Google Maps

On the heels of an official Windows Phone release of the popular traffic service Waze, a report from the well-established Israeli paper the Globe states that Google will pick up the company for $1.3 billion USD.

Google, Facebook and even Apple were all rumored to be interested in buying the Israeli-based company, with Apple gaining the most from the purchase as they could continue to distance themselves from Google and their Maps. Evidently, due to the high price though, Apple never submitted an official offer.

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The popular unofficial Google Maps app for Windows Phone has been updated to version 2.1. gMaps has been available on the platform for some time and it's good to see more updates published by the developer. gMaps (both the free and pro version) were previously bumped to version 2.0, adding Windows Phone 8 support. So what's new in this latest release? Street View has been refreshed and a number of improvements have been implemented.

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Although we know many of you are diehard Bing fans and loathe anything by Google, we won’t look down upon you at all if you so occasionally choose to flirt with Google Maps on Windows Phone. While Google has infamously declared they have no plans for any official Windows Phone apps, developer Alexey Strakh has been working on his clone, gMaps, for quite some time now on Windows Phone.

Version 2.0 for the Pro version went live at the beginning of January and now its free sibling also just received a nice bump, including some Windows Phone 8 support. Although no changelog is posted, we can tell you that for Windows Phone 8 it does now support a doublewide Tile in addition to the smaller Tile...

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This morning we woke to a nice little surprise: reports from users that Google Maps via the maps.google.com web address is once again now working on your Windows Phone. Heading to the site (in “mobile mode” not “desktop”) it asks to use your location and it loads up just as it should.

Over the last few days a brouhaha has exploded over Google unceremoniously dumping maps.google.com for Windows Phone users on top of confessing no desire to make a dedicated mobile app. The move was explained away at first under the guise of the Webkit theory, notably that Internet Explorer is a non-Webkit browser and ergo not optimized to run maps.google.com though not many of us took them seriously...

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Yesterday the interwebs went crazy over Google blocking Windows Phone from using their Maps application the web browser. Instead users were redirected to the Google homepage, quite frustrating was that this appeared to be a conscious decision on half of Google. Turns out that was the case and a recent development has been made to rectify the situation for Windows Phone 8 users attempting to access Google Maps on their devices.

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We’re not sure if this is just a temporary error or something more nefarious but Google appears to have changed something whereby Windows Phone users are now blocked when trying to access maps.google.com.

Granted, it’s not clear why you would want to use Google’s less-than-awesome mapping service through a browser, but humor us for a second. The move appears to be a continued approach to lockout all Google services from those who adopted Windows Phones. Or it’s just poor service.

We were able to verify on our Windows Phones that when going to maps.google.com we are redirected to www.google.com/m for mobile, regardless of IE10’s settings i.e. Desktop mode. Reports suggest that maps.google.co.uk still works for some folks but for us that too redirects, making this an in-motion change that is evidently occurring worldwide.

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gMaps Pro is our go-to app when we want some Google services on our Windows Phone (since Google is evidently too busy fixing Android to make WP7 apps). We've been waiting on a Mango update for a few weeks now and developer Alexy Strakh has not dissapointed.

New features in v1.12 include:

  • Compass support (shows what direction you're facing)
  • Latitude background agent
  • New bicycle layer
  • Ability to hide buttons on the map
  • Public transportation quick access
  • Contact database access--now you can route a contact's address directly

Having Latitude update automatically in the background is a great addition, finally making this a true Google Latitude app. The compass feature makes it that much more useful (why Bing Maps doesn't do this, we have no idea). So overall, this is a great app that keeps getting better.

You can pick up the ad-free "Pro" version for $1.99 (our choice) here or the ad-supported free version here in the Marketplace.

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6

gMaps hits v1.10 and gets real good

Speaking of Google apps, gMaps (free) and gMaps Pro ($1.99) are fairly popular unofficial Google Maps applications that have been around for awhile. Version 1.10 just hit the Marketplace and as with each version, it keeps getting better and better--so good in fact, we're ready to give it a big thumbs up.

The latest version gets some theme support (uses your accent color), zoom buttons, geo-location info for any object and a few other tidying up features.

We like it for the alternate view to Bing maps, the traffic info (including "follow me" for tracking) and the layers for viewing (street, hybrid, physical, water-overlay, satellite). The ability to "screen shot" the map to send to others is pretty smart and if you're in the city like us, the public transport layer is quite handy for finding that subway.

So if you're looking for one of the best non-official Google Maps out there, here you go. Free version is here in the Marketplace and the $1.99 ad-free version is here.

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A superb thread has been created over at our forums by Tiny, where he goes into detail about his 32 hour drive across the U.S. As you can see in the map above, the blue line is Google and the red representing Bing. While both services providing the same directions, Bing took two diversions, thus making him choose Google with more trust for the first part of the journey.

