Make Google Maps your live Android wallpaper

An update to Google Maps on Android phones lets you wallpaper the start screen with a real-time map, among other things.

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Google Maps for Android--Live Wallpaper

There's something to be said for instant gratification, and if you're the sort who wants to know where you are without pausing to open a map app, one of the handful of changes to Google Maps for Android (version 4.1) has your name on it.

To turn your wallpaper into a live, real-time map that tracks your location, press and hold the home screen, choose Wallpaper, then pick Maps from the Live Wallpaper folder. Before setting the wallpaper, you'll be able to choose satellite, terrain, or line map mode and whether you want to show traffic. While a little clunky and distracting depending on how cluttered your screen is, it's neat that you can still manage to zoom in and out. The live wallpaper works for Android phones running 2.1 of the operating system and up.

Also of note is the redesigned search results page, which replaces the tabs of yesteryear with buttons you can tap to view the location on a map, call up directions, dial, or engage Street View. When you open the profile page for a search result, you're now able to swipe right and left to see full-page profiles for the preceding and following results. In addition, there's a new home screen widget for Google Latitude, which lets you see your nearby Latitude-enabled friends plotted on a map.

Our favorite new feature is also the least flashy--the ability to switch among your Google accounts in the maps app. This means you can also get to all the little personalization extras you've come to rely on, like your starred items and saved My Maps, for more than just the Android phone's default account.

Android users can update the Maps app from the phone's Android Market.