Google Shows Apple Customers the Maps They Won’t Have

Google announced on Wednesday a slew of new map features for its popular Google Maps service. With Apple expected to announce a proprietary mapping service to replace Google Maps on its iOS devices next week, today’s announcement serves as notification of what iPhone and iPad owners will soon be missing.

“For the last decade we’ve obsessed over building great maps for our users,” the company said, reminding anyone who was curious that making a mapping service isn’t easy. Google said that it’s goal is to make maps, “that are totally comprehensive (we’re shooting for literally the whole world), ever more accurate and incredibly easy to navigate.”

Apple bought at least three mapping companies in recent years, and has long been rumored to be using those assets to build its own mapping service to replace Google Maps on iPhones and iPads. Those rumors came to a head in the last few weeks, and now Apple is expected to unveil its mapping service at next week’s World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Google was an early partner on Apple’s iPhone, and a Google Maps-powered Maps app and a YouTube app were the only third party apps unveiled with the original iPhone. That was before Google released Android OS for smartphones, a move that prompted the late Steve Jobs to accuse Google of ripping off iOS and promising “thermonuclear war” to squash it.

Shortly thereafter, Apple began buying mapping companies, prompting the above-mentioned speculation.

So, Google took the offensive on Wednesday and announced several new features for Google Maps, including new 3D maps (a feature Apple is expected to unveil, too). The company said that it will be adding entire metropolitan areas to its 3D view in its mapping service.

3D Google Map Promo

Google 3D Demonstration (full video below)

Google said that it would also extend Map Maker (error reporting) to new parts of the globe, add offline viewing for Android users, and showed off Street View Trekker, which will allow Google to map remote wilderness areas by foot.

Street View Trekker

Luc Vincent, engineering director, taking the
Street View Trekker for a trial run in Tahoe
Source: Google

Google’s messaging wasn’t limited to simply announcing its new features, however; the company is clearly wanting to make sure that people understand that mapping services are not something any ol’ hack can do.

For instance, in the company’s blog post, Brian McClendon, VP of Engineering of Google Maps said, “It’s a pretty limited search engine that only draws from a subset of sources. In the same way, it’s not much of a map that leaves you stranded the moment you step off the highway or visit a new country.”

To get that information, Google has a large number of data feeds that go into Google Maps, and the company said it makes thousands of edits per day. It also has a literal army of boots on the ground in the form of its Street View team, including the new Street View Trekkers mentioned above.

“Today we have thousands of data sources that feed into our maps making them a rich and interactive experience on any device—from driving directions to transit and indoor maps to restaurant reviews,” Mr. McClendon wrote.

Again, the intended message is clear: any service with all this isn’t a real service, so don’t get caught up in Apple’s marketing message when we get dumped next week.

The good news for consumers is that Apple, Google, and Microsoft are pushing each other. Mapping is one of the key killer apps for smartphones and mobile computing in general. Google Maps was head and shoulders above all competing services when it launched in 2005, and for Apple to replace the very popular service on its iPhones, it will have to offer an amazing experience.

Google just wants to make sure everyone is knows that.

Google Maps Promo Video

Note that Map Maker is being extended to South Africa and Egypt first, and to ten more countries “in the next few weeks:” Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.