Last Updated: October 8th, 2012

Hello and welcome to a new feature! I'm going to start calling this "What's Really New," the series where we do more than just post a change log with the canned screenshots when something important gets updated. We're going in-depth (as usual). We'll be ripping apart APKs, doing full side-by-side comparisons, and, hopefully, letting you know about all the cool new stuff before it comes out.

timelinewm_2012-09-19 19.06.10

Previous experiments in this area have been a stunning success. We told you all about Google+ events before it was releasedcalled Gift card support in the Play Store and, while we neglected to mention it, Google Maps Timeline was also dead-on. On the left is my mockup; on the right is an actual shot from location history.

Small Changes and Redesigned Stuff

So, on to Maps 6.12, and speaking of Timeline, it's going to keep track of an addition transportation mode: Flights.


These are all called "timeline_fly_[something].9.png," just like the other stuff is called "timeline" something, and it's an obvious match for all the stuff up there.


We've also got a few small changes. The Latitude icon is dead. This update will remove it from your app drawer. In my last post, the Latitude icon contributed to a few of my grievances (it's too small and work inconsistently when compared to the Maps icon), so I'm glad it's gone. In my last Maps teardown, I found some stuff linking Latitude to Google+, so hopefully it's just moving over there.


You probably recognize the button on the left as the "my location" button (btn_myl_normal.png), but the little guy on the right is new. He's called "btn_myl_disabled.png," and is greyed out. I have no idea why you'd want to disable the location button, but Maps can now.


Here are the old and new versions of "directions_map_pins.png." They changed from a play button and checkered flag to "A" and "B" pins. The A/B pins look much better. These are actually live. Check out this Maps 6.11 vs. 6.12 comparison.

Screenshot_2012-09-20-11-32-32 wm_2012-09-20 11.42.31

Different markers! This is great. The old markers were one of the really ugly bits of Maps that looked like they were from Android 1.0. (Ignore the other changes; they're just the usual phone vs. tablet stuff.)

It's extremely interesting that these are now "A" and "B" markers instead of "Start" and "End." Could multi-destination directions be in our future? I'll let you know if a Green "C" marker pops up.

A 3D Button

The biggest new thing hidden is Maps is a pretty simple file, but it carries with it a lot of possibilities:


A 3D button! The minimally named "btn_3d.png" snuck in with this update. Immediately, I am reminded of similar looking buttons in Google Maps:


They are all named with the same style, too: btn_something - it looks like we've got a match. The problem with the 3D button is that it's just so plain. The text is off center, and the rest of the button is an empty void. It kind of looks like a corner tag you would stick on top of something else.

It turns out this image file was accompanied by another file, called "btn_compass_3d.xml." Now we're getting somewhere. The compass button is the star-shaped thing in the top-right corner of Maps (numbers two and three in the lineup, above). The 3D button must be an overlay for them. The first one is a top down view, and second one is for a tilted view, a lot like the perspective you get in Navigation. It would make sense, then, for the "3D" to go on the tiled icon. That would probably look like this:


Don't get too excited, this is a mockup.

It all works so perfectly. The 3D button is the same size as the compass button, and the 3D doesn't overlap any part of the compass. This is right.

wm_2012-09-19 22.20.232012-09-19 22.23.58

You may be confused about what "3D" actually means. Google Maps already has untextured 3D buildings, but recently Google has referred to the latest Google Earth update as "3D Imagery." That's what I think will happen here. We will finally get all the cool, textured Google Earth buildings in Google Maps. I'll keep you posted the next time Maps gets updated, but don't hold your breath on this one, it could be a while.


wm_Screenshot_2012-09-19-19-44-46wm_2012-09-19 19.44.43

On the left is Google Maps 6.11, and on the right is Maps 6.12. See the new thing? Experiments! Notice how "Experiments" is totally separate from "Labs," the normal Google Maps test bed. You can tap on it, and it will light up, but nothing will happen. That's ok though, it doesn't mean it's broken. Labs functions the same way. This is the "About" screen; these items aren't supposed to do anything. They are showing the status of Labs and Experiments. Let me show you how they work:

wm_2012-09-19 22.41.19wm_2012-09-19 22.42.10wm_2012-09-19 22.42.17

We're focusing on the Labs entry here, because we have a UI for that. On the left is what the Labs entry looks like when you don't have any of the Labs stuff on. However, go to settings, tick some checkboxes, and suddenly Labs looks like it does on the right. A mysterious number for each enabled setting. This screen is basically a settings output. There's no UI for Experiments, but there is a status output for them, which makes me think there is something, somewhere you could change and enable some experiments.

Wouldn't it be really cool if these two things, Experiments and the 3D button, were related? If somewhere, deep within the depths of the Maps APK, you could flip a switch and turn on "Google Earth Mode" with more complex geometry and fully textured buildings? Nah, that's crazy talk. Still, someone over at XDA or RootzWiki might want to take a look...

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • wickets

    do you have any idea how to clear location history?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo


      You can delete everything or just certain days from the links on the left side.

