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MapQuest today announced a new feature for its MapQuest 4 Mobile application, which will let users save and share personalized maps and routes. Known as MyPlaces, the feature will be part of the free MapQuest 4 mobile download on select BlackBerry models (more devices coming soon).

The main point is to drive usage by extending the MapQuest experience from desktop to the mobile device. Along these lines, users will be able to create and save personalized maps online that are accessible from mobile.

Though MapQuest has gotten a relatively small share of the spotlight during the recent excitement surrounding mobile, it was an early mover with products such as MapQuest Navigator and earlier versions of MapQuest 4 Mobile. Today’s move follows the October launch of an iPhone optimized site. Next up is likely an iPhone native app.

For all these efforts, the name of the game will be to compete with Google for mind share and positioning among mobile users. This will be important at this relatively early stage when user behavior hasn’t formed any well-defined standards.

But as the mobile Web becomes more and more like the online Web (given penetration of smartphones with full Web browsers), lots of user behavior will transfer over from online. Generally, this will be good for Google and its 63 percent search market share. For MapQuest, it’s good and bad: It has longstanding brand strength in online mapping, but that has seen considerable competition and attrition from Google (see chart below).

Google also has the inside track when it comes to the iPhone, with its Maps native application that’s pre-loaded on the device. But more and more users are going “off deck” to search for native and Web applications that suit their needs — the usability and Web browsing capability of iPhones and some smartphones has driven this.

As a result, MapQuest will need to solidify its brand and its usability on mobile devices. Personalization, new features and tie-ins to online accounts will be a good start (an iPhone app also won’t hurt).


You can find out more and download the application here.

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