Till just a few years ago, Google Maps was the primary mapping service of choice for pretty much every internet user, because it was the only option available that offered enough features at an unbeatable price tag of free. It all started to change when both Apple and Microsoft decided to enter the arena with their own mapping products. Though it takes a whole lot of time and effort to map the entire planet in an effective manner, so Google’s offering still remained on top, but if what we have just seen in the Bing Maps Preview for Windows 8.1 is to be taken as a sign of things to come, all that may soon change. It seems Microsoft has been working really hard on improving Bing Maps, and while they still have a long way to go to map all the major cities in the world in 3D, what they have accomplished so far is remarkable. Join us as we take a closer look at a preview of the future of Bing Maps.
As the name of the app suggests, it’s meant to give users an insight on what Microsoft is working on for its Bing Maps product, rather than a final, release version of the app. For this purpose, it doesn’t replace the existing Bing Maps app. Also, the preview is available only for Windows 8.1.
While the app comes with a lot of new features as well as many usability improvements to existing ones, the most significant change is the inclusion of stunning 3D maps of several cities from North America, Europe and Australia. You really have to take a look at them to see just how good and realistic they are!
Currently, 3D maps of 70 cities are available and while a lot of major cities like New York City, London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, Dubai, Tokyo etc. are missing, again, it’s just a preview for now, and Microsoft is working on bringing every major global city to the mix before the final release.
For the available cities, you can pan, zoom and rotate their map in 3D using the conveniently placed buttons on the left, as well as keyboard and mouse shortcuts. There’s also a street level view available for many spots, letting you explore the place as if you were standing right there.
The search feature works brilliantly, letting you find restaurants, coffee shops, business locations and more, complete with reviews left by other users and details about the business. You can connect your Facebook account with the app to get personalized reviews and recommendations.
The Directions section lets you get turn-by-turn driving, public transport and walking directions for wherever you’re headed.
Again, the 3D imagery of the included cities and the landscape surrounding them is so stunning, you’ll likely end up spending hours on virtual tours, and learn a lot about the places while at it.
Another major change is the switch to a more accurate, globe-based map view, rather than the previous flat view.
You can always switch between the 3D satellite-based view to the conventional flat map view using the button on the left.
While it’s still far from finished, takes forever to load on slower connections and is missing a lot of really important cities, Microsoft has proven with the Bing Maps Preview app that they can create a mapping product that has the potential to not only rival Google Maps, but even make it look dated!