During the Google I/O conference taking place today, Google executives revealed some significant changes to the Maps service that will be released later in the year. Alongside these changes will be the release of a long-awaited iPad version of the popular Google Maps app that was released for iPhone and iPod touch earlier this year. The new app will be available free in the summer and will incorporate the new features that Google is adding to Maps.
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Google has released a brand new Google Maps app for the iPhone and it is available free in both US and international App Stores right now. The release follows on from the removal of the native Google Maps app that shipped with iOS devices, and the subsequent replacement with Apple’s own mapping solution. Up until now there had been some doubt on Google’s part as to whether Apple would even approve such an app for the App Store, but given that Apple CEO Tim Cook had recommended using the web version of Google Maps to bridge an shortfall with the Apple version, it seemed unlikely.
The new app features some pretty nifty features that set it apart from its predecessor and indeed the Apple Maps app. There are now turn-by-turn directions available in the Google Map which brings it up to the standard offered by the Apple Maps app. Google does warn that these directions are in beta however and may not be perfect. However in some anecdotal testing conducted by yours truly, they worked very, very well, and is compatible with both iOS 5 and iOS 6.
Apple yesterday released a new beta build of the upcoming iOS 6 operating system to registered developers, and almost immediately, the net was alight with the news that the company had removed the YouTube app from iOS 6. Shortly after the news emerged, Apple issued a statement to The Verge stating that their ‘license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store’.
While this may seem like a reasonable explanation, some people completely freaked out (!) and conspiracy theories abounded about the reasons behind it. The essential question is, however, what is the impact going to be for users of iOS devices? Aside from not having the app native to their OS when they purchase an Apple device, it’s not that big a deal. Google will likely fire a free YouTube app on to the App Store prior to the release of iOS 6, and all people hahve to do is download it. Job done.
Dropbox has announced that they will be making significant upgrades to the amount of storage space that they offer with their Dropbox Pro plans. As announced on the Dropbox Blog, the company will begin doubling the space offered to existing customers and new customers. That means that, instead of paying $9.99 per month for 50GB of space, customers will receive over 100GB of space for the same price. This is also applies to the 100GB plan which now becomes 200GB. In addition to the upgrades, Dropbox is now offering a 500GB plan as well.
The upgrades look like Dropbox is starting to fire off a competitive salvo at Google Drive and iCloud. For comparison, iCloud offers 55GB of storage space for $100 per year, whereas a Dropbox customer can get 102GB for around $120 per year. However, it still loks like Google Drive customers are getting the best deal as they can secure 100GB of storage space (+25GB GMail storage) for $4.99 per month or around $60 per year.
Ever since Google Chrome was released on iOS devices, I’ve been playing with it, with the hope of making it the default browser on my 4S and new iPad, principally because it’s the default browser on both my Macs and does the job well. The release for iOS devices was welcome addition to the browsers that are available on the iOS App Store.
There is one problem, however, and it isn’t down to Google. The fact that Chrome on iOS devices isn’t quite as fast as Safari, and will never be, isn’t actually that much of a problem because it isn’t noticeable on a daily basis. Essentially, the key issue comes down to the fact that there is no way to make Chrome the default browser on an iOS device, simply because Apple does not allow that to happen. You can over-interpret their reasons why, moving from exotic selections such as Apple maintaining full control over the user experience on the web, to overlooking the fact that users might want to utilize another browser and ‘forgetting’ to put this type of toggle into the iOS software.
While not the launch environment that Google was perhaps looking for, a new version of the Google Chrome Web Browser bounded its way onto the App Store yesterday. The browser, available free of charge, gives yet another alternative to the mobile Safari browser that is included on iOS devices by default. The Chrome browser has a few nifty features, such as the ability to browse the web privately, or ‘incognito’, as well as bookmark and tab syncing between the iOS version and the desktop version for each user.
Since the launch of Google Drive this week, many people have elected to compare the service that Google offers to that of Dropbox. This comparison can be made in the context of storage space, pricing, ease of use and functionality. Certainly the competitiveness between the two service is evident and, even upon launch, Google is clearly making a strong case for Apple users electing to use them as their primary cloud storage service (iCloud not withstanding). However, another issue has been particularly evident over discussion forums and opinion articles. The issue of trust.
I’ve seen, and heard, many people have expressed the opinion that they don’t want to Google to store their personal data. That they would rather trust Dropbox over Google. That they aren’t sure if they can trust Google. Much of this perception could simply be attributed to image. Dropbox does just one thing and it is does it with excellence. Google, on the other hand, does so many things that it’s easy to lose count. Some are fantastic, some not so much, but there is a lot of crossover between services. But where does the unease with Google holding personal data stem from?
Google has today launched a new addition to its online storage line-up with the release of Google Drive, a free service for cloud file storage and sharing. The new service offers users 5GB of online storage for free and is integrated with other Google services such as GMail, Chrome OS and Google Docs.
The new service is essentially an immediate challenger to services like Dropbox and iCloud and is clearly designed to take them on by offering substantially more storage upon initial sign up. In addition, upgraded storage options, maxing out at 16GB, are also competitively priced when compared to Dropbox. However, there are no iOS apps covering Google Drive at the current time, although Google suggests that they are coming soon on the Google Blog.
Google has taken the bull by the horns and beaten Apple’s rumored ‘iCloud’ music locker to the market. The search giant has today announced the launch of a new ‘Music Beta’ service which will allow users to store up 20,000 music tracks in an online storage area and download and stream the content at will from any device with network access.
The new service is a direct competitor to the highly anticipated service which Apple is expected to announce at some point in the coming months, although no official confirmation of its existence or release date has been issued. ‘Music Beta’ also competes with Amazon’s Cloud Player service which was recently launched without full agreement from music labels. However, the free service is currently only open through an invitation based system for users based in the USA.
According to a new job advertisement placed on their website, Apple is looking to hire a new expert to ‘radically improve’ the way that people interact with maps and location services on their iOS devices. The advertisement, spotted by 9to5Mac, indicates that Apple is looking to improve the Maps app on the iPhone and iPad, although the advert is suffiently vague enough to avoid any indications of how they might do this.
The iOS Maps app is based on Google Maps technology. It is unlikely that Apple is going to move away from this given that Google already has such comprehensive coverage in place. What is likely, however, is that Apple are looking for new ways to improve the interaction with the application and this, one could speculate, could point very strongly towards more augented reality features in the app.