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Google Maps updated for Android and iPhone mobile Web browsers

Google updates Maps to bring a more unified experience across different mobile and fixed platforms.

Google Maps has been updated to make the mobile version on iPhone and Android devices more like that found in the standard desktop version. The company reported the changes on its official Google Mobile blog.

Visiting maps.google.com from a smart phone or tablet browser now raises an alert asking for permission to use your current location. This is determined in the same way as the native Google Maps app.

Other features include searching for nearby locations (though the UK database does seem a little undernourished -- it fails on some local businesses), selectively applying map layers including satellite, transportation and traffic, viewing Places pages complete with photos and ratings, and using personal starred locations and My Maps functions.

There are still some things you can't do, such as get the Street View, but then if you're actually there you can always use your legs and eyes instead.

At first glance you might wonder why you'd want to use Google Maps in your mobile browser when there's a perfectly good native app installed. It's a valid point. From Google's point of view, it's much easier to manage the ongoing user experience across mobile and fixed platforms using a Web-based application it has 100 per cent control over, rather than updating applications on each platform and waiting for them to be approved.

When you're lost in the middle of a sprawling metropolis, we're fairly certain you'll find the native app faster than the Web for pinpointing your location and finding directions. Even over Wi-Fi the Web app often takes longer to render. We presume the native app is already well optimised and potentially uses less data too.

Then again, if you're sitting in a coffee shop with your iPad and you have time to see where you are and what's around you, the Web app will probably suit you better.

Native apps definitely have their place, but Web apps seem to be the way forward. Twitter's done much the same thing. Network operators, already scrapping unlimited data plans, will be happy with the rise in mobile Web use, as will marketers itching to find out where you are so they can sell stuff to you. Expect gleeful rubbing of hands and glazed eyes as they concoct new ways to make more money from us.