We are live on the ground in San Francisco this week for Macworld 2011, and one of our first meetings was with Navigon, which has reinvented itself in the US over the past few years, going from a company that makes personal navigation devices to strictly a software company thanks to the MobileNavigator iOS app and its variants. The overall smartphone nav app market has grown by 117 percent in the last few years, and largely due to the iPhone app (which reached 1 million downloads last August, a number made much more impressive when you realize the app usually sells for US$50 and up), that's pushed Navigon's own growth hugely as well.
In the past year, the company released version 1.7 of the software, which added improvements in the form of a paid in-app Zagat rating tie-in as well as free updates, like Google Local information. The last update also added across-the-board compatibility with the iPad, and Navigon told me that many of its iPad users were not using Apple's tablet in the car itself, but at home to plan out and see in motion the routes they later transferred over to their mobile devices.
The company hasn't released any hardware in the US for a few years (though "our main business is still hardware" in Europe, they said), but that will change with the Design Car Kit, an iPhone 4 holding stand that attaches via suction cup to your car's window -- it's designed to hold your iPhone while it runs MobileNavigator (or any other app, really -- there is a charging cable included that's "extra long" for easy access, but there are no electronics in the kit itself). Navigon told me that they thought there was a place for a quality holder on the market, and the device certainly seems well-designed, with the suction cup attaching via a release that won't let go easily when locked down.