Next week, Apple’s widely rumoured to be showing off iOS 6 for the iPhone and iPad. Bundled inside is likely to be a completely new inbuilt maps app to replace Google’s, but Google’s not going to take that ousting lying down, and without getting something special ready itself.
That’s exactly why the company has just held a conference to announce the “next dimension of Google Maps”. What’s the story? Read on to find out.
Google and Apple have had a bumpy history together. At the start of the iPhone’s life in 2007, everything was rosy. Apple stitched Google search and Google Maps into the OS and both sides were happy to be part of a mutually beneficial deal. Then things started to go sour. Google, which until then had been a very different business to Apple, marched into mobile with Android.
That caused a rift – a rift that’s been widening ever since. That’s exactly why Apple has spent the past year or so gobbling up separate mapping companies. It wants to pull the Google thorn from its side, and provide users a similar, powerful experience that’s entirely independent of the system currently in place.
And if you’re Google, and you’re being plucked out of one of your biggest strongholds, you need to rethink and retool. Hence the new features coming to Google Maps…
“You will no longer need paper maps. Google Maps is going offline. Coming soon to Google Maps for Android.” That was the word from Rita Chen, Google maps Mobile’s project manager. There’s no date other than ‘soon’, but Google’s taking its entire mapping service offline.
You can download maps per region (say, just London, for example), and are warned ahead of time how much data it’ll use if you’re already abroad. With the map downloaded, you can still use the blue dot GPS tracking without worrying about data charges.
All your downloadable maps are zoomable right down to the closest level. That’s pretty special.
Street View back-pack
Also known as the Trekker, Google’s created a 40-pound rig, worn by unlucky Google employees as they trek, walk, hike and ski around the globe to extend the already impressive Street View offering. It’s powered by 2 Li Ion batteries that help it last a full day of snapping.
Where’s the Trekker headed? “We will be taking imagery in places you wouldn’t dream of,” says Google.
75 percent of the world’s people can now see their house on Street View, says Google, with the images themselves being comprised of monster 65-Megapixel images. Expect that percentage to grow incredibly quickly.
Fully 3D Maps
“We wanted to do something better” than the current 3D modelling in Google Maps, says Google Earth’s project manager, Peter Birch. To that end, Google has started “using automated technology to extract 3D from aerial images.”
This is done using planes that fly in tight, overlapping patterns, to take photos and tie them all together with Google’s in-house tech. This is layered with pixel-perfect texturing to create something incredibly realistic.
“We’re trying to create magic here. Almost as if you’re in your own personal helicopter,” said Birch. And it’s worked. Even trees are mapped out in the new technique. Wanna know what’s weird, though? Google says it’s bringing its new 3D maps to Android AND iOS in the coming weeks. We’ll see what Apple has to say about that next week.
Last week we asked you to answer a poll on whether you’d miss Google Maps if it disappeared from iOS. The results? A little over 59 percent said that they’d miss Google Maps, with the comments focusing on the fact that it’d remove Street View from the native app.
If Apple really wants to shake the hornet’s nest, which it seems to have done, it’ll need something pretty special instead. We’ll have to wait and see until next week, but it seems that Google isn’t mucking about with its work behind the scenes.