Google preempts Apple with Maps upgrade announcement

I recently wrote about the expected change in the iPhone/iOS native Maps application.  Apple is expected to replace Google as the backend and upgrade the app to include 3D maps. This is all supposed to be announced at WWDC on Monday, June 11.

Today, Google preempted this announcement with updates of its own regarding is mobile maps app.  It specified that these updates were for the Maps app on Android but made reference to availability in the future on iOS. More coverage from Mashable, Ars Technica and Apple Insider.

The features they announced:

1. 3D Maps (unclear how this will compare to Apple’s 3D maps and how much coverage there will be to start)

2. Offline maps (this was one of my top requested features, yay!)

3. Better “streetview” for walking directions in places without roads like parks, mountains, etc. See the photo below for Google’s new rig to capture these views. This is kind of cool but seems like it will take some time to get coverage.

It’s not entirely clear when these features will be available or the specifics about how they work.  It seems that Google wanted to announce these before Monday so as to:

1. Steal Apple’s thunder

2. Soften the blow when it’s announced they’re no longer powering the native app on iOS.

Unfortunately for Google, they are not in the same league as Apple when it comes to PR, so most people will not even hear about today’s announcements while Apple’s announcement on Monday will likely be accompanied by a launch of other sexy products and features and will get covered ad nauseam.  In general, I think this competition is great. When Google and Apple have competed in mobile OS, desktop browsers and elsewhere, consumers have reaped the benefits of some of the best and quickest tech innovation ever. Bring on the maps!

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