When TomTom announced Aug. 17 that it has delivered an application that provides full GPS functionality to iPhone owners, it became yet another program in a long line that offers companies the kind of functionality that they simply can’t find elsewhere. It makes the iPhone more appealing to employees. And it makes competitors such as the BlackBerry, Palm Pre and T-Mobile G1 look less appealing.
The iPhone’s App Store has quickly become one of its most important selling points. The App Store features more than 65,000 applications that appeal to both consumers and corporate users. If the iPhone owner wants social networking applications, the iPhone will provide it. If they want to be more productive, the iPhone has it. If they want to do their jobs just a little better, the iPhone will help. Simply put, the iPhone’s applications have made it the most versatile and customizable phone in the space.
That’s precisely why the TomTom GPS app is so important. Prior to its release, the iPhone wasn’t a full GPS device. Users could see where they were, but they couldn’t be directed to a particular destination. There were a few applications in the App Store that came close, but for the most part, the iPhone was little more than a GPS-enabled device. All that changed with the release of the TomTom GPS application.
Thanks to the iPhone’s features and design, the TomTom GPS app effectively turns the phone into a GPS device. Instead of using two devices to get the job done, users can now download the app, put the iPhone into the TomTom holster, and use it like their current GPS product. Moreover, they can access all their other apps, check for local establishments, and place calls. The iPhone now has everything a corporate user could want: traveling guidance, apps to help them be more productive, Exchange support, tethering, and phone capabilities.
Decisive iPhone Advantage
The application is a little pricey-it costs $99-but it also boasts features that could cripple both the GPS industry and competing smartphones. There are millions of iPhones in the wild. And although not everyone will need to (or want to) buy a GPS application for their iPhone, there’s a good chance that there will many business and personal users who will. It could significantly cut into GPS sales. More importantly, it could put all of its smartphone competitors on notice: if they want to compete with the iPhone, they need some serious improvements to their own app stores.
RIM, Google, and Palm all offer apps, but they pale in comparison. There are currently less than 3,000 apps available to Android users. There are even fewer apps available to RIM BlackBerry users. And since many of those apps were simply ported from Apple’s App Store, they don’t provide the same appeal or competitive advantage as they do on the iPhone. Simply put, competing smartphones don’t offer the end-to-end experience employees will find on the iPhone. The iPhone’s competitors might have many of the features users want, but they don’t have all the features users want. That’s a problem.
The iPhone certainly isn’t a perfect device. It’s only available on AT&T, it doesn’t have a well-respected enterprise server solution like the BlackBerry, and its virtual keyboard can be a hindrance. But it has the software. And if Microsoft’s dominance in the operating system market has shown us anything, it’s that software compatibility is an extremely important component in the success of a product.
Whether it’s access to online cloud services or apps like the TomTom GPS, the App Store is home to applications that mean something to the business world. iPhone competitors don’t have the apps users need. They don’t have all the features users want. And worst of all, these other smartphones don’t deliver the overall user experience people covet.
The TomTom GPS app alone won’t be the reason for a mass exodus to the iPhone. But it is just another app of many that promote an important sentiment in this space: users who want the best apps to help them have the best experience will find it on the iPhone.