Google Maps (app)
A screenshot of Google Maps on Android Lollipop
|Initial release||September 23, 2008|
The Android app was first released in September 2008, though the GPS-localization feature had been in testing on cellphones since 2007. Google Maps was Apple's solution for its mapping service on iOS until the release of iOS 6 in September 2012, at which point it was replaced by Apple Maps, with Google releasing its own Google Maps standalone app on the iOS platform the following December.
The Google Maps apps on Android and iOS have many features in common, including turn-by-turn navigation, street view, and public transit information. Updates in June 2012 and May 2014 enabled functionality to let users save certain map regions for offline access, while updates in 2017 have included features to actively help U.S. users find available parking spots in cities, and to give Indian users a two-wheeler transportation mode for improved traffic accessibility.
On November 28, 2007, Google Maps for Mobile 2.0 was released. It featured a beta version of a "My Location" feature, which uses the GPS / Assisted GPS location of the mobile device, if available, supplemented by determining the nearest wireless networks and cell sites. The software looks up the location of the cell site using a database of known wireless networks and sites. By triangulating the different signal strengths from cell transmitters and then using their location property (retrieved from the database), My Location determines the user's current location.
Up until iOS 6, the built-in maps application on the iOS operating system was powered by Google Maps. However, with the announcement of iOS 6 in June 2012, Apple announced that they had created their own Apple Maps mapping service, which officially replaced Google Maps when iOS 6 was released on September 19, 2012. However, at launch, Apple Maps received significant criticism from users due to inaccuracies, errors and bugs. One day later, The Guardian reported that Google was preparing its own Google Maps app, which was released on December 12, 2012. Within only two days, the application had been downloaded over ten million times, and data from mobile ad exchange company MoPub revealed that adoption of iOS 6 grew by 29% following the release of Google's Maps application. However, data from a different advertising and analytics company, Chitika, suggested that the uptick in adoption was actually due to iPhone 5's release in China, a new phone that came with iOS 6 pre-installed.
The Google Maps apps for iOS and Android have many of the same features, including turn-by-turn navigation, street view, and public transit information. Turn-by-turn navigation was originally announced by Google as a separate beta testing app exclusive to Android 2.0 devices in October 2009. The original standalone iOS version did not support the iPad, but tablet support was added with version 2.0 in July 2013. An update in June 2012 for Android devices added support for offline access to downloaded maps of certain regions, a feature that was eventually released for iOS devices, and made more robust on Android, in May 2014. At the end of 2015 Google Maps announced its new offline functionality, but with various limitations - downloaded area cannot exceed 120,000 square kilometres and require considerable amount of storage space. In January 2017, Google added a feature exclusively to Android that will, in some U.S. cities, indicate the level of difficulty in finding available parking spots, and on both Android and iOS, the app can, as of an April 2017 update, remember where users parked. In August 2017, Google Maps for Android was updated with new functionality to actively help the user in finding parking lots and garages close to a destination. In December 2017, Google added a new two-wheeler mode to its Android app, designed for users in India, allowing for more accessibility in traffic conditions.
USA Today welcomed the application back to iOS, saying: "The reemergence in the middle of the night of a Google Maps app for the iPhone is like the return of an old friend. Only your friend, who'd gone missing for three months, comes back looking better than ever." Jason Parker of CNET, calling it "the king of maps", said, "With its iOS Maps app, Google sets the standard for what mobile navigation should be and more." Bree Fowler of the Associated Press compared Google's and Apple's map applications, saying: "The one clear advantage that Apple has is style. Like Apple devices, the maps are clean and clear and have a fun, pretty element to them, especially in 3-D. But when it comes down to depth and information, Google still reigns superior and will no doubt be welcomed back by its fans." Gizmodo gave it a ranking of 4.5 stars, stating: "Maps Done Right". According to The New York Times, Google "admits that it’s [iOS app is] even better than Google Maps for Android phones, which has accommodated its evolving feature set mainly by piling on menus".
However, Google Maps' location tracking is widely regarded as a threat to users' privacy, with Dylan Tweney of VentureBeat writing in August 2014 that "Google is probably logging your location, step by step, via Google Maps", and linked users to Google's location history map, which "lets you see the path you’ve traced for any given day that your smartphone has been running Google Maps". Tweney then provided instructions on how disable location history. The history tracking was also noticed, and recommended disabled, by editors at CNET and TechCrunch. Additionally, Quartz reported in April 2014 that a "sneaky new privacy change" would have an effect on the majority of iOS users. The privacy change, an update to the Gmail iOS app that "now supports sign-in across Google iOS apps, including Maps, Drive, YouTube and Chrome", meant that Google would be able to identify users' actions across its different apps.
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