Bing releases iPhone app with nice Maps implementation

Microsoft just released the “Bing” application for iPhone and it is a solid effort.  It was voice search that is similar to the Google app, and Maps implementation that is similar to Google Maps on the phone.

It’s a free app, so it’s certainly worth downloading and trying out.  Chris Pendleton has a nice writeup of it on the Bing Community blog, where he highlights some the new features on it.  Most of the features are similar to the pre-installed Google Maps, but the voice search in Bing Maps is a slick feature that Google Maps doesn’t have.  The rest of the features are almost identical to the Google Maps app.

So which should you use? It depends what you do with it.  In my case, I typically use it for real-time traffic.  I’ll occasionally do a search on it, but usually just want to see which which interstate I should avoid.  Below is a side-by-side look at the two apps showing real-time traffic around Atlanta.  Google Maps is on the left, Bing on the right:

iphone-maps

It’s not even close!  Bing has all kinds of shading and blurring, which looks very nice, but makes it a pain to see what the colors are.  Is that a yellow, or the road color?  Is that orange in there?  It’s quite a mess.

Google’s may look more childish, but it’s far easier to see.  If I want a quick look at the traffic, I’ve got it.

The Bing app is pretty great, and overall I’m very impressed with it.  However, I’ll keep using Google Maps (for now), simply because it does a better job for what I need.

Microsoft teams with Navteq to expand their Streetside coverage

When Microsoft launched Streetside a few days ago (a direct competitor to Google’s StreetView), I wondered how they could possibly catch up with the huge amount of coverage that Google already has in place.  Their answer: Navteq.

Navteq has vehicles on the road all the time, collecting road data (speed limits, bridge heights, etc).  Microsoft plans to “strap a few cameras on their vehicles to record some photos”.  It certainly seems like a great way to start playing catch-up.  I still imagine it’ll be quite a while until they have anywhere close to as much imagery as Google, but this gives them a solid plan to start gaining some ground.

They also revealed that they’ll be doing monthly releases of new Streetside imagery, similar to their monthly aerial/satellite releases.  Those releases tend to be rather impressive is their coverage, so we’ll see if their Streetside releases can match that.

Like most of these kinds of battles, the winner will be you.  Both companies will work hard to add better features and greater coverage, and we get to reap the benefits.  Kinda nice. :)

New Google Earth imagery/3D, Bing StreetView coming soon

A couple of quick links today:

Imagery update in Google Earth: Just two weeks since their last one, Google has pushed out another imagery update.  It’s not a huge one, but it covers small parts of many countries.

New 3D imagery in Google Earth: Google has started using StreetView imagery in some cities to create lifelike facades in the downtown areas.  The result is stunning.  Check out the video below to see how it looks:

bingvan-223x300Bing “StreetView” coming soon? It looks like Microsoft may be planning to bring a StreetView-like competitor to Bing Maps.  The image on the right (via StreetViewFun) shows a Bing-labeled van driving around Vancouver gathering street-level imagery.

Considering the Winter Olympics start in Vancouver in a few months, I’d expect we’ll see the results of the imagery before then.

Switzerland takes Google to court over StreetView

We told you a few months ago that Switzerland wasn’t pleased with the new StreetView imagery in their country.  Now they’re going to sue Google in an attempt to get the imagery removed.  Google intends to fight the case.

The first step will be interesting — Google may be required to remove the imagery from Switzerland until a ruling is made.  The order has not come out yet, but could come soon.  Hanspeter Thuer, the federal data protection commissioner in Switzerland, has asked the tribunal to force Google to take the images offline.

The outcome of this case will certainly have huge ramifications on the legality of StreetView in the rest of the world.  Other countries have been displeased with it, and if Switzerland is successful in getting the imagery removed it could cause a small ripple effect to other countries.

This will certainly be a story to watch.

New StreetView imagery released and some new features for Bing Maps

Google has just released a ton of new StreetView imagery; Mexico, the Netherlands, Hawaii and various other places.  [details: Google Earth Blog]

Bing Maps has added a few nice features. They now have draggable routes and some new navigation features.  Nothing groundbreaking, but certainly solid updates.  [details: Bing search blog]

Google Maps Navigation coming to Android 2.0

I’ve been saying for a while that I think Android will overtake iPhone in 2010, and recent news seems to be pointing that direction.  First you have the impressive-looking Verizon Droid, which comes out in early November.  By all accounts it will be an awesome device.  It will be the first phone running the Android 2.0 operating system.  Now Google has sweetened the deal even more.

