Tag Archives: Google Maps

Google Maps v6.5 Goes Live; New Navigation Homescreen, Map Tiles and More!

Google has just released a new update for Google Maps for Android. With this release, the search engine giant is celebrating 50 billion KMs of turn-by-turn navigations (!), which is equivalent to 130,000 trips to the moon, 334 trips to the sun or 10 trips to Neptune.

The new update (v6.5) contains a redesigned Navigation home screen for devices running Android 4.0+, which follows the Holo theme introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich. If you own an Android phones with a very high screen resolution like the Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II or the Droid RAZR, you will now get maps tiles with higher resolution for better clarity and sharpness.

The new tiles will automatically start showing up in the next few days. For immediate effect though, users can clear the Map’s cache. The new update also allows users to set a preferred public transit mode, and/or a route option. The new update of Google Maps (v6.5) is already live in the Google Play market for Android device owners to enjoy!

French Court Rules Against Google Maps for Unfair Competition

Google Maps is a wonderful worldwide mapping service. It provides excellent geographical details, and all its features are available for free, if you are a direct consumer of their mapping product, Google Maps. Google Maps also has an API for all of its mapping features like directions, traffic information and place information. However, Google has recently started charging developers for its API, and this has put it in a controversial position.

google-maps

Bottin Cartographers is a provider of mapping services to many French companies, and it has been in this business for two decades. Bottin Cartographers accused Google Maps two years ago of killing competition, by offering a competitive service for free. Their argument was that Google Maps would drive out other players in this field, and then, once it captures the market with its free product, it will start charging its users. Finally, the court has ruled in favor of Bottin Cartographers, and Google has to pay a fine of 515,000 euros.

While Bottin Cartographers is only a provider of mapping services, Google has both a free Map service, and a map API for use by developers and other mapping services. However, it has recently started charging higher for its API, which gives meaning to Bottin Cartographers’ worries.

Google’s decision to increase charges for its API usage has also upset many developers, and services that used Google Maps. They are looking for Google Maps API alternatives, or considering building their own maps now.

Google Updates Maps for Android to v6, Launches Indoor Mapping Project

Now that Google has managed to map most of the places across the world in a fair amount of detail, it has set its eyes upon conquering the next frontier – indoor navigation. Yes, I am not kidding. Google wants to map notable indoor locations like airports and retail stores to provide floor by floor navigation to users. With that goal in mind, it has released a new version of Maps for Android that is fine tuned for indoor navigation.

Google Maps is launching indoor navigation with floor plans for a few dozen airports and retail locations in the US and Japan. The list of supported locations in the States include Mall of America, IKEA, The Home Depot, select Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. “We’re thrilled Google Maps continues to provide you with new and helpful perspectives—whether you’re rushing through the airport or finding your way around a mall”, wrote Brian McClendon, VP of Engineering, Google Earth and Map.

Besides introducing indoor maps, Google Maps 6 also features a couple of other improvements. The Places user interface has been revamped, and it now helpfully lists your frequent searches on the home screen, besides featuring direct Latitude check-in integration. The Maps user interface has also been tweaked slightly to accommodate floor selector for indoor mapping, and convenient switching between common features.

The updated Google Maps is available for download in the Market.

Google-Maps-Indoor-Airport

So You Want to Kick the Google Habit? [Editorial]

Google-Logo

 

Google Everywhere

It is hard to go online today without touching one or more Google products or services. If it is not search, it may be email, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, or Calendar. Google has truly blanketed us with their web-based app offerings. Heck, even the Google Doodle is a conversation topic!

In this editorial, I shall discuss how you can kick the Google habit, what I am using now as alternatives and why you probably won’t be able to replace certain Google products today. Ready to move away from Google? First, some background.

Why un-Google?

