A couple weeks ago I covered early access to the new Maps that Google will be unveiling. You can still check it out ahead of the official launch date, but now there’s a new way to see the new Maps: Android phones.
The new Maps app is rolling out to Android phones (iOS coming soon), and I received my update notice a couple days ago on my Note II. It essentially looks exactly like the new desktop version, which allows for greater consistency. It’s much more streamlined and intuitive, has some nifty new features, and has a dedicated tablet version. Let’s check it out!
Overall look and feel
The feel could be described as streamlined and modern. The edges are gone, the main menu has been pushed to the side (you can access it by clicking on the small menu icon in the bottom-left corner, or by swiping over top of it from the left), the small compass remains, and there is only one main piece of UI – the search bar. Everything else centers on the map. The map itself, as well as the various windows, looks slightly more smooth than its predecessor. Nothing major, but it’s noticeable.
Additionally, the cards for locations and reviews as well as the various windows that appear are decidedly modern. Nice, smooth blocks with easy-to-read fonts are the order of the day. It has an inviting, easy-to-use feel to it.
Since I use Navigation a pretty good bit (I know, I know, I still haven’t gotten used to Greensboro), that was the biggest feature change I noticed. Simply click on a location and you have the option at the bottom of the screen to immediately jump to directions and then navigation. With the directions, it will even show the alternate paths right on the map next to the suggested path, and you can choose the alternate right from the map. Once you enter Navigation you can tell an immediate difference – it’s much simpler. Additionally, you can click on the Settings icon and then on Route preview to see what the entire route will look like. It will even show real-time traffic information.
Speaking of real-time traffic information, a new feature in Navigation that I haven’t tested yet is the ability for it to reroute you on the fly. So if bad traffic conditions have been reported ahead, it will suggest an alternate route which you can take or ignore. Now that’s convenient.
Explore is a new feature that lets you – wait for it – explore things around you. You can access Explore by clicking on the Search bar in the main Maps window to bring up your options. The categories are Eat, Drink, Shop, Play, and Sleep. The whole section is very Google Now-esque. I haven’t used it much, but I may try to find some new restaurants in the area with it.
Maps now has a dedicated tablet design for both Android and iOS that takes advantage of the added screen real estate.
As with the desktop version, the new user reviews system (5.0 star rating system) and Zagat ratings are included for various locations.
Google’s drive toward consistency and connection between services is obvious with the new mobile Maps app. The look is a mirror duplicate of the new desktop Maps, which makes for a nice, fluid experience. Navigation has been updated to match this fluidity, and the added options mimic existing Google services (Google Now).
My only suggestion would be to increase the connection between services. Google Now integrates with Maps in that it brings up driving directions for places you’ve recently searched for (even if you’ve searched from the desktop), which is a very handy feature. But what about greater Google Plus connection? What about seeing places on Maps that your friends have talked about in Plus? While this type of connection was hinted at during their I/O 2013 conference, I didn’t see any of those features in the new Maps app. Perhaps a later update will rectify that.
Overall, this is a great step forward in both streamlining and adding features to the best mobile maps and navigation software out there. I hope Google continues to drive forward this great product for many years to come.