upnext-mapsThe mobile community, by its very nature, relies heavily on digital maps for survival. Until now, Google has had the mapping space in its back pocket, but lately companies have been creating their own homebred solutions, the most recent of which is Apple. According to a GigaOm report, Amazon may soon join the growing club of big name cartographers.

The online retailer has allegedly scooped up 3D mapping startup UpNext, signaling a venture into, excuse the pun, uncharted territory for Amazon. If true, the acquisition could add even more credence to the rumor that Amazon is preparing its own smartphone, which one analyst claimed, "Could prove to be more sophisticated than many smartphones on the market." I guess Amazon's foray into the tablet market was just a precursor to something bigger.

Below is a demo of UpNext's technology, which is currently available for Android and iOS. It looks like a pretty elegant mapping solution to our eyes, albeit a little cartoony. But we can certainly see why Amazon would be interested.

[via TheVerge, GigaOm]