All posts tagged ‘maps’

File Under: Mobile

Google Throws iOS a Bone With Street View for Mobile

The Wired Offices in Google Street View on iOS 6. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Disgruntled iPhone users pining for the good old days of Google Maps have one small thing to celebrate today — Google Street View is back.

No, Google hasn’t released a Google Maps app for iOS 6 users, but the company has added Street View for mobile browsers. Today’s update for Google’s web-based mobile maps includes a Flash-free version of Street View that works in mobile web browsers, including Mobile Safari, which gives iOS users an easy way to access Street View.

The performance of Street View in Mobile Safari is not quite up to par with the native Google Maps app that Apple sacked, but, provided you have a decent network connection (3G worked just find in our testing), it works well.

To use the new Street View, point your mobile browser to maps.google.com and search for a location. Then click the familiar “pegman” icon at the bottom right of the screen to bring up Street View.

It remains to be seen if this is just a nice new feature for the mobile version of Google Maps, or the first step in a long-term strategy for Google Maps on non-Android devices. Will Google build out its web-based offerings, which work in any browser, and skip the native app on platforms it doesn’t control?

Google Maps in mobile browsers still lacks voice over turn-by-turn directions, but the difference between web and native Google Maps apps is fast disappearing. Mobile bandwidth keeps increasing and mobile devices keep getting more powerful. Couple that with emerging HTML APIs like WebRTC, which gives browsers better access to your mobile device, and a platform-native Google Maps app feels less and less necessary.

File Under: Multimedia

Google Street View Dives Into the Great Barrier Reef

Google Street View: Sunset over the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Google Maps’ Street View feature long ago left the street, with “street views” of hiking trails, tours through famous museums and panoramas of the Amazon Basin. Now Google is going even further, diving into the world’s coral reefs to add underwater panoramic images to Google Maps.

To see the new underwater imagery head over to Google Maps and check out a sea turtle swimming among a school of fish or the Great Barrier Reef at sunset. There’s also a new Barrier Reef page on Google’s World Wonders Project which has some more interactive panoramas.

The reef imagery isn’t limited to just the Great Barrier Reef; you can also explore the Apo Island marine reserve in the Philippines or explore Oahu’s Hanauma Bay and Maui’s Molokini crater in Hawaii.

For the curious, no, Google didn’t actually drive its Street View cars and trikes onto fragile reefs around the world; the company is getting the new underwater images from the Catlin Seaview Survey, an ongoing scientific study of the world’s reefs.

File Under: Multimedia, Web Services

Flickr Partners With Nokia for Better Maps

Flickr’s new maps (right) are a considerable improvement over the old. Image: Flickr

Photo sharing website Flickr is showing off some nice-looking new maps with considerably more detail than previous versions.

The new look and additional map data for Flickr’s maps come from Nokia Maps, which, as part of a new partnership, is providing map styles and satellite images to Flickr.

If you’ve ever tried to geotag your Flickr photos anywhere even remotely off the beaten path, the updated maps are welcome news.

The new map data, combined with what Flickr already pulls from OpenStreetMap — which Flickr uses in areas where commercial maps lack coverage — means no more dropping your images into a vast sea of beige, guessing that somewhere in there is probably about where you took the photo. Now you’ll see road details, landmarks and even public transportation info like bus stops to help you figure out where you were when you tripped the shutter on that masterpiece.

File Under: Web Services

Google Drops the Price of Google Maps

Google Maps versus Apple's new custom maps on iOS.

After several high-profile defections, Google is backpedaling somewhat on its coming fees for using the Google Maps API. The company has significantly reduced the charges it plans to levy on large-scale users, dropping the price from $4 per 1,000 map loads to $.50 per 1,000 map loads (once the site has passed the 25,000-a-day free limit).

The move comes after several big names — including FourSquare and Apple — publicly ditched Google Maps in favor of OpenStreetMap. While neither Apple nor FourSquare has explicitly cited the price increase as a factor in its decision, Google’s Geo Developer blog makes it clear that price was a factor for some users.

“We’ve been listening carefully to feedback,” reads the announcement, which goes on to add “some developers were worried about the potential costs.”

The vast majority of maps hackers and casual developers will probably never be affected by the coming Google Maps pricing structure since the Google Maps API will still be free for the first 25,000 views per day. According to Google only 0.35 percent of sites using the Maps API regularly exceed those limits.

Still, for developers who dream of creating a wildly successful site that does reach those traffic numbers, the Google Maps API will soon be another cost to factor into the plan. And that may be enough to dissuade some from using Google Maps. The price drops may help, but it’s going to be increasingly difficult for big services to justify even the lower price of the Google Maps API when OpenStreetMap is available for free.

File Under: Location, Mobile

iPhoto for iOS Abandons Google Maps in Favor of OpenStreetMap

Google Maps vs Apple's custom maps. Note the increased road/path detail from OpenStreetMap visible in the Apple version of this map of Vienna, Austria.

Apple has given Google Maps the heave-ho for iPhoto on iOS, Apple’s new photo management app for the iPad and iPhone. Open up a map in iPhoto for iOS and you may notice something a bit different — the familiar beige and yellow Google Maps are nowhere to be found. Instead you’ll see Apple’s homegrown maps.

The new low-contrast look for iPhoto’s map is distinctly Apple’s, but what’s more interesting is that much of the data behind the maps comes from the open source mapping project OpenStreetMap.

For those unfamiliar with it, OpenStreetMap is an open source project that maintains an editable map of the entire globe. Anyone can make edits and add data to the map, which is why it’s often called the “Wikipedia of maps.” Although OpenStreetMap has been around for some time, it’s recently become considerably more visible as part of Microsoft’s Bing Maps. Additionally some high-profile websites are starting to move away from Google Maps — like Foursquare, which recently ditched Google Maps in favor of OpenStreetMap.

Now, with iPhoto for iOS, Apple is joining the OpenStreetMap party as well.

Apple is using OpenStreetMap data to display maps around the world. OpenStreetMap developers have discovered that Apple is using OpenStreetMap data in Chile, Austria, Italy and many other countries. OpenStreetMap is not, however, being used for the United States. In the U.S. map data appears to be gleaned from a number of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and possibly the U.S. Geological Survey.

Interestingly, the OpenStreetMap data Apple is using appears to be quite old, coming from sometime around April 2010. That means that unfortunately several years worth of updates and corrections from OpenStreetMap contributors are missing from Apple’s maps. The result is a map that’s fine for something like adding location details to your vacation photos, but would likely not be accurate enough to provide navigation or directions.

In other words, don’t look for the maps in iPhoto to be the source of a revamped Maps app for iOS — in their current form these maps are just not accurate enough for navigation use.

It’s also worth noting that Apple is using OpenStreetMap data without the necessary attribution. OpenStreetMap’s Creative Commons license governing maps from 2010 requires that Apple add a notice citing the source of the data. As the OpenStreetMap blog notes, the maps are “missing the necessary credit to OpenStreetMap’s contributors; we look forward to working with Apple to get that on there.”

It’s been clear for some time that Apple is looking for a way to wean itself off Google Maps. Apple has even purchased several mapping companies, including Placebase, an online-mapping company and C3 Technologies, which creates 3D maps. Despite these moves Google Maps remain prominent on iOS. Even within the new iPhoto app Google Maps apparently still provides at least some of the data being used.