Some of the reasons I personally decided to look for alternatives:

  • Google became a part of virtually everything I did online. I used GMail, Google Reader, Google Finance, Blogger, Picasa, Picasa Web, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I felt uncomfortable putting such a large portion of my online life in Google’s hands.
  • Google morphed from the cool little startup building fun stuff for consumers, to a dominant public company whose revenues essentially came from just one product. That’s the key most (96%) of its revenues (and profits) came from search advertising. In other words, it needed other ways to make money. The most obvious way to do so would be to extend the arm of advertising, their main revenue-generating product, into other products. I realized I was the merchandise.
  • Google seemed to get Apple and Facebook envy. Apple was growing rapidly across all their product lines and at very high profit margins, and Facebook was taking eyeballs and key talent away from Google. This led to some bad attempts to mock Apple and Facebook publicly, which of course delighted the Google developer and enthusiast community but came off as being negative to me. If you make a great product, you don’t need a negative campaign.
  • Aside from philosophy, some of the competing products started becoming better, and Google’s products started getting worse (more on that within my descriptions) prompting me to start Project Un-Google which was an effort to use fewer and fewer Google products, hopefully reaching a point where I did not depend on any Google product at all.

Whether it is for philosophy, or hedging your web app bets, it is good to know there is life outside Google when it comes to products and services online and offline. There is usually a strong resistance to change, especially if you have a long history with a product. There is a high cost for transferring the old stuff, and learning your way around a new product/service. However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and I hope you take a look at some or all of the products I list here as an alternative to Google. If you have ideas of other products I may not have mentioned, please let me know!

Popular Google products

Here are some of the Google products/services I will be comparing to competition:

  • Search
  • Picasa
  • GMail
  • Calendar
  • Documents
  • Groups
  • Finance
  • Blogger
  • Chrome
  • Maps/Directions
  • Talk/Chat/Voice

I realize Google has many more products, appsand services, but I did not look at products like Book Search which are very niche. My attempt here is to look at the commonly used products and services only.

Google Maps Adds Support For G.co Shortlinks

One of the problems of sharing a Google Maps location with someone is its incredibly long URL, containing all the parameters e.g latitude, longitude, search terms, long strings of numbers and so on. It looks very bad on your email signature / newsletter and novice users often have no idea what this link is all about. Seeing the long URL of a Google Maps location, some users may get the feeling that you’re spamming them.

Of course, you can use Goo.gl, Bit.ly or any other URL shortening service to shorten the URL of a location on Google Maps but here is some good news.

Google has officially rolled out support for G.co URL shortener in Google Maps. Now you can obtain the shortened link to a Google map using the linkbutton at the top right corner of the page, as shown below:

google-maps-short-url

By default, Google Maps will show you the long URL of the selected location but choosing the Short URLcheckbox will shorten the long URL to a sweet G.co/maps/XXXX. That’s far better, easy to memorize and far more readable.

This feature is only available on the web version of Google maps as of now, while Android users have to wait for the next update of Google Maps app for Android.

The G.co short URL for Google maps also works on Place pages, but the sad news is that there is no way to get a customized short URL for your Google maps place page. For example: If you sell black hats in California and want to generate a G.co short URL for your Google maps business page at g.co/maps/blackhats, you are out of luck.

Actually, this is in a way good and keeps away spam. Allowing the option to customize the ending characters in the short URL would lay the welcome mat open for spammers. No one wants to click a link that has the word restaurant in it and land in to the address of an SEO firm.

Google says that this is part of their effort to increase trust among users.

We only use g.co to send you to Google web pages, and only Google Maps can generate a g.co/maps URL. This means that you can visit a a g.co/maps shortcut with confidence, and always know you will end up on a Google Maps page.

Google Maps and Reader for Android Updated; Minecraft Now Available For Xperia Play

Google has released updates for two of its popular apps for Android – Google Maps and Google Reader. The Google Maps update brings with it some welcomed changes, including custom transit notifications.

The bubble buttons, which had mysteriously disappeared in the previous update, have also made a comeback. The Transit support has also made its way to the tablet version of Google Maps. The latest update (v5.9) is already available for download from the Android Market.

The Google Reader app for Android has also been updated, and brings with it some much-needed improvements. Most importantly, the Google Reader app finally supports Honeycomb. The tablet layout of the app is similar to the mobile/tablet version of GReader website. The ‘Mark as read’ function has also been improved, and users can now mark an item as read by long pressing on it.

While this update definitely helps in improving the overall usability of the GReader app, it still does not stand a chance in front of the competition.

