More indications that carriers worldwide are taking an active role to leverage the growth in popularity of location services and augmented reality today came from Singapore carrier SingTel, which is releasing two apps to the public (and a third app for subscribers only that is a price comparison app) today.
The first app is a called Property Buddy and is available for the iPhone 3GS (and we’re assuming the iPhone 4), with an Android app in the works. The augmented reality app allows users to point their camera phones at residential properties for real-time overlays of property information from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, including prices and available properties.
The second app (for iPhone and Android) called Go! Shopping, however, is more interesting to us, as it follows somewhat closely to our idea of “mallcaching“. The app guides you through the interiors of Singapore’s 48 – yes, 48 – malls with pre-installed maps, but unfortunately doesn’t use interior location, apparently because the technology for indoor positioning is too expensive. As there is no indoor positioning, users have to enter start and finish points/shops and then the app plots out the shopping course.
We downloaded the Android version, and it certainly some interesting ideas, with floor specific apps for each mall, and all malls showing up on a Google Map (of course, we’re 5,000 miles from Singapore, so real-world testing isn’t really an option). Comments on AndroidZoom seem to point to the app lagging a bit, but again, we can’t confirm that from here.
A worldwide trend
So back to our first point about carriers really getting into the location/augmented reality app space. As we reported yesterday, Vodafone and Foursquare expanded their partnership in June to include Australia and Portugal, and we fully expect that more deals like this will materialize (for Foursquare and others) worldwide. In the US, for example, Layer has been heavily promoted in Verizon’s Droid commercials as has Google Sky Map, both augmented reality apps.
So is this a case of just showcasing cool apps? That’s at least partially true, especially as these apps are so visual and therefore easy to include in advertising. However, we believe that it goes beyond this, towards the carriers hoping to cash in on location-based deals and advertising, as they have hoping to for years.
Certainly, a mall mapping app is perfect for this kind of revenue stream as are property sales. Moving forward, we expect more carriers to take active rolls in either promoting third party apps on their phones and networks or simply building those apps themselves as SingTel has done here. It’s just too big of a pot of gold for them to ignore, and should be another driver to pushing these location apps to the forefront of users’ mobile experience.