Can Sendero Meet the Challenges and Offer a Full-Featured GPS App That People Will Actually Buy?

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

It's been reported that Sendero is in the early stages of developing a full-featured GPS application for the iPhone.

Most of you are probably aware of the Sendero Group, and many of you will have used their location-based information and navigation systems for the blind. Considering how highly-regarded these GPS systems are, and the company's near 20 years of experience, it is easy to be excited by news of an iOS application. However, it also raises some questions.

Firstly, is Sendero simply too late to the game? Existing apps such as Navigon, Ariadne, MyWay and Where To are mature and established products. They are fully accessible, and when used in conjunction can offer a very comprehensive set of location-based tools. That's why most of us probably already own and use a number of GPS applications, both for routing and exploring the area around us. We've invested time and money into buying and learning these apps, so Sendero will need to find something to make their application an essential download for blind iDevice users.

The one feature that is currently missing from existing products is detailed and useful information for blind users about cross-streets and intersections. If available in the Sendero app, would it be enough to have you reaching for your credit card?

Well, I guess that's likely to depend upon how Sendero handles the challenge of finding a price point that generates enough sales to meet the costs of developing and marketing the app. And this will be a significant challenge, as Sendero is used to operating in a very different market, one based upon low volumes and high margins. As any one familiar with the iTunes Store will tell you, that's not the way that the App market works, where $50-70 can currently equip a blind user with a selection of apps that will provide tools and features very close to what could cost several thousand dollars on a specialist device.

Sendero will need to make quite a shift in their culture and business model if they are to set a price point that will fit with what people are used to paying in this market. This might be particularly difficult for them, as it could effectively kill the market for many of their other products. If a $50 app and an iPhone can provide as much functionality to a blind user as a dedicated GPS device, but at a fraction of the price, it's easy to see where the wise money would go.

I suspect that the Sendero accounts would probably indicate that a fair amount of the blind dollar has already moved from dedicated devices to iDevices and the App Store. It will be interesting to see if Sendero can catch-up with the market, or if it has already left them behind.

Personally, the apps that I already use probably meet 95% of my needs. Sendero could potentially add that missing 5%. They could also make everything available in a single application, which would have some advantage over my current, patched-together, solution. It would also be nice to double-tap the 'Update' button each time a new version is released, fairly confident that VoiceOver support hasn't been compromised. Will this come at a price that I am prepared to pay? Probably not, as I suspect the price that Sendero will need to charge just won't be worth that 5% of extra functionality.

Has Sendero missed the boat, or can they come up with an app that would have you heading off to the App Store? What features would you want to see, and what would you be willing to pay for them? Would you prefer a flat-rate price or a subscription service? Let us know what you think by posting a comment.