      • wickets

        Ron, thanks a million times....curious to know why delete option on the phone itself isnt available

  • http://twitter.com/RajAshish1 Raj Ashish

    Perfect timing for this article... where our "fruit" friends are having problems with their maps..

    • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

      You, sir, have just made my day.

      Go have a cookie. You've earned it.

      • http://twitter.com/2LadyDi Lady Di

        Aaron brought a cookie. I'm bringing milk. Your blog post made me laugh so hard I nearly cried. Thank you Raj!!

        • http://twitter.com/RajAshish1 Raj Ashish

          Always feels nice to bring a smile on somebody's face! :)

      • http://twitter.com/RajAshish1 Raj Ashish

        Thank u!! :D

    • http://twitter.com/BongBong BongBong

      It'll be very interesting to see the level of schadenfreude among Fandroids once Apple delivers their final "deathblow" series of high-level patent lawsuits against Google's Android.

  • wickets

    p.s. my app doesnt have experiments and neither does the 3d icon have a 3d text like yours does.....on gnex, 4.1.1 with maps 6.12.0

    • http://profiles.google.com/jtwieme JT Wieme

      same here.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Hrm, mine has Experiments, right in About above Labs.

        • PhilNelwyn

          I don't have "Experiments" listed in the "About" menu either (yakju here).

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      The 3D button is a mockup. It says so below the picture.

  • http://profiles.google.com/nigelnaughton nigel naughton

    For some reason on my Gnex when I am in 'about' and scroll down I don't see 'experiments' under 'server'. Mine says 'Labs 43, 33, 21"
    I love how you are breaking this down piece by piece. Every update that Google brings excites me (weird?) but to have a guide with it like you offer is awesome!

  • mesmorino

    Google should just integrate Maps and Earth already. It's not exactly a great leap

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      I view "Earth" as like, the experimental testing ground for Maps. You really wouldn't want the two to be the same thing. Go install Earth on something a year old (Like a gnex) and search for a complicated, freshly updated area, like "San Franscisco." It's so complex, the phone will just freeze.

      The majority of the stuff out there can't handle Earth in all its glory, which is fine. That would not be ok for Maps.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    "He's called "btn_myl_disabled.png," and is greyed out. I have no idea why you'd want to disable the location button, but Maps can now."

    I bet it's not when you disable it, but when it's disabled - hence the name of the resource _disabled. Maybe for when you don't have location enabled. Update: hrm, disabled all location stuff and it's still clickable. Not sure.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

    Excellent sleuthing once again! If I may be allowed to quote Ron:

    "This is right."

    Yes, it is.

  • makapav

    AP needs to take this section and blow-it-the-fuck-up huge! This is the kind of deep-dive analysis that some of us are really looking for, from blogs, instead of a regurgitation of the 'What's new section' from the Play Store.

  • Dima Aryeh

    They couldn't really enable 3D textured buildings. That's all server side. Till Google allows that to be used, it won't happen with APK modding. Or so I think.
    Otherwise, awesome article!

  • http://twitter.com/Pascalwb Pascal

    Nice article

  • Matthew

    The A & B pins are so much better looking than the play icon and finish line icon.

  • Schmich

    I was hoping they would implement simple searching for offline/cached maps. When caching came out of labs everyone only tested that the map was actually cached. But no one seemed to care to actually find out how useful it is.

    I can tell you: it's almost useless. You can see where you are on the map and you can pan around. That's it. If your friend tells you to go to some street you have no way of finding it except panning the entire city. In which case good look finding that street and there's still no way of seeing the street number.

    I don't mind them not implementing directions for the cached maps as that gets a bit more complicated. But surely the king of search can do simple searching for cached maps.

  • LazarusDark

    Reason # 4376 why I check Android Police daily

    • tookieboy

      circle them on G+ :)

      • LazarusDark

        Oh, I have. Its basically the first circle I check every time I open my phone, lol

  • Jon Garrett

    Google is awesome!!

  • azimsu

    there is a new feture that you have miss...1 finger zoom! Double tap on maps and drag your finger to zoom in and out...cheers!

    • Changelog Reader

      That is right in the changelog.

  • Genisis

    Why is there no "favorites" yet.....or am I missing something? Unfortunately until this function is added I will have to continue to is MapQuest as my default.

    • Aaron Andrews

      You mean like when you add a "star" to a place or address that also syncs with the web version of maps ?

      • smithers85

        this is exactly what he means.

      • Genisis

        No....I mean be able to hit the menu button and select FAVOURITES. WTH is so hard to add this feature? I don't want to have a bunch of stars on a map and then try to find what I want. Don't care for the stars and stick pins idea......

  • Dokan

    My location history displays my trips as straight lines. Like I just flew from somewhere to somewhere, it never displays like the picture on this article. Why is that and how do I get it like the picture does anyone know?

  • astasualle

    Ron, Please write "Stock Android Isn't Perfect: Jelly Bean 4.3 Edition"
    Also, list unfixed issues from previous version of Android