Waze gets Google’s greenlight to be pre-installed on Android

When Google purchased Waze for roughly $1.15 billion in 2013, it was easy to assume that it would largely end up folded into Google Maps. But it looks as if Google has different plans for the mapping software. At Mobile World Congress this week, Waze announced that it would be included in the batch of apps that can be preinstalled on Android phones.

Obviously, now that Waze is an official Google Mobile Services app — joining apps like Gmail, Chrome, and Google Play — this leads to Waze possibly being pre-installed out of the box on future devices. But most Android phones already come with Google Maps, also a Google Mobile Services app, which is more than good enough for most users. This could lead to confusion and accusations of bloatware: Why does Google need to stick two different mapping apps on your device?

Waze actually has a couple of features that you won’t find on Google Maps, even though that app does track traffic as well. For instance, Waze recently added a feature called Places, which allows users to update or add information about places they’ve visited. Waze’s press release also points to its Connected Citizens program, which takes road reports from Waze users and passes them on to government departments, ostensibly to improve city efficiency. Waze still is best known for its feature that takes traffic into account when deciding the best route.

Google Maps taps into Waze data for its traffic reports, so users can benefit from Waze’s user reports without using the app. But Waze is much better at collecting reports than Google Maps is, and that’s probably why Google wants it on as many phones as possible.

Google Maps for Android has a VR mode, thanks to Google Cardboard

Cardboard, Google’s virtual reality hobby that first launched as a kind of gag gift at its developers conference this year, has been making strides in the past month with new SDKs and a section of the Google Play app store specifically for Cardboard-compatible apps. And earlier this week, Google shared a relatively easy to peek at its large cache of Street View images on Cardboard through the Google Maps app.

The feature is somewhat hidden — for now. Quietly announced on Google Plus, the feature is currently only available for Android devices through the Google Maps app. To find it, you merely have to double-tap the look around button when looking at a street view. (The option to enter street view is available on the bottom-screen menu when looking up an address.) Google’s GIF explains the process well:

vr-streetview

Even if you don’t have a [company]Google[/company] Cardboard headset — although it’s possible to purchase one cheaply from companies like Dodocase or even make your own — the feature will probably work on your Android device if you’ve got an up to date version of Google Maps. Double-tapping the look around turned regular street view into binocular street view on my Nexus 5, and moving my phone in space shifted what I was looking at.

One World Trade Center through binocular Google Street view

One World Trade Center through binocular Google Street view

The official Cardboard has supported some Street View locations since it launched, and there are several ways to get Street View working on Oculus Rift. Because Street View images can be so compelling and there is such a wealth of them, it could be one of the big sources of content in the early years of virtual reality.

Twitter’s former head of product has left the company

After losing his role as head of Twitter’s Product team, Daniel Graf has officially left the company. In a tweet Friday afternoon, Graf thanked Twitter and wished the team good luck. The new head of product, Kevin Weil, tweeted some return appreciation, confirming the news.

Graf was the company’s head of product for the past six months until CEO Dick Costolo demoted him to a strategic initiatives role (although he kept the VP title) and promoted Twitter’s head of revenue products, Kevin Weil, to running the product team. When that announcement was made, Twitter said that Graf would be staying on, albeit with a different focus. A Wall Street Journal source told the publication he would run projects like geolocation services. Given that Graf led Google’s efforts with its Maps product, that fit his expertise.

It’s not clear what changed. Given that Twitter previewed a major product feature involving location-based tweets on its Analyst Call, its geolocation product is still in development. Graf’s experience would’ve been a major asset on the project.

Twitter declined to comment on Graf’s tweet.

Android antitrust investigators ask Yandex to detail Google woes

The Russian web firm has confirmed that it was asked to provide evidence in a potential EU antitrust case against Google, over its bundling of core services with Android. Investigators are also looking into claims of Google forcing manufacturers to delay or cancel devices using non-Google services.

Goodbye, Google Enterprise; hello, Google for Work

The Google rebranding is meant to advance the notion that users use the same tools at home and on the job. But another factor could be that Microsoft still reigns supreme in “enterprise” accounts.