WSJ: Google putting final touches on Google Maps for iOS, distributed to a small number of outside testers

The previous version of Maps included on iOS 5.0.

After Apple moved to its own mapping solution on iOS, the rumors of Google bringing a standalone Maps app to the platform have intensified. The Wall Street Journal reported that the highly anticipated Google Maps for iOS may be here soon, with word that the app has entered its final testing stages and will include turn-by-turn navigation.

The WSJ wasn’t able to give specific time frame for the app’s launch, but the report added that the app has been distributed to a few members outside the bounds of Mountain View for testing before it is submitted to the iTunes App Store review team. The launch sounds like sooner than later, as several publications in the recent months have pegged the launch before the end of the year. The question is: will Apple accept it?

Google won’t be alone in the iOS Maps-alternative battleground, however. Nokia announced yesterday it plans to release its own iOS map solution under the “Here” brand. Nokia said it plans to make the app available on the iTunes App Store in the coming weeks, offering offline maps, voice-guided navigation, and information on public transport.

More on Eddy Cue’s Apple Maps involvement below

Nokia to release free ‘Here’ maps app for iOS with voice-guided navigation, public transport directions, and offline

While a native Google Maps iOS app has yet to hit the App Store, Nokia said today it plans to release a new free maps for iOS under the “Here” brand in the coming weeks. “Here” is a cross platform effort for mapping applications that the company described as “the first location cloud to deliver the world’s best maps and location experiences across multiple screens and operating systems.”

San Francisco, California – Today Nokia introduced HERE, the first location cloud to deliver the world’s best maps and location experiences across multiple screens and operating systems. With the new brand, HERE, Nokia aims to inspire a new generation of location services and devices that make the mobile experience more personally significant for people everywhere… To further extend its location services, Nokia is launching a maps application for iOS under the HERE brand. 

The new HTML5-based iOS app, also called “Here”, will arrive in the App Store in the coming weeks and feature “offline capabilities, voice-guided walk navigation, and public transport directions.” Read more

Xbox SmartGlass, Curiosity, Tweetbot, Sparkling Maps, Rockmelt, more

Xbox SmartGlass: Microsoft updated its My Xbox LIVE app for iPhone and iPad last night, renaming the app “Xbox SmartGlass” and introducing a number of new features. The app now works as the full fledged second screen “SmartGlass” experience for Xbox that Microsoft originally unveiled for Windows 8 devices.

Xbox SmartGlass lets you:
• Navigate your Xbox 360 with swipe and tap
• Use your phone’s keyboard to type to your Xbox 360
• Browse the Internet on your Xbox 360 with full keyboard and zooming
• Play, pause, fast forward, rewind, and stop videos and music on your Xbox 360
• Search the full Xbox catalog of music, video, and games
• Enjoy rich, interactive experiences from select game and entertainment content creators
• Track and compare your achievements with your Xbox friends
• Change up your 3D avatar
• Message your Xbox friends
• Edit your Xbox profile

Sparkling Maps version 1.1: Apple has decided to accept an update to Sparkling Maps that brings “vastly improved turn by turn navigation” and “better StreetView” powered by Google data. According to its developers,”This is now the first available app on Apple devices that offers streetview and turn by turn navigation on google maps data.”

Curiosity – what’s inside the cube: Developer of the Fable series Peter Molyneux is out with an interesting cross-platform title that is also now available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. The game consists of users tapping away at a giant cube made up of billions of smaller cubes. Nobody knows what’s inside (unsold copies of Fable?), but users will work together across platforms to find out the mystery inside of the cube.

Deep in the centre of the cube is something life-changingly amazing, but only the first person to reach the centre will discover what’s inside.

Tweetbot for Mac version 1.0.1: The Tweetbot Mac App Store app was just updated with a ton of new features, fixes, and improvements. Included in the update is support for “Reading list as a Read Later service” on 10.8 and up, the ability to disable Streaming from within preferences, as well as better keyboard support in “people searcher”. You can also now navigate the timeline using the jk keys. A full list of what’s new is below:  Read more

Google Maps web Street View goes live on iOS devices

 

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As predicted yesterday, Google’s Street View is now available on Mobile Safari and Chrome on iOS devices. Having a quick look around, the service is very fluid, especially for a web page, and the quality is superb with graphics that really look solid on a Retina display.

