It used to be thatyou asked for directions by telephone before you started your journey. Now people are using new technology to get directions while en route. Mobile telephone provider Verizon has begun offering third-party navigation and traffic information software on its GPS-enabled phones, which could make it difficult for consumers to justify the expense of a dedicated navigation system in their cars

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Or as ABI Research analyst Dan Benjamin says, it is “another thorn in the side of aftermarket navigation players.” The new Verizon offer gives occasional users unlimited use of one of several services for just $1.99 per month (plus airtime charges).

“If I’m only using it twice a year when I go on vacation,” says Benjamin, “it’s a very easy decision for me to use this handset-based solution instead of spending at least $500 on a navigation system built into my car.”

Compared to OEM or aftermarket installations built into the vehicle, handset-based navigation systems do have disadvantages: small screens, more difficult input methods, and lack of integration with vehicle speaker systems. But for infrequent users, the research suggests, the much lower pricetag can be critical to purchasing decisions.

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The only similar handset-based services previously available have been offered by Nextel. They are slightly more robust, but come at a higher price. With the launch of the Verizon services, the potential customer base expands greatly. Several different services are available via Verizon: Navitime, SmartTraffic from Pharos, TeleDirection from Televigation, TrafficMAP from eMbience, TrafficMatters from Kivera, and Mapquest Mobile.

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