At the start Bing calculated a route via Utah, which seems longer than the more direct route of Google. Turns out, even though the number of miles with Google was a smaller amount, the time saved (if any) was minimal due to sped restrictions and construction delays.

Bing didn't stop there with calculated issue prevention. Iowa, instead of Missouri, was chosen by Bing approximately half-way through the journey while Google remained on track with the direct approach. Although a warning was present that some roads may be closed, no alternative route was provided by Google. Following Bing would prove to be less trouble and more smooth.

For the rest of the journey and some final thoughts, head on past the break. 

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Although many would say Bing maps is a pretty solution to mapping in Windows Phone 7, one thing users always enjoy is choice. Two new mapping applications have arrived in the Marketplace recently and while neither is the be-all map-app, both offer some unique features that a few may be interested in. Unlike TA Maps which exploited Google's mapping servers but also required you to 'jailbreak' the device, both of these apps are distributed through the Marketplace, albeit for a price.

Advanced Maps Viewer ($0.99 + no trial): uses Google Maps and includes Street, Satellite, Hybrid and Physical maps in addition to geolocation positioning. OpenStreetMap integration is coming. This app is the most similar to TA Maps including "locate me" but also offers different map layers. It's fast, efficient and works. Downside is no routing. Grab it here in Zune on your phone or desktop.

JustAnotherMaps ($1.29 +  trial): Uses OpenStreetMap (not Google) with routing and searching. This is actually great since it can give directions but it severely needs a "locate me" icon to zoom to your current position. Nothing a simple update couldn't improve upon. This app is better for those in Europe and other countries where Bing Maps is not so accurate or available. Grab it here in Zune on your phone or desktop.

Like we said, neither is perfect and it depends what you want more: Google Maps + Layers or mediocre Search + Routing. Someday we'll get it all, but for now, we'll keep watching what these two developers continue to offer.

Update: @mahoekst alerts us to the very cool and quite impressive Maps Mania (get it here), which also does Google Maps, Bing Maps, OpenStreetMap and custom maps. Nice.

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We mentioned a few weeks ago about a proof-of-concept when it comes to Windows Phone 7 and Google Maps, namely that if Google didn't do it (and do it soon) someone else would because it's very easy to redirect an app towards Google's map servers.

Looks like Tech Autos has accepted the challenge and released a simple but fully functional Google Maps application. The app right just brings down the maps and shows your location, so not too useful. But the developer plans to add  Address / point-of-interest search, Directions and Favorites, making the program much more useful.

The bad news: You have to have your phone unlocked/jailbroken as a developer or by using the now defunct ChevronWP7. The latter is more difficult because you actually need a certificate that was hosted on their servers. Luckily XDA has your back on that one.

Source: TechAutos; via Ali waqas; Thanks, Ali!

 

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Now here's a bold challenge: Joost van Schaik has demonstrated how easy it is to code Google Maps into a Windows Phone 7 application (taking advantage of Bing Map Control to do so; The image above is a Google Map satellite layer on top the Street layer, done with actual coding).

He dares Google to make a Google Maps application, suggesting if they don't, someone else will and they'll do it quickly.

While the rest of the post is coding-nerd material, the gist is obvious: Google Maps, if that's your thing*, should come to Windows Phone 7 by choice or by force. So which will it be Google?

* Yeah, I know. Who would want to use Google Maps when Bing kicks so much butt? Actually, the one pro for Google doing something official is the promise of Latitude/Buzz, which Microsoft still needs a competitive solution for...

Source: .NET by Example; via @SilverlightNews

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5

Voice Search comes to Google Maps

There is a little joy in Mudville tonight. Especially if you were hoping that one day Google Maps would have voice search capability.  Because today is that day.

Google has updated Google Maps to version 4.1 for Windows Mobile and has added voice search the the app. It will detect different variations of English as well as Mandarin. The voice search is activated by the call button on your phone.

It also appears the search is location based (a good thing). When I searched "Yankee Pizza" the results were limited to the one local pizzeria. In searching "wal-mart" it brought up the closest store to my location.

In the short time I've tinkered with Google Maps voice search, it is a little buggy (locked up once) and isn't as fast as Bing's voice search. But it is a step in the right direction.

You can download the .cab file for Google Maps with Voice Search here or point your mobile browser to m.google.com. [Google Mobile via FuzeMobility.com]

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More than a few of you have had some issues with the latest version of Google Maps for mobile, either with the My Location feature or apparently with the layers. Accordingly, Google has updated the app to version 3.3.1. No word yet if it's fixed any of the triangulation issues you guys were having, but crashes should be squashed.