In other Android apps and games related news, the highly popular and insanely addictive game, Minecraft from Mojang is now available exclusively for the Xperia Play. At the time being, the game will remain exclusive to the Play. Hopefully, the game should be available to other touch screen based Android phones, sometime in the future. Sony Ericsson has also stated that a bunch of new games are soon going to be available for the Play, including Fifa 2012, Death Worm and EVAC HD. The whole list of games can be found  here.

 

 

Google Maps 5.7 for Android Adds Transit Navigation, Offline Download And Better Search Suggestions

This is the biggest ever update in the history of Google maps app for Android.

Google Maps has released a new version of it’s Android app (5.7) which now supports better transit navigation, improved search suggestion and the ability to save map data locally on your Android device.

Yes, you can download the entire location of a map and save all the data of that map right on your phone. This map data can be accessed offline, regardless of whether you are connected to the internet or not. Brilliant!

Here is a complete rundown of the new features included in updated Google Maps for Android:

Download Map Data For Offline Viewing

To download map data for specific locations, first you will have to enable the Download Map datalabs feature. To do this, open the Google Maps app, hit the menubutton and choose Labsby clicking through the More optionsdrop down. On the Labspage, scroll down and activate the Download Maps datalabs feature.

You are good to go, now open a custom geographical location in Google Maps, highlight the name of the location and pull in the menu to see the option Download Map data for this locationat the bottom. The steps for enabling offline maps in Google Maps and downloading them on your phone has been shown below (in proper sequential order).

download-google-maps-data-offline

Tip: if you can’t highlight the name of the location, try zooming in a little more and then select Download Map data for this locationat the bottom.

Saving the location data and geographical information of a place locally on your phone is immensely useful, especially if you travel to the same city after every 3 months and forget the street directions to your new office or a favorite restaurant. There is no need to fetch the map details of the same place over and over again. With offline Google Maps, you can browse through a city from anywhere or export the map data to other phones or Android devices.

Step By Step Directions Are Just One Click Away

Google has also streamlined the driving directions UI and the updated version offers more comprehensive details to your destination in fewer clicks. If the route to your destination is supported by Google Navigation and you choose either walking or the driving option, Google Maps will show directions in   an algorithmic step by step way.

Here is an example:

map-directions

Notice that Google Maps automatically highlights the terminal points and the stations in between your current location and destination. You can hop over from one point to another or hit the previous and next buttons to get walking and driving directions for reaching a particular place.

This is ideally suited for novice users, who have little expertise on handling Android apps and they prefer asking a passerby to reach their specified destination.  With the new Google Maps for Android, you will feel that a human is sitting next to you and guiding you to reach a specific location. As simple as that!

Better Search Suggestions

Google has improved the speed and the display interface for search suggestions in Google Maps updated Android app.

Instead of displaying the same icons and identifiers for everything, the new app helps you differentiate between different places through appropriate category icons. You’ll see a pin for a Google Places listing, a star for a starred Place or location, a clock for a previously used search term, a person for contacts and a magnifying glass for anything else’, which means you need to further search for that item.

search-suggestions

 

If you have visited a nearby place before, Google Maps will pull in the data from your Google account and show the name of the same location in the search suggestion list. Google knows there is a chance that you are looking for a place you visited months ago, so this is really a welcome feature in the new Google maps app for Android.

It’s high time you update your Google maps app from the Android market

 

40ft Dick Drawn Around College Campus

Using a weedkiller, students at Fairfield College in New Zealand drew a 40-foot dick into the grass inside the college campus which was then captured by Google Earth.

Go to Google Maps and search for Fairfield College, New Zealand. Zoom in and you’d be able to see the artwork :P Here are the coordinates -37.7633,175.2749 (Direct link to the map)

Dicks in Google Maps

The images were spotted by David McQuoid while searching for a property nearby. At first I thought it was a large piece of artwork,he said.

Acting Principal Gerhard van Dyk says he’ll contact Google to digitally remove the lawn loins.

