Google is now making its Street Views images library viewable using mobile browsers, adding a big improvement for mobile users who rely on online maps, whether they use Apple's iOS 6 or Google's Android.
The move, which certainly will assist many Apple iOS 6 users who have been disappointed by the new Apple Maps service in Apple's new mobile operating system, comes just a few weeks after a public outcry over map inaccuracies and related shortcomings built into iOS 6.
"To make Google Maps even more comprehensive, accurate and useful, today we’re making Street View available on mobile browsers," Amanda Leicht, the product manager for Google Maps, wrote Oct. 4 on the Google Lat Long Blog. "With access to Street View on your phone, you can use panoramic, street-level imagery to explore and navigate the places around you, even on the go."
Since the service is viewable through a Web page, it is still not a stand-alone app that can be accessed through iPhone or iPad controls directly, but for unhappy iOS 6 users, this could be a nice way to tide them over until a rumored standalone Google Maps app for iOS6 is ready and available.
The new Street View images services certainly might have been in the Google product pipeline for a while, but its timing is particularly good for Google now in light of the problems that have been reported by iOS 6 users over the last several weeks.
After Apple's new iOS 6 operating system became available for download Sept. 19, many users took to the Internet to loudly vent their frustrations about the loss of Google Maps in Apple's new mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The new Apple Maps app in iOS 6 has been panned as being wildly inaccurate, unimpressive and even just plain bad, based on dozens of posts on Twitter and other social media networks.
Apple debuted its own Apple maps service in iOS 6, replacing Google Maps, which was included in every previous version of iOS since the arrival of the iPhone in 2007. Apple says it removed Google Maps after a five-year agreement with Google expired.
A recent report noted that a key reason for Apple heading into its own direction with its own maps app was that the company wanted to include voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions, which was lacking in the previous Google Maps version for iOS.
Skeptics, however, often have noted that there was certainly more to the change, including the increasing competitive friction between Apple and Google as they battle more directly in the mobile marketplace.
The new Street View images capabilities in the updated Google Maps mobile app adds a wide range of features for users, according to Leicht's post, including the ability to "check out a new shop across town or get a feel for the ambiance at a restaurant before you arrive."
To use Street View on a mobile browser, users can type in the URL maps.google.com and search for a location. There they can click the “pegman” icon at the bottom right of their screen to access Street View.
Transit, driving, biking and walking directions are all available on the mobile browser to help guide users to their destinations, according to Google.
The Apple Maps problems have been embarrassing for the company. Apple CEO Tim Cook even apologized to customers about the problems in a five-paragraph statement posted Sept. 29 on the Apple Website.
While Apple is taking steps to correct the deficiencies, Cook even pointed out several mapping alternatives that Apple users can install so they regain the mapping functions they had when Google Maps was part of the previous versions of iOS. "While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their Websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their Web app," he wrote.
The Apple-Google brouhaha over Google Maps isn't the only place where the two have been parting ways this year. Apple also announced in August that it was removing the YouTube player from iOS 6, which like Google Maps had been part of the operating system since the launch of the iPhone in 2007.