Google vs. Apple: Dueling Mobile Map Apps

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Ever since the launch of the iPhone, iOS devices came preloaded with Maps, an app built using Google Maps.  That five year mapping relationship is about to come to an end.  The past few years have been dotted with rumors, conjectures, and industry pontification about various geospatial acquisitions and job hirings by Apple.  Over the past few years, industry pundits have called out each purchase by Apple of such companies as  PlacebaseC3 Technologies, and Poly9, which, along with news about crowdsourcing traffic collecting efforts, all pointed towards Apple’s impending strategy of developing in-house its own mapping technology.

The 9to5Mac blog first released an image showing the 3D screenshot of the new Apple map app that will be released with iOS 6. The BGR blog has a gallery showing five blurry peeks of the iOS 6 map app.   One of the features being highlighted is the 3D capabilities provided by C3 Technologies.  BGR, which notes the information is from a “a trusted source” describes the 3D feature:

The iPhone version of Maps has a floating locate me button (it sounds very similar to Android’s Google Maps app) in the bottom left corner. To access 3D mode, which will make use of Apple’s C3 Technologies acquisition, you have to peel back the lower right corner of Maps just like the current version and enable 3D mode. Once enabled, you can switch in and out of 3D mode by tapping a 3D icon in the lower left corner. A photo of this feature can be seen in our gallery.

Mockup created by BGR envisioning what the Apple Map app will look like.

Mockup created by BGR envisioning what the Apple Map app will look like.

It is widely anticipated that Apple’s announcement about iOS 6 will come at the upcoming Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, which will be held from June 11-15, 2012 in San Francisco, California.


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Competing with the industry buzz about Apple’s impending departure from using Google Maps as its backend technology, Google is building its own publicity over its own announcement about advances in Google Maps and associate geospatial technologies.  In a cross-post on both Google’s Lat Long blog and its Official Blog entitled The never-ending quest for the perfect map, Brian McClendon, VP of Engineering, Google Maps described some of the upcoming advancements for Google Maps that include Street View Trekker, a backpack mounted image capturing device that will allow Google to capture imagery in locales where bikes, cars, and boats can’t venture.

Photo showing Luc Vincent, engineering director, taking the Street View Trekker out on a test run in Tahoe.

The post also briefs readers on Google’s mission for comprehensiveness, accuracy and usability of its geospatial offerings.  Offline maps will also become available for Android devices.  Users will be able to download geodata for specified areas on their mobile apps and be able to navigate without an Internet connection.

Also included in this announcement is the addition of 3D models in urban areas to Google Earth on mobile devices (something that has been available to desktop Google Earth since 2006).

This is possible thanks to a combination of our new imagery rendering techniques and computer vision that let us automatically create 3D cityscapes, complete with buildings, terrain and even landscaping, from 45-degree aerial imagery. By the end of the year we aim to have 3D coverage for metropolitan areas with a combined population of 300 million people.

To showcase these announcements, this morning Google had an invite only “Next Dimensions of Google Maps” event which CNET blogged live about. The new advancements are expected to become available in the next few weeks.

Google's 3D Geodata in Urban Areas.

Google's 3D Buildings in Urban Areas.

Opus Research has found that of the $2.5 billion to be spent on mobile ads in 2012, 25% of that are ads connected to maps or location data.  This is an increase from 10% of overall mobile ads sales in 2010 (via Wall Street Journal – subscription required). With a reported 90% of iPhone users using the default map app, Google stands lose a significant amount of traffic and derivative search data as a results of Apple’s move to its own mapping technology for its iOS devices. Insights about people’s locations and travel, has helped Google target ad sales to local businesses.


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