Google Maps coming back to Windows Phone “soon”

google-mapsLate yesterday, Google cut off in-browser access to Google Maps for Windows Phone users. The reason, according to Google:

“IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. As a result, we chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com where they could at least make local searches. The Firefox mobile browser did offer a somewhat better user experience and that’s why there is no redirect for those users.”

While they still have no plans to build a native Maps app for Windows Phone, this block is expected to be lifted soon to at least give those users access to it via the browser.

More details on this story are available over on TechCrunch.

The week in Google Earth news

Last week on Google Earth Blog we…

You can read more over at GEarthBlog.com.

iOS 6 dropping Google Maps for an in-house solution?

It’s been rumored for a while, and we won’t know for sure until this summer, but it appears that Apple is dropping Google Maps from the iPhone and iPad in favor of an in-house solution.

Over the past few years Apple has purchased companies such as Placebase, C3 Technologies and Poly9, and it’s thought that they’ve successfully combined those technologies in a way that works quite well on the iPhone.  The new 3D mode is thought to be coming straight from C3 Technologies, which has a pretty nice system.  Here is a mock-up from 9to5Mac that shows the potential difference between the old and new system:

The result of this would be quite interesting.  There is certainly a lot of potential for them to do some great things, and losing the Google Maps integration is likely step when you consider the competition between Android and Apple.

iOS 6 is expected to be unveiled at Apple’s WWDC in June, so we’ll find out for sure then!

 

Google Maps for Android updated to version 6.7; includes indoor walking directions and Google Offers

Google just pushed out a nice update to Google Maps on Android, bringing it to version 6.7.  Some of the new features include:

Google Offers

You can find special deals near you from Google Offers.  Here’s how it works in the new Maps app:

Indoor Walking Directions

Indoor maps have been around for a few months now, but Google Maps wouldn’t direct you through the store.  Now it will!

Google Business Photos

You can explore 3D panoramas inside of select businesses, giving you an easy way to see what the store looks like.

Go grab the update now from Google Play!

Amazing new photo tours in Google Maps

Google has just added a great new feature to Google Maps called “photo tours”, which feels a lot like Microsoft’s PhotoSynth but taken to a whole new level. Here’s a video showing how they work:

To try them for yourself, check out a famous site such as Trevi Fountain or St. Mark’s Basilica.  To learn more about how these tours were created you can read this entry on the Google Lat Long Blog.

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.

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.

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.

A ghost town from space

Earth is Square has a neat post today about viewing Centralia, Pennsylanvia using fresh Bird’s Eye imagery on Bing Maps.  Centralia was an active town of about 1000 residents back in the early 1980’s, but now is home to only nine people.  The reason is due to an underground coal fire that’s been burning since the 60’s, and will continue burning for as many as 250 more years.

In 1984, congress provided $42 million to relocate residents out of town.  Once gone, most of the buildings were demolished.  A recent episode of Life After People (an excellent series on the History Channel) featured Centralia as an example of what happens 25 years after humans leave a city (building decay, etc).

I was hoping that Google’s Historical Imagery feature would show aerial footage from a time when the city was populated, but it only goes back to 1993.   Below are some before and after photos.  Check it out on Google Maps (with StreetView imagery) or Bing Maps to explore further.

centralia-beforeBefore the evacuation

centralia-beforeafterThen and now

centralia-ge-1993Centralia 1993, as seen in Google Earth using the Historical Imagery slider

centralia-bingCentralia today, in Bing Maps Bird’s Eye

centralia-streetviewCentralia today, in Google Maps Street View.  The fog makes it even creepier.