Google may give away software like Google Maps for iOS and Android free, but it has to make its money somewhere, and so the company announced today that the location apps will now support AdWords advertising. The updated app for iPhone, iPad, and Android now injects localized adverts at the bottom of the screen, based on what the user is searching for and where; so, if you're hunting down a cake shop, you might see a promotion for a nearby bakery.
Tapping on, or swiping up from, the advert pulls open the full details, and also offers navigation directions to the location of the store. There's also the phone number, any photos, along with reviews of the business.
For the user, they'll be able to save the details of the business, share it using the usual Android sharing system, or call with a single click (if they're on a phone-enabled device, of course). For the advertiser, only certain actions will actually result in a charge, which Google details over in its AdWords support center.
The fact that Google - which has built its business on advertising - is introducing more adverts into the Google Maps experience doesn't exactly come as a great surprise, but it remains to be seen whether users will balk at promotional content taking up the limited space on their smartphone display. The deciding factor may well be how targeted and relevant the adverts are to the user: if they actually add value, rather than just getting in the way, the fact that they're promoted results may be ignored completely.
Meanwhile, Google has been fleshing out its other location-based services in recent weeks. Google City Experts, for instance, has begun collating trustworthy reviews from frequent reviewers, with the promise of insider-information and exclusive event invites to encourage them.
In testing, however, is a new set of "hyper-local" Google Now cards which will apparently flag up location-specific information, such as nearby store promotions, social activities, or breaking news. So far, Google Now has remained free of advertising, though that's likely to change as the system gains traction.