Google today updated Maps for Android devices to version 5.3, adding a location dashboard and quick glimpse graphs showing the amount of time spent at work, home and out. The new features leverage the location history function found in Google Latitude, which must be turned on to use the new personalized Maps features. The updated software is available in the Android Market for all phones running Android version 1.6 or higher.
The new features in Maps for Android dovetail nicely with Friday, another Android app I noted earlier today that helps us make sense of our smartphone data. Both are examples of what I expect to be a growing trend: the ability to tie events with location and time. Friday does this through capturing the actions taken with a smartphone, while Maps relies upon active check-ins through Google Latitude. Each presents an interesting challenge in terms of security and personal data, however. Take the case of the new Maps feature that shows how often you’re at home. From the Google Mobile blog post:
Now that you can see how much time you spend at “home”, you might want to let friends know when you’re there. Checking in at places using Latitude is another way to keep a history of places you’ve been and also lets you share when you’re there. I love letting friends and family know when I’m at a cafe or park, but sometimes I want them to know that I’m relaxing at home or made it back safely from a road trip.
Data showing that you’re at home isn’t searchable but can be broadcast to designated friends on Google’s Latitude service. So you have control over who can see when you’re home and when you’re out, provided you remember to manage your Latitude friendships. Although I’m more transparent than most and I often share my location quite openly, I also have a monthly calendar task to review my Latitude friends. Call it a cautious embrace of location based services.
Most people haven’t yet done the same, however, (depending on who you ask) mainly because such services don’t yet provide enough value for people to use. Once we see additional services that leverage geographic location, such as local deals and task reminders when near the place a task can be completed, more consumers will adopt location-aware apps. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy seeing how the new Maps for Android handles my home office: am I at home or am I at work?
One other note worth a mention: the updated functionality marks another update that iOS devices don’t yet have. In December, Maps for Android hit version 5.0 with the addition of 3-D imagery and more efficient vector graphics. The software continues to increase its advantages on Android vs Apple’s mobile platform, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple drop Google Maps in favor of its own solution. We’ve already seen evidence to support that idea; it’s just a matter of time before Apple tells Google Maps to get lost.