Google counters Apple with offline Maps access for Android

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Google announced a major milestone for its Google Maps application, unveiling offline mapping access for Android users.

Google 3D maps for mobile

Click here for a video from Google on its new Google Earth 3D for mobile offering.

"Users will be able to take maps offline from more than 100 countries. This means that the next time you are on the subway, or don't have a data connection, you can still use our maps," explained Google's VP of Engineering, Brian McClendon, on the company's blog.

Offline access to Google Maps also could be a game changer for users with limited data plans or Wi-Fi-only connections.

The news is strategically timed a week before Apple's yearly Worldwide Developers Conference, where the company reportedly plans to announce its own in-house mapping system to replace Google Maps in the newest version of iOS.

Currently, Google Maps runs navigation on all iOS devices, and Apple pulling support for Google Maps could significantly affect Google.

Google also announced a new version of its Earth offering that will support full 3D views. The company will obtain 3D mapping data with the help of a small fleet of airplanes that will fly over cities and record imagery. The company said its refreshed Google Earth app with 3D information will soon be available for Android and iOS users.

During Google's press event to unveil the new version of Maps with offline access, the company was asked about possible iOS support. McClendon responded: "We're working hard to get it on all platforms. It's just an issue of when that's going to happen."

McClendon also announced a new device called Street View Trekker, which allows the company's mappers to chart areas not accessible by Google's Street View car. The device will allow mappers to chart on foot outside of roads and in additional countries. The data recorded from these devices will increase the reliability of 3D mapping for mobile and desktop users of Google Maps.

For more:
- read this Google blog post
- see this Reuters article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this Time Techland article

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