Once upon a time, Google Maps was king of the world. After all, Google is one of a handful of companies that has the resources necessary to map the globe -- both from the air and from the street.
But things are changing, and there are a growing number of mapmakers ready to show consumers the quickest way from Point A to Point B. Most recently, rumor has it that Apple is preparing to dump Google Maps from its mobile devices when the company debuts iOS6 on June 11. In its place, Apple plans to use its own, in-house mapping software.
But that may not be such a great idea. Google Maps has years of experience and data under its belt, and yesterday, it revealed some nifty new applications that make the service even more attractive.
1. The biggest win for drivers will likely be Google's new, downloadable maps. Say you're going to a remote area of the planet -- perhaps one of America's national parks, or maybe the African savanna. You know that cell service will be spotty, but you still want to have a map in hand. With Google Maps' newest offering (available "in the next few weeks" for Android devices), users can download maps in advance, then use them far from wifi hotspots and cell networks.
True, there are already apps that allow this, but according to Mashable, the difference in this case is that Google Maps users will still be able to track their locations on downloaded maps. Sweet.
2. Also cool: Street View Trekker. It's like the Street View we know and love (and occasionally, loathe) that lets us view cities and buildings from eye-level. But Trekker goes where Google's cars and bikes can't go, into the heart of the wilderness, photographing mountain trails and other pathways in the great outdoors. That could come in handy for hikers, whether they're in the Grand Canyon or just planning a trip there.
3. Perhaps most interesting, Google is adding 3D maps for metropolitan areas. Up 'til now, you've been able to see buildings from a slight angle when zooming in from satellite view to street view, but that perspective has been limited. Thanks to some nifty rendering software, Google Maps users will soon be able to do full, 360-degree rotations of buildings and cityscapes. We believe the technical term for this is "badass". Check out the magic in the video below.