08/15/2012 03:17 EDT | Updated 10/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Google spruces up mobile maps for Android devices to thwart Apple challenge

SAN FRANCISCO - Google is upgrading the maps designed for mobile devices running on its Android software as it braces for new competition from Apple.

The improvements in the latest version of mobile maps for Android centre on listings for public transportation options in nearly 500 cities around the world.

The update released Wednesday includes directions and departure times for more than 1 million stations worldwide for the first time.

New technology on the maps will allow users to focus exclusively on directions for specific transportation options, such as the subway, while excluding other alternatives such as the bus.

The changes come as Apple Inc. prepares to replace Google's maps as the automatic navigation service on the iPhone and iPad. Apple is casting aside Google for its own mobile mapping service.