Google has been working away on a facelift for its eight-year-old mega-product Google Maps, as the company hinted at during its developer conference back in May. While the desktop version has been dribbling out since then, the new features are also now available on Android phones (and coming soon to iOS).
The new mobile app is designed to bring real-time information to directions, particularly in the map features that help users navigate around traffic. Users will now be able to access incident reports on their routes, which will bring up details and status reports to help gauge traffic conditions. Alerts will also pop up if a new route means a faster travel time, and will automatically reroute to the speedier path.
There are also new features geared towards discovering new places to visit — an area that Google is eager to dip into. The app’s Explore feature enables users to browse for new eateries, shops and places to visit, or to simply search an area for a particular kind of locale. The app’s new 5-star rating system gives a summary of how friends and like-minded individuals feel about local haunts, and every place that has a Zagat rating will have it prominently displayed alongside the address.
One thing notably missing from the update is Latitude, which enabled location check-ins and allowed friends to be viewable on Google Maps. The search giant has decided to retire the feature from all versions on August 9 — those features will instead be ported to Google+ for Android. My Maps is also gone due to lack of current software support, and offline maps is relegated to an Easter egg: users who want to save a particular map can type “Okay Maps” (a reference to Google Glass command “Okay, Glass”) and it will be cached.
It’s clear that Google wants people to not only access maps to get somewhere, but to find somewhere — and its taking advantage of the on-the-go capabilities of mobile to make that happen.