If you’re an iPhone owner and have been sorely missing Google’s dedicated app for Maps that Apple replaced with their own Map app when iOS 6 was released, well today’s you’re lucky day. At long last, Google has released Google Maps for iPhone and it brings back the glory of the old days; namely a vector-based map service you can actually rely on, Street View that provides 360-degree panoramas of streets and goes inside more than 100,000 places of business worldwide, detailed information for more than 80 million businesses and points of interest, Google local search that aids in discovering places to eat and shop with ratings and reviews, live traffic information, and directions for driving, mass transit, and walking. Pretty much everything you had been used to using with Google Maps on iOS.
But it doesn’t stop there. The most significant enhancement to Maps is turn-by-turn navigation with voice guidance, and it works just as advertised. Also, this latest version of Google Maps looks better than previous versions; it features a new design that’s sleeker and more streamlined than ever before. The map fills up the iPhone 5’s larger screen; a search box sits at the top for you to quickly input addresses and other queries to put Google local search to work; on the bottom left the “three dots” icon can be swiped to the left to reveal a list to enable live traffic, public transit, satellite view, and a quick link to the Google Earth app; if you’ve inputted an address or point of interest a swipe up from the bottom gives you detailed information about the location, including links to Save it, Share it, and enable Street View (swipe down to return to the map); at the bottom left resides the trusty “you are here” icon that when pressed will instantly locate your current position on the map (tap it again to enable smooth tilting and rotating of 2D and 3D views); and when you first open the app it asks you to log in with your Google Account so you can sync your searches, directions, and saved places between your computer and phone–score!
Though it doesn’t pack everything that its Android counterpart has (cashing maps for offline use is noticeably absent here), Google has does a fine job bringing back the glory and then some to Maps for iOS. If you’re obsessed with Flyover and prefer a map that is admittedly more pretty, stick with Apple’s offering. However, if you can live without those things (and Google’s offering doesn’t look so bad) it’s a no brainer that you should hide Apple Maps inside some folder and replace it with Google’s solution. Heck, even Apple CEO Tim Cook advises customers to use alternative map services while his company works out the innumerable kinks. Google Maps has proven over the years to be simple to use and extremely reliable, and that’s what it all comes down to, really. So watcha waiting for?
The new and improved Google Maps is now available as a free download in the App Store. It is compatible with iPhone 3GS and up, iPod touch 3rd-gen and up, and your device must be running iOS 5.1 or later. The app will work on the iPad, but note that it is not optimized for the original iPad and iPad mini screen sizes yet. Catch a fun clip from Google after the break.
Zebra Imaging specializes in making holographic images, and their latest prints really know how to impress even the most skeptical “Is 3D our future?” individual. In the video embedded above you’ll see a holographic map (or “ZScape”) of Seattle. The company uses a wide array of digital source data and renders the data into tens of thousands of images which are the recorded using laser light onto a film-based holographic material. As you can see in the demonstration, a full color 360-degree viewing range can be seen under a simple halogen or LED light source, no special 3D glasses required. The prints are extremely durable and are designed to be rolled up and even marked on. The sheer amount of detail in the holographic maps is quite remarkable. The company has manufactured over 8,000 images utilized by the US military overseas for visualization and defense planning applications, but also cater to anyone who wants a 3D image in holographic form. Surprisingly their pricing options aren’t wildly expensive; $1,500 for a 12” x 18” print and their largest print size 2′ x 3′ goes for $3,500. Look after the break to see a “net engineering” hologram.
With Google Maps and Bing Maps Streetside you can navigate between immersive 360-degree panoramas to visualize your route. Although this street-view integration is very helpful in visualizing your route before you drive it, there are problems with it and the brainiacs at Microsoft Reseach think they have the solution. They describe the problem like this: “The discrete moves from bubble [360-degree panorama] to bubble enabled in these systems do not provide a good visual sense of a larger aggregate such as a whole city block. Multi-perspective “strip” panoramas can provide a visual summary of a city street but lack the full realism of immersive panoramas.” In other words they can be quite disorienting. Their solution, called Street Side, allows you to seamlessly zoom out of the bubble to view a multi-perspective panorama view of a street. In this zoomed out view you can pan across an entire street to find exactly what you’re looking for or to plan your route in a more effective way. Once you find a particular destination or a location you’d like to investigate further simply zoom in to view a part of a street on more detail. The mapping tech is extremely impressive; check it out for yourself in the demonstration above. The developers are currently making an iPhone (and presumably a Windows Phone 7) version of the maps to bring to mobile devices. Don’t get too excited, though; only about 2400 panoramas of 4 kilometers of streets has been covered thus far.
In anticipation of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Team Google brings us to Whistler Mountain with Street View. Just like you’d map out how to find a restaurant on Google Maps using Street View to precisely pick out the location, now you can search and explore the icy mountains where this month’s Winter Olympics will take place. Explore the mountains or “get inside the games” with a constantly updating menu system that features Olympic events, medals, venues, and news. Google’s got you covered.
Today Google announced a major upgrade to its mobile Google Maps software with the introduction of Maps Navigation. Everything you’re used to with Google Maps is still there–search (by name of business), directions, traffic data, the three views (map, satellite, hybrid), etc. Maps Navigation brings full-blown turn-by-turn directions, including our friend the female robotic voice. New features included: address input by text or voice; text-to-speech (reads street names aloud); Street View (when you are making a turn or getting off a highway, an intelligent satillite view of the street will appear with directional arrows embedded on top); search along a route (it can point out and direct you to gas stations or resturants that fall on your route path); hold a finger down on any point of the virtual map and it will guide you there; layers (features like traffic and points of interest are “layers;” Gizmodo acknowledges that this may hint towards Google offering developers to create their own layers on top of the map (Wiki notes, etc.)); landscape and portrait modes. A docking station for car use was demoed. When a compatable phone is placed in the dock, an “arm’s length away” user interface takes effect (larger icons, etc.).
One of the most distinguising features of Maps Navigation as a navigation system is that it relies on the Internet to gets its information (maps, traffic, etc.) instead of actual satillites like most other navs. There are major advantages and some disadvantages to this. Gizmodo appropriately labels the single most important advantage “maps that never age.” In essense, you will never have to worry about updating your maps because the software is constantly updating itself via the carrier’s cell service. The disadvantage? If you happen to enter a dead zone and lose all cell service you might find yourself stuck in lost, unfamilar territory. However, it is worthy to note that the software sort of works offline in that it will cache (or save) your route once it is entered in a cell signal area. So if you happen to stumble upon a dead zone you may not SOL after all.
For now, Maps Navigation will only be available on Android 2.0 cell phones. The first cell phone to feature it will be Verizon’s Doid by Motorola. Eventually this upgraded version of Google Maps will make its way to other carriers and devices. In fact, Gizmodo reports that Google is in close talks with Apple about porting it to the iPhone.
One final, very significant point: Maps Navigation is f-r-e-e, that spells free. This is going to make a heavy impact not only on other cell phone nav applications that are not free, but it is definitely going to negatively affect major companies like TomTom and Garmin (it already has) who rely on people purchasing their standalone GPS units. If people have the choice of using a free (ad-free too, mind you) nav application on their cell phones or choosing to buy a separate typically expensive device, what do you they are going to choose? What would you choose? Share your opinion in the poll below.