New Google Maps update makes it ‘faster and easier to explore’

Google has introduced a full update for Maps on Android smartphones and tablets, with iPhone and iPad updates expected to roll out soon.

The update has been designed to make “exploring the world and getting to the places that matter to you a lot faster and easier”. A large part of this is the new user interface, which is cleaner and more simple with a single box, a button to centre the map on your location, and a menu button.

The tablet interface now looks more similar to the Google Maps desktop app, whilst adopting the card-based information system, ‘Google Now’, which has been successfully deployed across mobile platforms.

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The update makes progress towards more intuitive driving navigation, by alerting you when a better route becomes available, and consequently rerouting you to your destination faster.

Other changes may not be so well-received. For example, Google has decided to remove their offline map cache, which handily allowed users to zoom out, draw a square on the map, and save the area for offline access. The feature will still be available, however it is no longer as simple.  Users will have to enter “OK Maps” into the search box, and then create a cache of the visible portion of the map.

A new function, ‘Explore’, will likely prove a popular addition. This is an extra-swipeable interface where users will be able to “browse and discover new places without typing”, locating new places to sleep, eat, drink and shop.

Reviews from the service Zagat, which has been bought by Google, displaying expert opinions and badges of excellence, are also now integrated into search results. These will appear alongside a five-star rating system displaying your friends’ and others’ reviews of nearby bars, cafes and restaurants.

Users will also now be able to search for shops and restaurants with specific offers available, which will be highlighted with a blue tag next to the business name or pin on the map. Swiping the location will bring up more details, whilst tapping the offer will save it to your Google account to use later.

Director of Google Maps, Daniel Graf, said in a statement: “Helping you find great places is what we love to do. And as more of us use mobile phones and tablets in our daily lives, information that’s useful to you isn’t just about what you need, but also where you might find it. Today’s update is an exciting step forward for Google’s maps—one that we hope will make it faster and easier for you to explore and discover places you want to go.”