial Directions have added their names to the list of companies offering cellphone-based navigation service.
MapQuest unveiled downloadable software that turns a cellular phone into a GPS device. The Navigator 5 software is available as a free download from MapQuest's Web site with a service charge of $4.99/month through the end of the year. Users who sign up before January will continue to be charged at the lower, $4.99 rate on an ongoing basis, although the rate will increase to $9.99 in 2008.
Most downloadable GPS software carries a charge of $10 per month.
The Navigator software delivers voice-prompted turn-by-turn driving instructions, including the announcement of the street names where an upcoming turn is to be made. The phones will also show the vehicle's progress on a 3D moving map.
MapQuest Navigator will be compatible with about 10 different BlackBerry devices initially and then five to 10 Windows Mobile phones within a few weeks after that. The company will add more phone options on a rolling basis.
The software included real-time traffic in 105 markets, gas price updates and AOL City Guide restaurant reviews.
ABI Research concludes that 12 million people worldwide pay for GPS applications on their phones. MapQuest expects the figure to grow to 350 million in 2010.
Other suppliers offering similar software include Tele Nav and Garmin.
For its part, Dial Directions began offering a free call-for-directions service on a nationwide basis. The service lets users dial "DIR-ECT-IONS"— (347) 328-4667 — on any cellphone to receive turn-by-turn directions via text message. Users announce their starting location (by intersection or address) and their destination. They are charged the standard carrier text-message fee. At the end of the text, the viewer sees a text advertisement. The directions are provided by MapQuest.com.
The service was previously available only in select cities.
Dial Directions claims to provide the only free service of its kind and claims to use a proprietary combination of speech recognition and voice user interface to make the service possible.
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