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Map Apps - Google Introduce Offline Function as Apple Begin to Catch Up

Google maps remains the most widely used and reputably reliable map service online. The database is constantly being updated with new satellite information and street view images. Only last week I was stopped at some traffic lights when a car daubed with Google regalia sporting a big, bulbous 360° camera hurtled by, sadly too quickly for me to stick my head out of the window and strike an interesting pose. Crucially, it's also one of the most comprehensive sources for public transport information in larger cities, it's invaluable for getting around London.

Now Google have announced that the already impressive app will soon be equipped with an offline function, enabling users to access much of the route information they need in places without internet access, like the underground or on a plane. Even if you find yourself in need of driving directions in a relatively remote area (and don't have a satnav), it should keep working, thereby saving you from a disconcerting encounter with a local gentleman with worryingly large sideburns and a shotgun cradled in his arm.

Google announced this new functionality at its I/O Developers Conference in San Francisco last Thursday, suggesting that it will be fully available by the end of the year. The news comes twinned with a similar revelation about YouTube, with a new feature allowing videos to be downloaded on mobile platforms so that they can be viewed offline for up to 48 hours. Better offline functionality is an increasing goal for app development, but Google's interest in improving their mapping might also partially be a response to Apple.

The rival tech company have been overhauling their native mapping software for the better part of 3 years and thus far it hasn't given Google much to worry about, but that might soon change. Unlike Google, Apple's mapping data is largely drawn from third party supporters, but rumor has it that Apple are starting to build and test their first, fully fledged in-house mapping database. 

Apple-branded vans have been seen scuttling around major cities building up a photographic catalog. Primarily, they are taking storefront images to replace the data already provided by Yelp, but they may well also be developing a street-view function of their own to rival Google's. Better public transport information is also expected to be added to the app when the iOS 9 update drops a few months from now and the mapping data has become much more readily available to third party app developers.

This may well develop into a full-on arms race between the two companies, but it will take time for Apple to develop their database enough that they can start worrying about adding things that Google don't have, rather than just playing catch-up.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Map Apps - Google Introduce Offline Function as Apple Begin to Catch Up Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, June 02, 2015 Rating: 5

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