Today they announced that Android 2.0 devices (starting with the Droid) will come with Google Maps Navigation.  This is similar to TomTom and other devices, but with a few big advantages.  The main one, of course, is that it’s free.

Not only that, but it has some cool features:

  • POI and road data loaded on the fly.  Always up-to-date, no need to run “updates”.
  • Search in plain English.  Don’t type the address (unless you want to).  Just type the name of your destination and go.
  • Search by voice
  • Traffic view.  They’ve integrated the traffic data, which makes obvious sense.
  • Search along route.  I’ve always wanted a feature like this on my Garmin.  Very cool
  • Satellite view.  I’ve always wanted this, too.  It’s weird on most GPS devices when you’re in a parking lot — it’s just like you’re in a field.  This will help.
  • Street View.  This is slick.  To get a preview of what your next turn looks like, just double-tap the map and it’ll zoom you in there to take a peek.

All in all, this sounds pretty sweet.  Not only does it sound like possibly the best GPS software out there, it doesn’t cost a thing.  Being Android-only will certainly hurt it in the short-term, but long-term it will provide a big boost.

Will they ever bring this software to the iPhone?  I’m sure they’d love to, but I doubt Apple will allow it.   Time will tell.  Check out the video below for a bit more info:

A whole bunch of minor updates to Google Maps

Google has just rolled out a slew of minor updates to Google Maps — changing road colors, outline colors, number of roads shown at each zoom level, etc.

TechCrunch summarized it best:

…unless you spend hours looking at Google Maps everyday, you probably aren’t going to realize when a road outline has been toned down, for example. But looking at the side-by-side images, it’s clear to see that the new look is much nice. Gone is much of the clutter cause by darkened street outlines.

Google’s description of the changes:

Today’s changes are intended to keep the same information-rich map while making it easier to pick out the information that is most useful. The changes affect both the ‘Map’ and ‘Hybrid’ styles, and include numerous refinements to color, density, typography, and road styling worldwide. For example, in map view, local and arterial roads have been narrowed at medium zooms to improve legibility, and the overall colours have been optimized to be easier on the eye and conflict less with other things (such as traffic, transit lines and search results) that we overlay onto the map. Hybrid roads have gained a crisp outline to make them easier to follow, and the overall look is now closer to an augmented satellite view instead of a simple overlay.

It seems to be a great little upgrade.  Check out the gallery below to see a bunch of before/after shots provided by Google.

A bunch of additions to StreetView

According to the Google Earth Blog and Google Maps Mania, a whole bunch of cities have been added to StreetView.  They include Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Prague, Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver.

Check out some of the great locations that Keir has found in Canada and in Prague, and be sure to submit your new finds to the Google Earth Hacks StreetView gallery.

Place Pages for Google Maps could be great for small businesses

golden-gate-bridgeGoogle has just released Place Pages for Google Maps, and the potential impact on small businesses is quite large.

According to Google, a “Place Page” is:

a webpage for every place in the world, organizing all the relevant information about it. By every place, we really mean *every* place — there are Place Pages for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, neighborhoods, landmarks and cities all over the world.

With so many small businesses still lacking a website (around 44%), this gives them a great way to help control their reputation on Google.  The URLs are built to be very friendly, and small businesses can edit the pages to make sure they’re completely up to date.

While this certainly won’t be better than having your own site, it’s another great way for small businesses to own more of the search results for their name.  It’s got some bugs to work out (mis-matched items), but all in all it should be a great enhancement to the search results.

Japanese StreetView is facing a variety of complaints

japan-streetviewThe Japanese version of Google StreetView is facing an increasingly higher number of complaints, about a variety of topics.  Along with the usual complaints (faces, license plates), there is the issue of people using the images on secondary sites for the purposes of discrimination and bullying.

To help combat this, Google has set up a new system that makes it easier for users to report problems.  They even allow users to report problems with secondary sites, which Google will then deal with (ask for removal, legal action, etc).

The concern now is that this action might not be enough.  I guess only time will tell.