Google unveiled some upgrades to its mapping software on Wednesday ahead of Apple's expected announcement that it will ditch Google Maps on iPhones and iPads in favor of its own technology.
At a news conference at its San Francisco office, Google previewed a handful of upcoming features, including the ability to use Google maps without an Internet connection. Android users will be able to take maps offline from more than 100 countries and access them when they're out of Wi-Fi range or on the subway, for example.
"No longer will you need paper maps," said Rita Chen, a product manager for Google.
The offline mode is expected to become available for Android devices within a few weeks. There was no word on whether that feature will extend to other devices, such as the iPhone. Apple, however, is expected to announce at its developers conference next week that it's dropping Google's mapping app for its own version.
Other new features will include more detailed 3-D mapping of urban areas. Google said it will begin to add 3-D images of buildings to its Google Earth app for mobile devices. This will require chartered airplanes equipped with Google cameras flying over cities to capture the imagery.
"We're trying to create the illusion that you are flying over the city, almost as if you were in your own personal helicopter," said Peter Birch, another product manager.
Google also showed off a new backpack unit, nicknamed Trekker, that will allow for more images of remote, off-road places best reached on foot. The backpacks are rigged with cameras that technicians can use to snap Street View images of hiking trails and other wilderness locations, such as national parks.