Perhaps Apple should make a “pop-out” service that lets you open a Street View web page from within the new iOS Maps.app? Read more

Apple no longer calls iOS6 Maps ‘the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever’

As noted by iDaily.de, Apple has not only begun recommending competing mapping services but it also removed some superlatives from the Maps page.

All of which may just make this app the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever.

Changed to:

All in a beautiful vector-based interface that scales and zooms with ease.

One of our readers predicted the call, below: Read more

Apple nabs Google veteran Sally Cole for Communications Director role

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Apple hired Sally Cole as the Director of Employee Communications last month. Cole comes from cross-town rival Google, where she served as the Director of Internal Communications for almost six years. The Scarsdale native has a B.A. in history from Yale and a J.D./M.B.A. from nearby Stanford University, from which both companies hire liberally.

As someone intimately familiar with Internal Communications at Google, Cole’s experience could prove very valuable at Apple. Apple is rumored to be after Google Maps employees, for instance, where Cole’s Rolodex could prove “fruitful.” Google and Apple previously had a “no-poach” agreement instituted by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Clearly, that is no longer the case.

Read more

Google Exec comments on iOS 6 Maps [Video]

Google UK Marketing Director Dan Cobley briefly spoke with Bloomberg TV today on Apple’s decision to remove Google Maps from iOS 6, but the most intriguing part about his statement concerned how people could continue to use Google Maps after updating.

Cobley noted folks on iOS 6 can still “use Google Maps by downloading them or going to the Google Maps website.” This is an interesting comment, however, as there is no Google Maps-related app from Google available in the App Store aside from the Google Earth app. It features 3D layers, including roads, borders, places, photos and more, but it is not an adequate Google Maps replacement. There is also no existing option to download a map from Google Maps in mobile Safari.

Therefore, it is currently unclear what Cobley meant by “downloading them.” SearchEngineLand asked Google today when iOS would get a new Google Maps app, though, and if it would feature turn-by-turn navigation. Google replied:

We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world. Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system.

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Poll: Are you worried that iOS 6 Maps ‘update’ won’t have important data that Google’s maps did?

image via reddit

When Apple demoed its new in-house, iOS 6 Maps app at WWDC in June, replacing the Google Maps backend used in previous versions of iOS, first impressions from many users raised concerns over whether it could compete with the old Google Maps iOS app they were used to. Apple has been steadily improving the Maps app with each beta release, including recently expanding coverage of 3D maps to new cities, but its limitations could be a source of frustration for upgrading iPhone owners in the coming weeks.

Macworld’s Jason Snell raised some alarm bells this week at the post-iPhone 5 roundtable (11:00 in), saying Maps did not feel ready and he was concerned that long-time Maps users would be disappointed. We received lots of comments and forum posts from users who refuse to update until transit times were included.

The move was not surprisingly viewed as a strategic one for Apple, and fueled by powerful technologies from PlacebaseC3 Technologies, and Poly9 acquisitions, but will Apple be able to smooth iOS 6 Maps app enough to keep users happy when they update to iOS 6 and make the transition from Google Maps later this month?
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Developers begin seeing iOS 6 hits in App Store application usage logs

Last week, we revealed Apple’s decision to drop Google Maps in iOS 6 in exchange for its own in-house solution branded simply as “Maps.” At the time, we told you many versions of iOS 6 have been floating around Apple’s campus, which indicated Apple is likely on track for a mid-June unveiling at this year’s World Wide Developers Conference. Shortly after, references to an upcoming iOS 6 beta were found in the code strings of the iCloud.com beta website.

One app developer informed us today that it has recently noticed users running iOS 6 using its app. The developer observed the “iOS6″ string when collecting the OS version from analytics software. It has not been able to trace exactly when the iOS 6 users started appearing, but it was sometime over the past week. Other developers that we spoke to began seeing hits in late April. There is a good chance that this means Apple is amidst iOS 6 compatibility testing with higher-profile applications from the App Store. The process of next-generation versions of iOS appearing in developer usage logs occurred last year too.

Although Apple’s new Maps app and its 3D mode will likely be pushed as a major feature of iOS 6, we noted previously that anyone anticipating major home screen changes or Android-style widgets will likely be disappointed. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported Apple was preparing to unveil an upgrade to iCloud at WWDC that would include new sharing and commenting features for photos, as well as video syncing capabilities that will likely be the Video Stream feature we told you about last year.
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