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From underwater journeys to architectural showpieces like St. Petersburg's Catherine Palace, the name "Street View" doesn't begin to cover everything that Google is now capturing.

Google Inc. expanded its Street View maps feature to enhance images of roadways and attractions in the U.S. and several other countries, stepping up competition with Apple Inc.’s new navigation tool.

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Google updated images for more than 250,000 miles of roads worldwide and also enhanced virtual strolls through popular tourist attractions, the Mountain View, California-based company said today on a blog post.

Apple decided to build its own navigation application with the latest iPhone software, reflecting a widening rift with Google, which had provided its Google Maps program since the device debuted in 2007. Google earlier this month added Street View to its maps feature for mobile browsers, improving the service available to iPhone users who don’t have the tool built into their handsets.

While Apple’s new software adds features such as turn-by- turn navigation, it is widely faulted for unreliable landmark searches, routes that get users lost and a lack of public transit directions.

Apple’s mapping application was released as part of the new iOS 6 software, which runs the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Even as Apple’s maps were criticized, the company sold a record 5 million iPhones during the handset’s debut weekend. Apple also said that the software with its new mapping feature was being used on more than 100 million mobile devices.

Google has been building out its online mapping software since 2005, using cars and satellites to accumulate data that helps improve its accuracy and reliability.

Editors: Lisa Rapaport, Niamh Ring. To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Rapaport in New York at [email protected]. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at [email protected]

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Tags: android, google, maps

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