Google has finally introduced the new Maps app, after teasing and showing some of the upcoming features in the past edition of I/O. The new app is supposed to have some of the new features already present if you’re using the beta desktop Maps, and it also has a brand new UI to go with it. Some other changes are present with the update, one of the major ones being the fact that Latitude is simply no more, and will be retired very soon on August 9th. What does this mean in terms of changes, though? Well, for one, you will no longer be able to use Latitude to share you location, and the Latitude option panel is no longer present in the updated app at all. You will also lose all your friends and contacts on Latitude, and they will not be migrated to any other service, so keep that in mind. So, with that out of the way, let’s check out the new features of the Maps app!
The app comes with a brand new way to let you know about premium locations in the place you’re looking for. While in the previous version of the app you had to search for places to sleep or shop in through the search box for any particular place you were interested in, now simply tapping the search box will take you to a page showcasing the most popular places to drink, sleep and shop at. The UI in this particular section of the app is beautiful , and has hints of a new style of design post-Holo, with a mix of the Cards UI present in Google Now. Very nice and functional.
Improvements to Traffic and Navigation
Maps now comes with better and more detailed traffic information, aided by a couple of new features: first of all, Maps will now alert you in real-time about any incidents on the road, and tapping on the alert will show you particular info about the incident as well. Maps will now also re-route your course in real time in case of an incident in order to get you to your destination faster and avoid slowdowns. You can finally say goodbye to waiting for radio traffic reports!
Navigation has been completely revamped in functionality, besides looking completely different. New fonts, no more options to enable or disable layers, no more zoom buttons and a brand new color scheme. A few things have been added as well, including a button to directly exit turn-by-turn navigation, which is useful considering that alternate routes have been removed (you now go back into Maps and select a different route). Changing between steps during navigation is now done through swiping left and right, and no longer through buttons as well. It seems gestures will play a bigger role in the app in the near future as well.
Tablet & Phone UI improvements
Following the recent trend of Google developing particular interfaces for tablets, the new app comes with a brand new tablet-optimized UI that uses the extra space to show you more information and give you an overall better experience with the app. The phone UI has been largely revamped as well, taking a bunch of cues from the Cards UI as well in terms of the color scheme and visual elements. Largely, the app is cleaner and with better fonts, aided by a focus on images and content that contrasts with the no-nonsense yet somewhat cluttered design of the old days.
A new rating system has been integrated that shows you a quick review of how your friends and acquaintances have reviewed any interesting places. The new rating system also integrates the Zagat service, showing their badges on particular establishments and showing you their best of lists directly in your search results, a really nice feature to help you spot new places and explore the city, besides giving you the basic information about the location such as phone number, working hours and website. Google has also recently purchased Waze, so it’s nice to see more and more integrated services as a way to offer enhanced functionality.
The initial release of the app had no official way to make maps available offline for later use, a very handy feature that a lot of people without a data connection rely on. A workaround was quickly discovered, which was typing “OK Maps” in the search bar after you found your desired location. However, as of the latest update, Google has added a new way to save maps for later use without having to use this method, through a button in the panel. It’s worth mentioning that offline maps work a little bit different in this new version of the app, the one major change is the fact that now you can’t select an area by defining a box like before, you gotta make a search for a general region and store it from there. If the area is too big to be saved, you’ll have to refine your search until it fits. Very annoying, as the old method worked just fine and was intuitive enough, but at least it isn’t hidden behind an obscure command anymore.
So, these are a few of the new features and changes introduced with the upcoming Maps app. I must say, I really like some of the changes, but I am baffled by a lot of the choices done in the Navigation screen, and even more in the removal of features with no explanation. The app seems to have been somewhat rushed or still in active development, considering that offline maps required a workaround and some features are missing with no way to replace them. A lot of what’s new is great, but shouldn’t come at a cost of useful features. Latitude I can live without, but gas station/ATM layers, not so much. The app also performs much worse than the previous app for me, and Maps was already infamous for not being a great performer. So, I hope Google keeps performance in check, or I might end up just reverting to the old version, because a smooth navigation experience is a must. Have you gotten the new update yet? What has been your experience so far? Let us know in the comment section below!