Google Maps Is Android's Chief Competitive Weapon Against the iPhone

Google Maps are on both the iPhone and Android smartphones -- but they're increasingly very different products. Today Google added the beginnings of extensive interior mapping to the new version of Google Maps for Android. It provides floor plans for a number of shopping malls and retail stores in the US such as Home Depot, Macy's and IKEA. It also provides maps for quite a few major airports.

Google has said this is just the beginning of an ambitious project to map interior spaces. It complements Google's effort to bring interior business photography online. For the time being the new floor plan maps are only available for mobile devices, and only for Android. 

I recently switched from an Android EVO to an iPhone 4S as my primary phone. The screen is smaller and there's no Google Navigation; however overall the experience is superior. I do however miss the Google Navigation, although there are many navigation apps for the iPhone. 

Google knows that Maps (including Navigation and related content) is a key differentiator for Android vs. the iPhone. That's why it has never allowed Navigation on the iPhone and why it's in no rush to bring interior maps to the rival platform. Google might incorporate interior floor plans into an HTML5 version of Google Maps, in which case it would appear via the mobile Web. However it would have far less functionality than the version that's rolling out for Android Maps 6.0. 

Apple has been building up mapping assets suggestive of a total replacement for Google. But so far we haven't seen a product. If or when Apple's mapping offering appears it will need to be pretty sophisticated to satisfy users and compete with Google Maps.