Go get the new version here, and sound off in the comments if you're still seeing problems, and be sure to let 'em know on the official Google forum post. (For what it's worth, it very quickly got me within 1,000 meters in Orlando.)

[All About Symbian via IntoMobile]

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Looks like some of you are having problems with the 3.3 release of Google Maps in regards to the My Location feature and its accuracy with cell tower triangulation. The good news is that it's not everybody. On the left, above, is what I'm getting with AT&T. For me, it's more or less as accurate as it was before. Google Maps is showing me about a half-mile from where I actually am, and that's well within the 1,900 meters (or 1.1 miles) it's promising.

Our pal Malatesta, on Sprint, is shown as being in Washington, D.C., with an accuracy of 95,000 meters. OK, but Long Island, N.Y., is definitely more than 59 miles from the nation's capital. And Mal says a friend of his in New York City is showing 45,000-meter accuracy.

And, so, we put it to you. How's My Location holding up? Is it just the big-city folk having issues?

Is Google Maps' My Location service better or worse in version 3.3?(poll)
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Google Maps for Mobile turned the big 3.3 today (for Windows Mobile, anyway). The big change this time around: Synchronizing starred locations with Google Maps on the desktop.

As often is the case we're left scrambling for release notes. But we do have an entire blog post from the Google Mobile team to go by.

Google Maps for mobile has long allowed you to add stars on a map to mark your favorite places. You may have noticed a few months ago that Google Maps for desktop browsers introduced the ability to star places as well. Unfortunately, there was no way to keep these starred places in sync with Google Maps on your phone. With today's release of Google Maps for mobile 3.3 on Windows Mobile and Symbian phones, you'll now be able to keep the starred places on your phone and on your computer completely synchronized.

For users upgrading from an older version of Google Maps for mobile, you'll be asked, when you log in, whether you'd like to synchronize your existing starred items with your Google Account. This means you can preserve all the work you've put into customizing your map on your mobile, and have it show up, conveniently, in Google Maps in your desktop browser.

Get the CAB file here for the latest version of Google Maps for Windows Mobile.

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You should hear Malatesta's tale about making it to the Oct. 6 launch of Windows Mobile 6.5 with just seconds to spare. It's classic. Especially the part about surviving the dude playing jazz flute. But that's for another time.

Anyhoo, what got him there in time for the keynote was Google Maps, and its inclusion of NYC subway maps. They've been there for a while now, but Google's recently publicly announced them as a feature in the Layers. To turn it on (or just test it if you're outside the city), point the map to NYC, then go to Menu>Layers and turn on the Tranisit lines. Zoom in and you can get station info. It's That simple. [Google Lat-Long blog]

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Good news for those of you using the Google Mobile App: Three new features have been rolled out.

  • My Location is now on board and returns local search results without having to manually input your location.
  • Search options are now suggested as you type, as are URL suggestions. Very cool.
  • If you have Google Maps on your phone, it'll launch when you choose a local search suggestion.

Get the CAB here, and check out more at the Google Mobile blog.

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11

Review: GlobalSat BT-368i Bluetooth GPS

We’re quite spoiled you and I. Can you imagine if twenty years ago someone had shown you the very device you currently carry and use on a daily basis? Being able to instantly communicate using all manner of methods provided by the most mundane of Windows Mobile Phones is simply an amazing example of technology. As generations of Windows Mobile devices pass by there are new and improved hardware toys that become fairly standard in each generation. GPS receivers are an example of a feature that many of us take for granted that is one of the more amazing pieces of consumer technology.

All of this being true, GPS receivers are not included in all of the Windows Mobile devices that we carry around. Even if it is included, getting a radio signal to and from those satellites drains a battery like few other things can. For those of you facing these dilemmas, I present the GlobalSat BT-368i Bluetooth GPS receiver.

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5

Google Maps updated to 3.2.1

Another week, another release of Google Maps for Windows Mobile. [via XDA] And, lookie, they even gave us release notes again. Here's what's new in Version 3.2.1:

  • Places of interest: Selectable icons and labels on the map allow you to choose prominent businesses or places of interest in order to see business info, reviews, photos, Wikipedia articles, and a lot of other local information. To select an icon or label, use the 5-way pad or joystick to pan it to the center of the screen or tap it on touchscreen phones. Learn more about these icons and labels already available on maps.google.com.
  • Favorite Places (English only): Explore the favorite places of local experts from cities around the world. Find out where they like to go, and why, from their own perspectives. From the Maps main menu, go to 'Layers' > 'More Layers' > 'Favorite places.' You can also see these on your computer by going to http://google.com/favoriteplaces.
  • Layers: The "More Layers" list of layers is now organized as a tree of layer categories.

Go get 'er here (desktop) or here (cab).

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