Google Maps vs. Rivals: New App Launches With Kid-Safe Navigation

A new Google Maps alternative is now live 6 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/Gabb
HERE WeGo on CarPlayHERE WeGo on CarPlayHERE WeGo on CarPlayHERE WeGo on CarPlayHERE WeGo on CarPlay
Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps dominate the navigation space, especially as two of them come pre-loaded with Android phones and iPhones. Waze is often considered the number one alternative to these two solutions, sporting a unique crowdsourcing engine that allows users to flag the location of various hazards, including accidents and potholes.
There's a good reason why all these apps command nearly the entire market: they are free, come with mostly accurate maps, and offer a complete feature package that includes offline maps (except for Waze), voice navigation, and support for phone mirroring systems.

The competition in the navigation world is getting fiercer, especially as specialists like HERE and Sygic focus more on mobile navigation. However, HERE now gives users worldwide another reason to ditch Google Maps and Apple Maps thanks to a partnership with Gabb Wireless.

The two companies collaborated on what is likely the first kid-safe mapping and navigation solution for Gabb mobile phones.

HERE WeGo on CarPlay
Photo: autoevolution
If you don't get the concept, the idea is simple. HERE and Gabb wanted to provide kids with an easy-to-use and, more importantly, safe navigation experience. The solution developed by the two companies, which runs on the HERE SDK, filters all content that could be considered inappropriate for kids. As a result, the navigation application allows kids to get turn-by-turn directions without being exposed to content specifically aimed at adults, such as liquor stores, coffee places, reviews with user-uploaded photos that could be considered inappropriate, or other explicit content.

The smart filter process takes place automatically when the user launches Gabb Maps. While some people might have a hard time understanding why kids need a navigation app in the first place, the two companies explain that Gabb Maps puts kids' digital safety as the top priority. Theoretically, a teenager can use the navigation app for public transportation, cycling, or walking directions without concerns about being exposed to inappropriate content. The application also offers driving directions (turn-by-turn directions not available at launch), though such a component doesn't make sense, considering the application is primarily aimed at kids. Users can also search addresses, business names, and types, view 3D buildings, and browse maps with a satellite layer.

One of the biggest benefits of Gabb Maps is the restriction that blocks kids from backdoor access to the Internet. HERE explains that internal web browsers on business pages no longer leave the door open to age-inappropriate content.

HERE WeGo on CarPlay
Photo: autoevolution
If you're concerned about data collection, HERE guarantees that only navigation data is collected. Everything is completely anonymous, with the company explaining that it uses the information to improve the navigation engine. Furthermore, it won't use the data for advertising, and users who don't feel comfortable letting their kids' information leave the device can always block the data collection. The process is optional and is not enabled by default.

Gabb Maps also doesn't gather or sell children's information, so the only data collection occurs when navigation information is sent to HERE.

Gabb Maps targets a niche that Google Maps and the other top navigation solutions on the market never explored. While I don't expect this new application to challenge Google Maps' domination in the navigation space, it's a solid solution for anyone who wants to provide their children with navigation software without worrying about exposing them to inappropriate content.

Meanwhile, Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps focus more on mainstream features that could help them gain share.

For example, Google Maps is working on Immersive View for routes, a feature that allows users to explore a configured route in a multi-dimensional view made of satellite imagery, traffic data, weather conditions, and street-level photos.

HERE WeGo on CarPlay
Photo: autoevolution
Apple Maps is also progressing well in the fight against other navigation apps. The detailed city experience proves Apple's commitment to becoming a more important player in the navigation world, providing users with first-party maps, 3D buildings, improved navigation, and Look Around (an alternative to Google's Street View). Apple Maps rolls out the detailed city experience in phases, so the broad availability stage is yet to be reached.

Waze keeps working on new functionality, and the latest updates brought warnings for speed bumps and sharp curves. The Google-owned company is also working on redesigning the map with more straightforward colors, an update that made its way to Google Maps in late 2023, too. Waze has already released the new design in the dark mode on CarPlay, offering a blue-ish look that aligns with CarPlay's night mode. The new design is yet to land on Android Auto and other devices.

However, all signs show that Google and Apple are committed to maintaining control over the navigation world, so applications like Gabb Maps will continue targeting niches that seem less important for tech giants. Choosing HERE to power the navigation experience was a smart decision, especially as the company's navigation engine is often considered at least as good as Google's, with some studies putting it at the top of the industry.
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Editor's note: The photo gallery includes photos with HERE's mobile navigation running on CarPlay.

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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