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Well… here’s one way to get Google Maps on your iPhone. The innovation arm of digital agency Native has released a navigation app built using the Maps API that allows any one of Mxit’s millions of users to access Google’s mapping service with minimal data charges.
The directions app, called GetThere, works on feature phones and smartphones alike, and is available for free from Tradepost. Despite the largely text-based nature of Mxit, the app is surprisingly quick to use — you simply enter in a starting address and destination, pick walking or driving directions, and GetThere plans your route and displays small map images to help you on your way. The app also allows you to pick your destination from a list if it detects that there are similar addresses and displays estimated distances and how long your trip will take.
The app was developed by the South African-based company in a bid to fill the gap between the services offered to smartphone and feature phone users. While smartphone penetration is on the rise, the majority of cellphones in the country are more basic feature phones — and Mxit is used by an estimated 23% of all mobile phone users in South Africa.
Head of Native’s inventions division, Levon Rivers said that because of the lack of access faced by many citizens, the company “wanted to create an affordable, accessible platform that reaches the broadest base possible.” He says that GetThere is “basically smartphone technology for feature phones” which will allow commuters to quickly access maps on the go with minimal effort. Although Google Maps is available for some feature phones depending on phone model and geographic region, by running off a widely-supported app like Mxit, GetThere can potentially reach those who could previously not access the service.
Like many other Mxit apps, it is free to the user, but supported financially by advertising. Interestingly, the massive range of devices which support Mxit (from BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and iPhone to even some of the most basic feature phones) means that this could be a useful app for some smartphone users, as it allows them to easily access basic Maps features without having to download an entirely new app or incur the same level of data charges that can come from using the mobile version.