One area in which Google services for Android and the iPhone appear to be diverging is Maps. I’m an Android EVO owner and still have iPhone envy except in the Maps department.
The combination and integration of Google Maps, Places Pages, Street View and Navigation (with the phone and contacts) has created a kind of LBS juggernaut on the Android device that will increasingly prove challenging to compete with — even for Yelp. Right now, no such combination of services exists on the iPhone, which makes it a more “open” playing field for location-based services and local publishers.
I would be interested in seeing a traffic comparison (if it exists) between Google Maps and related services and other popular local-mobile apps: Yelp, yellow pages, foursquare, etc. My guess is that Google (Maps) is dominant but I’m not certain by what percentage or traffic margin. I can tell you from my own behavior that I use the Google services on my EVO almost exclusively now to find local information and directions. And yesterday Google updated Maps for Android to make Place Pages on the device look and operate more like Places on the PC.
Google added more reviews with their branded icons, added filters (e.g., distance, rating, neighborhood) and enabled real-time updating from Latitude, which is a layer on Maps.
Latitude is still pretty buried and I don’t know how actively used. So I suspect we’re going to see Google add a “check in here” button to mobile Place Pages in the very near future. In addition, new the filter or “sort by” categories on mobile Place Pages suggest to me that those capabilities will return to Google Maps or perhaps even Places Mode on Google SERPs. They used to exist on Google Maps but were removed.
Here’s how Place Pages look now on the PC (just showing the layout, I realize it’s tiny):
Here’s Google’s screen shot from the new Maps for Android:
Google is slowly but surely tying together its PC and mobile Maps experiences and content around location. That process may now accelerate under Marissa Mayer. I also suspect that Maps and Places for mobile will, in the not-too-distant future, be offering what has been referred to as “search without search” or recommendations (something Mayer has discussed many times in the past). Recommendations or “contextual search” or “searchless search” is an emerging local-mobile battleground.
Two areas where Google Maps/Places are now “vulnerable” to competition are deals/coupons and social. As I mentioned I think check-ins will be coming to mobile Place Pages. By the same token deals/coupons are very clearly on the radar for Google, but it doesn’t have a product yet.
However Google has invested in Signpost, a self-service deals marketplace. In addition, Google owns a piece of SCVNGR. If acquired it could become its successor to Latitude, which launched before the current generation of LBS companies.