[via]

Google Navigation Offline Mode Might Be Coming Soon

Google has announced the most substantial piece of news related to its mapping service for handheld devices after 3D maps. This is a translated piece of what appears on Allaboutphones and it reads,

According to an informed source from the Dutch telecom industry will soon be a Google offline version of Google Maps Navigation available. This makes it possible to also free to move abroad.

google-maps-navigation

This is simply great and opens doors to a whole new world. This will blow away all concerns for Google Navigation requiring a fast and consistent Internet connection and will also put Google maps on the same chart as other mapping services with pre-loaded faster loading maps. Google Navigation has been available on mobile devices on many countries for over a year now and it is indeed a very competitive mapping and navigation service.

The Caching of Maps is Different This Time

Maps were being cached by devices earlier as well. However, those were strictly local maps of areas you were navigating. This time, Google seems to be talking of making whole city maps available to us for a rich and slick navigation. The map would be stored on your device locally and will be loaded up from there.  GPS navigation devices are in for a bad time, now that every cellphone with this navigation powered by Google Maps is killing their business fast.

When Will You Consider India for These Services?

Seriously Google, why opt India out of everything? India has a considerable number of people who use mobile web-services and would like to have navigation on their devices.

Google has done a great job with Google Maps and it was fun working with the Google Maps API for my final year engineering project. A video demo of the same is available on YouTube.

Google Maps For Mobile Updates With More Features

Google maps is undoubtedly a real hit among smartphone users.

Everyday, thousands of people use Google maps from their mobile device to get driving directions, search for local businesses, find places of interest, share locations and so on. Although Google provides a standalone Google maps application for both Android and ios devices, the experience and environment is not entirely the same; when compared with the experience of using Google maps from a desktop browser.

Not anymore, since Google has recently rolled out a couple of updates to Google maps mobile web app which now works much like the desktop version of Google maps. If this is the first time, you’re using Google maps from your mobile browser, you have to turn on location sharing from you Phone’s preferences panel.

Activate location tracking

Once you have shared your current location with Google maps, you will be able to use many of the same Google Maps features you have earlier used from a desktop browser. Just point your mobile’s browser to maps.google.com, select the checkbox Remember preferenceand hit Share location

share-location

Google maps mobile web app will automatically detect your current location and you can start enjoying some of the recently added features e.g finding local businesses, search for what’s nearby with suggest, auto complete and so on.

As an example, I used the driving directions feature of Google maps to find the shortest route between two cities and I was shown the following result:

google-maps-driving-directions

Clear, concise and it feels as if I am on the desktop browser. Moreover, I can find nearby places, restaurants and businesses who have a listing on Google maps and then click the Directionsbutton to find the quickest way to reach that destination.

Another good use of Google maps mobile web app is to read user reviews and ratings of business and see some photos to decide whether you want to avail their service. A simple search for Chinese restaurantsshows a lot of businesses around my location, I can read user reviews, view photos and then use the phone number from the Maps page and place my order. Sweet !

search-businesses

If you’re signed into your Google account, you will be able to access My Mapsand starred locations directly from your Google account. This is handy, because you can skip the search box and quickly navigate through favorite locations, which you have earlier bookmarked from the desktop browser

view-my-maps

Overall, this is a significant improvement to Google maps mobile web app and the best part is that it works out of the box. Unlike Google Maps app for Android or iPhone, there is no need to update your app and check whether new features are available or not. Regardless of the host device you’re using, you will be able to access all the good features of Google maps from any device, any browser.

Google Latitude Gets More Meaning with Check-ins, Better Late than Never

Google Latitude allowed users to share their exact location on a map until now. It was easy to keep track of where people were going but personally, it did not make sense checking into an exact location. Starting Google Maps 5.1 for Android, this has changed. Now, users can check in at real places instead of simple addresses.

The Check-in system works as an add-on to the Latitude automatic update system. Thus, while you are automatically updating your location with Latitude, you can additionally check in a place to tell your friends your whereabouts. Now, how is this different from Foursquare?

Google Latitude check-in allows you to check in automatically, has check-in notifications and checks you out of a place once you have moved out. Latitude has mentioned those three features and none are incorporated by Foursquare yet.

Other than that, it has an equivalent of Mayorships and allows you to get a turn-by-turn direction to the place. The feature is not complete yet and it will be a few days before you can see your history of activities with Latitude. The latitude service was long ignored and now that geolocation based services are catching up and Marissa Mayer is heading this area, we will see a rapid improvement in the sector.

