For this year’s April Fools’ Day, Google has decided to turn its Google Maps app for iOS and Android into a Pokémon experience by letting users catch 150 Pokémon to become Pokémon Masters and complete a Pokédex inside the app. The feature, called Pokémon Challenge and announced in a promo video that shows augmented reality functionalities and virtual monsters captured using a phone’s camera, is actually based on Pokémon characters laid on top of Google Maps’ traditional view.

Dozens of wild Pokémon have taken up residence on streets, amidst forests and atop mountains throughout Google Maps.

To catch ‘em all, grab your Poké Ball and the newest version of Google Maps for iPhone or Android. Then tap the search bar, “press start,” and begin your quest.

Once enabled, the Pokémon Challenge will turn the app into a an experience aimed at exploring maps to find Nintendo’s monsters scattered across the globe. The locations of Pokémon aren’t documented anywhere yet, and the app will keep track of a user’s progress in catching Pokémon with a built-in Pokédex that displays additional details for each creature.

Google’s April Fools’ joke goes as far as having a Pokémon Lab available at the CERN in Geneva (and others at Google Japan and Mountain View) and Poké balls (the tools used to catch monsters in Nintendo’s franchise) laid on top of maps in the location where a Pokémon was previously caught.

Google isn’t new to April Fools’ jokes, but this year the company hasn’t simply released a fake announcement or promo video — rather, the Pokémon Challenge is a full mini-game available inside the Maps app for iOS and Android with information about Pokémon and sharing features for players.

The Pokémon Challenge is available in Google Maps for iOS, and it doesn’t require an app update from the App Store.

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Today on the Google Maps blog, Google detailed some of their upcoming changes to Google Maps and their recent acquisition, Waze. For the Google Maps app on iOS and Android, you’ll start seeing crowdsourced traffic data from Waze users.

This means when Wazers report accidents, construction, road closures and more on Waze, the updates will also appear on the Google Maps app for Android and iOS in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, UK and the US.

On the flip side, Waze is also integrating Google Search into their apps for more accurate search results. Online, the Waze Map Editor is now integrated with Google Street View and satellite imagery, making it easier to compare, correct, and update local street data.

You can download Google Maps and Waze for free from the App Store.

Jul
17
2013

With a 2.0 update released today on the App Store, Google has brought Google Maps to the iPad, adding the enhancements and new features that the company announced last week.

Google Maps, first released in December 2012 following Apple’s apology for issues with their own iOS 6 Maps service, can now take advantage of improved navigation with accident information and live traffic reports whenever available; using Zagat and Offers, Google Maps can now recommend the best places around you with reviews and exclusive deals; for selected areas, Google Maps features indoor mapping for malls, train stations, and airports.

Results for businesses are displayed on a grid that shows inline photo previews, distance from your current location, and total amount of available reviews; tapping on a result brings up a dedicated page with buttons to save, share (via Message, Mail, or Clipboard), get directions, see Street View, and view photos.

The app now puts more focus on discovering places to “eat, drink, sleep, and shop” with a new card-based layout that aims at simplifying the process of finding nearby businesses. As we expected, Maps for iPad follows Google’s relaunched web app and client for Android tablets in the way it displays large, full-screen map views with search boxes and “cards” on the left side of the screen to find places, see suggestions, and preview directions. A list button in the top left corner of the app allows you to view Traffic and Public Transit information (if available for your area); directions are displayed in a floating card with alternate routes stacked directly below it. Overall, the iPad app is consistent with the design language and animations of the iPhone app and redesigned web experience.

It’s also possible to cache a portion of a map for offline usage (what Google calls “pre-loading”). Simply zoom into an area, and search for “OK Maps” to activate the command that will tell the app to save a cache of the currently displayed area. In my tests, this indeed enabled me to load cached areas with no Internet connection available — without, however, being able to use search or anything else. Also, if you try to save larger areas with the “OK Maps” command, Google will warn you that the map is too large for pre-loading.

Google Maps 2.0 is available on the App Store.

In a a blog post published today to detail the new features of Google Maps for Android devices, Google has announced that the app will also be released for iPad “soon”. Following the removal of the native, Google-based Maps app in iOS 6 (replaced with a new Maps app using Apple data), Google released a native iPhone app last December.

In describing the tablet version of Maps for Android, Google says that the larger screen makes “exploring the world from the comfort of your living room much more fluid, smooth and fun”. Based on the Android screenshot shown on Google’s blog, it appears the Maps app for iPad may be somewhat influenced by the new Google Maps for the web with fullscreen map views and floating cards for menus and discovery.

The updated Google Maps app will focus on exploration to browse and discover new places through a new cards interface that shows “great places to eat, drink, sleep and shop”. Alongside improvements to navigation and reporting of traffic conditions, Google will also bring Zagat and Offers integration, retire Latitude and My Maps, and release new location sharing and check-in options for Google+ (coming soon to iOS). According to Google, the My Maps functionality will return to future versions of the app.

