Amazon Buys UpNext, Foreshadows Escalating 3D Map Wars

We’ll admit that we didn’t exactly see the 3D maps wars coming, but here it is: just as Google lavished updates on its own Maps, Apple ditched the app and launched its own competing maps feature with iOS 6. Ever the rabble rouser, Amazon looks to be getting into the 3D maps game as well with its acquisition of UpNext, according to GigaOM.

UpNext, which is actually available for the iPhone with a tablet version for both iOS and Android, offers beautiful 3D maps of cities all over the U.S. Users can scroll around 3D cities, search for and see what places are nearby, and get walking or public transit directions to and from selected locations. You can even tap places to check venue reviews, opt for a transit overlay view to most effectively choose your route, and tap a building to determine what businesses are inside.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire doesn’t have a dedicated maps app, so it makes sense for Amazon to bring one into the fold. Having its own maps app also helps Amazon position itself for a stronger mobile OS release if it chooses to make one, and if nothing else, it beefs up the company’s mobile portfolio.

UpNext has a ways to go before it can be considered a true competitor in the market, such as adding nationwide or worldwide maps, but it’s certainly off to a great start.