See the feature in action in this YouTube video.

Pune & Bangalore Added To Google Maps Bus Transit Info.

Google Maps has really made it easy for people who are new in a city to find out places and how to reach at their destinations. Google Maps already had transit info for Chennai, Delhi & Kolkata metro. Now two more cities – Pune & Bangalore have been added to that list.

Commuters can now find out bus routes and timings for all Vajra, Vayu Vajra and Big 10 buses that play across the Bangalore city on the Google Maps application both on desktop and mobile platforms. This service is very easy to use and helps commuters find their way around Bangalore using buses easily. Shown below is the Google Maps route from  Airport to JP Nagar via a Bus:

In addition to Bangalore, Google has also added Pune’s city bus service information to Google Maps making it the fifth Indian city to have bus transit and route information on Google Maps app for both mobile and desktop. Commuters in Pune can now easily find out bus schedules and routes for over 300 Pune Municipal corporation buses via Google Maps.

Google Maps 5 Now Available For Download In Android Market

The highly anticipated update of Google Maps version 5 – has finally hit the Android Market. The new update brings with it tons of new features like 3D maps, new multi-touch gestures and offline maps. Here is the small change-log posted by Google in the Android Market :

  • Explore the map in 3D. Two finger drag down/up to tilt; twist to rotate on supported devices.
  • Use compass mode to rotate the map to where you’re facing. Center the map with My Location then tap again.
  • Improved map caching and offline Navigation rerouting if you lose your connection.

snap20101216_230942

However, not all Android handsets will support the new features offered by Google Maps 5.

Here is the list of handsets that fully support Google Maps 5 :

  • Galaxy S
  • Droid
  • Droid X
  • Droid 2
  • Droid Incredible
  • EVO 4G
  • Nexus S
  • T-Mobile G2/ HTC Desire Z
  • HTC Desire HD

The upcoming high-end Android handsets will also be able to make use of all the features of Google Maps 5. Other handsets like Nexus One, HTC Desire won’t be able to enjoy the new multi-touch gesture feature offered by Google Maps 5 due to hardware restriction.

Here is the official blogpost from Google about Google Maps 5.

Google Maps 5 Will Add Offline Map Caching

Last night at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference – Andy Rubin announced that Google will soon be releasing Google Maps 5. The updated version of Google Maps will bring with it many goodies like dynamic map drawing, many multi-touch gestures like using two fingers to tilt and rotate and offline caching.

The update will also improve the performance of Google Maps and will make it much smoother and snappier.

GMaps_5

However, not all Android handsets will be able to enjoy all the features which Google Maps 5 will bring with it. Only a few selected high-end Android devices will be able to take advantage of all the features which Google Maps 5 will offer.

The list of devices includes :

o Galaxy S

o Droid

o Droid X

o Droid 2

o Droid Incredible

o Evo

o Nexus S

o G2

The Nexus One won’t be able to make use of the new multi-touch gestures in Google Maps 5 because it lacks the required multi-touch capability. The update is expected to be rolled out in the coming days.

(Source)

Google Admits Trespassing and Pays Pittsburgh Couple $1 for Street View Controversy

Google  Street View has been a bane of controversy since it launched. There have been several lawsuits and investigations against Street View in both the United States and other countries too.

In a recent court case against Google, a Pittsburgh couple claimed that Google had trespassed on their privacy by taking a photo of their house through the Street View service. However, Google was let away with an admission of guilt and $1 as compensation for the couple.

According to Associated Press, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Cathy Bissoon on Thursday signed off on a consent judgment, a mutually agreed-upon verdict, between the Mountain View, Calif. company and Aaron and Christine Boring, of Franklin Park.

Another Google product, Google Maps has also been in controversy rows several times with Google displaying incorrect borders between countries among other things. However, there was also a comical lawsuit about a woman suing Google for giving her bad directions, which was apparently thrown own.

Google was pleased with the verdict and the fact that they were only made to pay $1. However, there might be several more litigations coming their way considering how controversial their service has been. Nonetheless, the service is also very useful when it comes to finding information or navigating an area and though it is controversial it is definitely something which is really helpful for drivers.