SAN FRANCISCO – Google’s digital mapping service will get several new features in hopes of becoming more convenient, comprehensive and compelling as it braces for a potential loss in traffic from Apple’s hot-selling mobile devices.
Wednesday’s preview of the mapping service’s coming attractions seemed timed to blunt the blow from the loss of a prized perch as the built-in navigation service on Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Apple Inc. intends to end its five-year partnership with Google’s mobile maps next week when it will unveil its own service, according to recent reports in The Wall Street Journal and the technology blog 9to5.
Brian McClendon, a Google Inc. vice president who oversees the mapping service, wouldn’t directly address reporters’ questions about the possible Apple setback.
Apple Inc. spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined comment Wednesday.
If Apple ousts Google Maps from the prominent spot on the iPhone and iPad, it would be the latest fissure between two former allies. Their relationship has been degenerating into a bitter rivalry since Google’s 2008 release of Android to compete with the iPhone. Since then, both companies have increasingly been encroaching on each other’s turf.
Processing the mobile mapping requests from users of Apple’s devices has provided Google with valuable insights into people’s whereabouts and preferences. That, in turn, has helped Google sell more ads to local businesses.
None of the new features touted Wednesday by Google will be available for at least several more weeks. The upcoming options include maps that can be downloaded on mobile devices for offline access and more three-dimensional imagery – the latter coming from its own fleet of planes.
Google’s service now attracts more than 1 billion users around the world.
Besides providing 26 million miles of driving directions, Google’s maps now include imagery of most of the world’s neighborhoods.
Google also has traversed 5 million miles to take ground-level photos of communities for a feature called Street View.
The option to download mobile maps for specific cities so they can be reviewed offline later initially will only be available on smartphones and tablet computers running on Google’s Android software.
Google’s maps have typically offered more tools on Android devices, including turn-by-turn directions spoken aloud. According to published reports, the bias contributed to Apple’s decision to try to come up with a better alternative for its mobile platform.