Google Maps Pro: Would You Pay for Premium Features?

Google Maps "Pro" anyone? 15 photos
Photo: Google/autoevolution edits
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Software has become a major money-making machine, and despite happening later than expected, carmakers seem to discover the same thing one by one.
Regaining control of the infotainment system and making money from it has become a priority for car manufacturers, and General Motors is probably the best example. The General decided to block Android Auto and CarPlay and go all-in on Android Automotive. This embedded system allows the carmaker to pave the way for subscriptions and monetize certain features.

Navigation apps have also become must-have driving companions for modern drivers. Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, and other similar apps run in millions of cars every day, making each journey safer, more convenient, and often shorter.

A recent decision announced by Flitsmeister proves that finding new ways to monetize software is a long-term goal for everybody in the automotive space, not only carmakers.

The new Google Maps UI
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
If you've never heard of Flitsmeister, the main thing you should know is that this app has long been considered the number one alternative to Waze. It offers traffic reports, advanced navigation features, and extra capabilities, including even the status of traffic lights on the route. Flitsmeister isn't anywhere as popular as Waze. The Google-owned app has approximately 150 million monthly users, whereas Flitsmeister has 2.8 million active users in its main markets, including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

Flitsmeister recently announced a controversial decision that moves key features behind a paywall, including support for Android Auto and CarPlay. It means users no longer get these features for free, so they must pay to project Flitsmeister to the Android Auto and CarPlay screen on the dashboard.

The Pro version now costs 3 Euros per month, while a newly introduced Pro Plus subscription, which includes bonus features, including an option to contest fines, is available at 7 Euros per month.

The new Google Maps UI
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Google Maps Pro

Flitsmeister's decision wasn't received well by users who were unwilling to pay for Android Auto and CarPlay support. Flitsmeister is an app built with drivers in mind, so not allowing it to run on the bigger screen in the cabin is a major shortcoming.

Some people believe Flitsmeister's business model could make its way to other navigation apps, including Google Maps.

While I seriously doubt that Google Maps would ever move to a subscription-based model, especially because you already pay for what the app has to offer with your data, several readers told me that a Pro version of the app would make perfect sense.

The new Google Maps UI
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Google Maps Pro could include functionality that wouldn't otherwise be available in the freeware version, including truck navigation. If you're a long-time Google Maps user, you probably know that the app is focused on passenger cars. It also includes public transit directions and walking guidance, but Google Maps never supported turn-by-turn navigation for large vehicles, like trucks and motorhomes.

Support for truck navigation is a top feature request, but Google doesn't seem to be interested in expanding Google Maps in this direction. It'd make sense in a Pro version, where customers would have to pay for a monthly subscription, especially as this feature would be aimed at a niche that wouldn't bring home the bacon for Google.

As I said earlier, Google has zero interest in monetizing Google Maps in any other way than it does recently, so asking users to pay for a subscription isn't part of the company's long-term strategy.

Moving certain features behind a paywall could also push users from Google Maps to other applications still available for free. The best example is Sygic's GPS navigation solutions. Sygic's software is one of the best in the navigation world, offering capabilities you don't find elsewhere, including a head-up display and wrong-way driver warnings. However, I've seen many users claiming they would never install Sygic's software because of the premium subscription, which would have them paying for access to the entire feature package monthly.

The new Google Maps colors with the impossible\-to\-track suggested route
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
If it ever moves to a premium plan, Google Maps would risk facing the same problem. The same thing would happen to every high-profile navigation app currently available free of charge, such as Apple Maps and Waze. None of the parent companies explore a subscription-based model, albeit their plans could change in the long term, especially as they look for new ways to monetize their software. Apple has become increasingly interested in making money from its services, but considering Apple Maps is still behind Google Maps from a functionality perspective, the company can't afford to move its app behind its paywall.

Returning to the big question in the headline, I'd like to hear from you on this controversial topic. Would you pay for a premium version of Google Maps? If you would, what features do you believe make sense to be moved behind a paywall? Should Android Auto and CarPlay always remain available for free?

Let me know what you think in the comment box after the jump.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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