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As mobile maps competition heats up, Google fine tunes Maps API for Android

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Google has remained mostly mum on its plans for a Maps app for Apple’s(s aapl) mobile OS. But the company has been busy with mobile maps for its own platform: On Monday, Google(s GOOG) announced an update to the Android API for Google Maps. With the update will come new, easier-to-display vector-based maps that are tweaked to perform better on Android tablets. There will also be new indoor and 3D maps navigable with tilting and rotating gestures.

The update means that the Google Maps API for Android is now vector-based, which is when mapping data is stored as a series of points and lines as opposed to pixels. That makes for easier and better pinching and zooming to points on a map; the previous version of Android maps had to load a new image every time the user zoomed to a new level, which made them look blurry or pixelated sometimes.

Google isn’t the first to take this approach with mobile maps: Apple’s taken a lot of heat over its decision to build its own Maps application for iOS, but it was widely praised for going with vectors. Some thought Google Maps looked a bit sluggish in light of Apple Maps.

Google Maps for mobile has long been the standard for most users thanks to its inclusion from 2007 until this fall as the default mapping app for the iPhone, as well as its presence on the most widely used mobile operating system, Android.

But with Apple throwing its hat into the mapping ring, Google is no longer the default for millions of mobile users. Nokia(s NOK) has also stepped up, and is looking to rejuvenate its business with its own rewritten and rebranded maps for desktop and mobile, called Here.

Google says its new mobile maps are already being used in several high-profile Android apps like FlightTrack, Expedia and Trulia. They can be accessed by updating those respective apps.

This story was updated at 2:05 p.m. to correct that the Google Maps API for Android is now vector-based. Google Maps were previously vector based.

10 Responses to “As mobile maps competition heats up, Google fine tunes Maps API for Android”

  1. Just did an A/B of iOS 6.01 side-by-side with Google during rush hour in the Bay area. No comparison. Looks like Apple is using yesterday’s data. Very low correlation and Google was spot-on.

    • Jake Van Epps

      No it was a joke that Apple was getting credit for implementing vector maps first when Google has had it for years but the author has corrected the story to reflect just the api update to vectors…