To this point, it was a one-map game. Most map interfaces on mobile devices to this point have been powered by Google Maps. There are exceptions, of course, but Google has made it easy for developers to use their API to easily integrate G Maps into their applications. Since mobiles make for great navigation devices, this has been greatly to Google’s benefit. But it appears that there is a new player in the game. AOL’s MapQuest has released its own API for both Android and iOS.
The move will provide developers with another option for mobile mapping. Where previously they might have gone with Google Maps, despite having reasons not to, now they can opt for MapQuest’s interface instead. The choice alone could mean better navigation and mapping interfaces for developers, since they can work with the API that works best for them.
Still, MapQuest faces an uphill battle here, since Google Maps is so entrenched in the mobile space. To combat this they’re creating an easy interface for developers — calling their API a “drop in” replacement for other APIs. It might not swing the market their way, but they’re at least putting themselves in the best possible position, considering the current market.
From a user standpoint, it feels as though MapQuest has been irrelevant for a while now. That’s probably because Google put a lot of work into Maps, not only on the web but also on mobiles. It got the point where they had a stranglehold on the market. The addition of MapQuest can only help the mobile navigation market. The more the merrier, as they say.
The biggest question I have now is what this means for Garmin, Tom Tom, and other premium GPS services. They were already threatened by the emergence of navigation systems on mobile phones. With some more competition from free software, it will be interesting to see how they will adapt.