You can read Google’s blog post (with screenshots of the new Google Maps app for Android) here.

Google demonstrated a new version of Google Maps during the Google I/O 2013 keynote today, showcasing a full screen maps application for the web that reacts to every click. Redesigned in an effort to put an emphasis on directions and places, Maps’ new interface is focused on discovery. As you click, Maps will surface contextual information about what you can find at a desired location through a carousel and contextual cards, highlighting popular tourist attractions, directions to that place, and street views so you know exactly what to expect when you get there. Based on photos taken in the area, Google will even create tours so you can easily plan your next trip.

It’s contextually aware too: taking into account location information from your Google account, such as where you live and where you work, Google Maps will make recommendations on places to visit, utilizing reviews from Zagat and recent places your friends on Google+ have visited to highlight what’s popular in the area. It’ll also highlight new places you might be interested in based on your previous search history.

Maps will be much faster than before, as vector maps are replacing tile-based maps on the web, bringing it up to date with Android and iOS. For WebGL-enabled browsers, Google Earth is now a part of the web app and can be activated through a simple toggle for viewing 3D imagery. Just the like the desktop app, you can zoom out and fly around the entire planet or just around your favorite locale.

You can request an invite to preview the update for Google Maps before it hits the web at http://maps.google.com/preview.

Google also talked about updates to their mobile applications, announcing than an iPad app will be arriving in the summer. Building upon the interface introduced with Google Maps on iOS, Google will be bringing in global traffic data and alerts for live reports on incidents and accidents, no matter where you’ll be going. Google Offers will also be integrated, giving you a heads up on nearby deals from restaurants and department stores so that you can take advantage of discounts and special offers.

Be sure to additionally check out The Verge for their great rundown on the new Google Maps for the web and what to expect for mobile devices for more information.

[via Google Maps]

Here’s a fun experiment to launch the Google Maps app via URL scheme directly into a new Directions view.

As I detailed this morning, the new Google Maps app for iPhone lets you launch specific views and modes using a URL scheme. You don’t need to be a developer to use the URL scheme; this means you’ll be able to launch the Google Maps app from Safari, Launch Center Pro, or any other launcher using the base comgooglemaps:// URL.

Google’s URL has a scheme for directions with addresses and transportation parameters. It lets you specific a starting address with the saddr parameter, and a destination address with daddr.

Further, you can instruct the URL to open a specific directionsmode, such as driving or transit.

With these parameters, it becomes possible to set up a nice automated workflow to launch directions using Siri or Launch Center Pro. (more…)

Google Maps SDK For iOS And URL Scheme

Alongside the launch of its official Maps app for iPhone, Google has also released a developer SDK to let third-party apps embed Google Maps directly. As detailed by Andrew Foster at the Google Geo Developers blog, the SDK — which requires signing up for API access — will allow developers to integrate Google Maps with their own apps, displaying embedded 2D or 3D Maps views with markers and info windows. The blog post also confirms that the SDK will work on the iPad; Google has confirmed to The New York Times that a native iPad version of Maps is indeed coming.

The SDK features vector-based maps that load quickly, allowing users to easily navigate 2D and 3D views, rotating and tilting the map with simple gestures inside your app. Developers can also change the Google maps view to include information such as traffic conditions, and control camera positions in 3D.

In the SDK documentation, Google says that the appearance of Maps embedded through the SDK is the same of the Google Maps apps, and that the SDK “exposes many of the same features”.

However, the SDK isn’t the only way for developers to integrate with Google Maps. Using a URL scheme, developers can point to the Google Maps app and launch it from their app into a specific view or map object. Documentation for the URL scheme is available here. Developers can link to Google Maps with specific views, modes (standard or Street View), set zoom levels, and pass directions with the URL scheme.

It’ll be interesting to see how and when Google Maps-compatible apps such as AroundMe or WhereTo will support the new Google Maps SDK. The addition of a URL scheme shouldn’t be underestimated either, as it’ll enable regular users to launch the app using tools like Launch Center Pro.

Dec
12
2012

In spite of “sources at Google” claiming that Apple wouldn’t accept a Google Maps app in the App Store, Google has today released its official Maps application for iPhone. The app just went live on the App Store, and it’s available as a free download here.

Following Apple’s debacle with their Maps software for iOS 6, Google was rumored to be preparing a third-party version of Google Maps for iOS devices. We haven’t been able to test this yet, and we’ll post our impressions of the software on MacStories once we’re able to properly use the app. (more…)

Oct
4
2012

Since the release of iOS 6, I’ve been looking for apps and services to get Google Maps functionality back on my iPhone and iPad. While not as integrated as the previous Maps app of iOS 5, I’ve settled on a combination of various tools to access Google Maps for those times when Apple Maps fail me (unfortunately, most of the time in my area). (more…)