New Google Maps for Android moves in on Yelp, Foursquare

Google Maps for Android updates with a refreshed interface for phones, a new tablet design, and enhanced features -- but no Waze.

The new Google Maps Explore on a tablet. Google

Following the public unveiling of a major Google Maps overhaul at May's Google I/O , and subsequent reports of Google Maps for Android landing on the Google Play Store late Tuesday night , the company made an official announcement for the improved app early Wednesday morning.

The new Google Maps for Android includes features big and small that combine geolocation with more real-world information than just longitude and latitude. Restaurant reviews from Zagat target Yelp, and are available directly from within Maps when you look up a restaurant. You now can add your own score and comments from within Maps.

The new Explore feature sounds similar to one available in Foursquare. It provides an entirely touch-based way to explore a location without typing or speaking. It focuses on five categories: eat, shop, drink, sleep, and play, allowing people to learn more about urban locations in relationship to their restaurants, retail, bars, hotels, and activities.

Another new feature for the Android app is shaking the phone to send feedback, said Daniel Graf, the director of Google Maps. The feature already was available on Google Maps for iOS.

"We depend on users telling us that something has changed," he said, and to that end, you can now send feedback on Maps errors to Google by shaking the phone. That will open the feedback screen, from which you can add comments on the problem, including bad photos, errors in public transit schedules, and inaccuracies in a business' open hours.

What Google has built with Maps is good, but it's made more useful when its users contribute to make it "even better," Graf said.

While the more realistic Map view made big news at Google I/O this year, the mobile version exposes search results at the bottom of the screen in a format not unlike the Google Now cards. Swiping through the cards will show you other nearby results.

Traffic information in Maps now includes real-time traffic incident details with an notification to re-route you with one tap. While that sounds like Waze, the social maps app that Google recently purchased, Graf said that it was too soon to include features from Waze.

Google Maps on Android now offers real-time traffic re-routing. Google

Street View has been improved on Android with "business photos," so that you can follow the street-level map directly into places of interest. Google Maps now offers a slightly different interface for Android tablets, as well.

Google Maps' offline mode in Android has been replaced. Now, if you speak or enter "OK Maps" into the search box when viewing a map you wish to save for offline use, it will automatically save that map and the surrounding area. Graf said that it covers enough ground so that if you're looking at a map of the Mission District in San Francisco, Maps will cache a map large enough to cover most of the Bay Area.

Google also announced that Latitude and check-ins will be removed from older versions of Google Maps on August 9, and are no longer part of the new Google Maps app for Android and the anticipated update for iOS.

Graf wouldn't reveal a launch date for the updated Google Maps for iOS, saying only that it was "coming soon" for Apple's phones and tablets.

 

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