Why you need Google Maps to find the Apple store
Next time you’re at the mall and have trouble finding the restroom, a place to nosh, or a certain electronics retailer—one where you might pick up an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook—your Android phone can show you the way. A little-used feature of Google Maps is its maps and interactive tours of the interiors of many shopping malls, retail stores, airports, museums, libraries, convention centers, and more.
The coolest tools are virtual tours called Business Photos, which allow you to view interiors much as you do blocks or intersections with Google Maps’ Street Views. Offered for some 100,000 interiors in 13 countries, the feature gives you a 360-degree photographic view through premises by toggling several on-screen controls, including a stick-figure-like icon aptly called a Peg Man. Try it out for the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.
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More useful, perhaps, are Interior Maps, which you can access by pinching to zoom in on a building while in Google Maps on your Android phone (provided it’s running the Gingerbread OS or newer). If the building is mapped, you should see a labeled layout of its interior. The details vary by type of building: For example, map searches within a mall will show store locations on multiple floors, while map searches of large, standalone stores, such as Home Depot, provide more detail, such as a layout of store aisles and the items you’ll find in them.
Interior Maps may not work as well while you’re actually in a building, where GPS signals and cellular and Internet connections could be intermittent. But you can save a map search ahead of time in case your reception falters, by selecting “Make available offline” in the Maps menu.
Of course, what’s inside a building may change more often than its exterior, and Interior Maps may not keep up. The only way Google knows whether a Home Depot store moves hardware from Aisle 3 to Aisle 5 is if Home Depot notifies it or a user reports the change (that’s a multistep process buried under the Help menu that begins by pressing and holding a finger over the problem location on the map). Google says it then dispatches one of its “trusted photographers” to update the map.
Neither Interior Maps nor Business Photos are available on the Apple iOS version of Google Maps. But there’s hope for Apple mobile users, since the company is reportedly cataloging interiors for its Apple Maps app—and the location technology it will own thanks to its acquisition of WiFiSlam could, in theory, yield a better “inside” experience than Google Maps now offers for Android.
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