Google has gone official with the update for its Maps app for Android. The Google Maps update for Android gives the app a design overhaul and adds many value-added features that aren’t strictly built for navigation as much as for exploring and discovering new places.
The new features combine the satellite GPS data with world-based databases to give the user location-specific information, so its not just driving directions anymore – Maps will suggest restaurants and places to check out that are nearby your location. Google’s acquisition of Zagat will also be put to good use by serving users with reviews of restaurants, a direct attack at the Yelp! service. The Google Maps update for Android comes with a newly in-place five-star rating system that will help the user make informed decisions before actually visiting a place. All of this comes under the new Explore option, that will let users discover new places without actually typing anything in the search box. So really, this can be effectively used as a tour guide.
But Google has not left the core navigational features of the Maps app untouched either. Drivers will now be able to get real-time updates regarding traffic situations. A screenshot in which a hashtag is clearly visible indicates that Maps could use deep social integration to alert drivers about events and traffic jams. The new system can also suggest alternate routes to the driver should the current route be inaccessible.
Along with new features, the app has also gotten a design overhaul that’s much more suited to Android’s minimalist design language. Tablets are also getting the special treatment this time, with the app making better use of the added screen real-estate to display more information. The offline maps feature of the app has been done away with in favor of a much more convenient system. If you want to use the map you’re viewing for later, simply type “OK Maps” in the search box to save the map. It should be noted that what was previously a dedicated feature is now just a hot-key, so some users unaware of the change might not be able to sort it out. It should be noted that this Google Maps update for Android is missing the My Maps feature, but Google have mentioned that the feature will return in a future update.
This overhaul meant shedding a feature or two in favor of a more streamlined experience – Latitude for example, is no longer available. Instead the location sharing feature has now been integrated directly into Google Plus so you can share your location with your friends. The Google Maps update for Android is already out but if you haven’t gotten it yet, don’t worry. The update will be available for Android 4.0.3+ devices during the next few weeks. Update: After a backlash by the Android community on Google’s decision to do away with the “Make Available Offline” feature, the company has reversed its decision and released a quick update that fixes the issue.
We know some of you are missing an easy way to access maps offline. That’s why our engineering team has been working around the clock to add a ‘Make this map area available offline’ card below the search box for easier access