A brand new update for Google Maps just started rolling out last night and it's definitely a big one. Perhaps the most important detail is that this is the first installable on the Android N Developer Previews. The Timeline screen has also gone through a partial redesign and gained a couple of new tricks. However, the really interesting things are coming in the teardown. In fact, there's so much stuff that the teardown portion is going to be split into a second part. Let's get to the good stuff.
Note: according to a post on the issue tracker, this could be a beta release. However, it seems to be rolling out to users on the stable channel. It probably doesn't matter, but it may be possible some users won't receive this update through regular rollouts. I've included "beta" in the title so readers are aware of this.
Official Changelog: (posted July 6)
- Add multiple destinations to your route, get directions and navigate
- Search for places along your route when getting directions
- Add notes to your days in Your Timeline to keep track of the memories you make on the go
Unofficial Changelog: (stuff we found)
- Installable on Android N Developer Preview – fixes Android Auto on DP4 and includes Android Wear app
- Visual changes to Timeline screen with editable title and notes section
Installable on Android N Developer Preview
If you've been living on the bleeding edge with developer previews, you may have felt a bit left out as updates to various core apps have come and gone for everybody else while you're stuck on versions that seem inexplicably outdated despite a higher version number. In fact, you actually have been running older versions. Google repackaged older stable versions of some apps and gave them high version codes to ensure that they weren't replaced by updates from the Play Store. This release brings a higher version code and allows for it to be installed on DP4 and below. We'll have to wait for DP5 to come out before we know if Google is going to lock in the version again. There are a couple of important implications from this update, which leads us to...
The Maps app is back on Android Wear
This actually resolves a point of confusion for many users: the missing Android Wear app. One of the little-known details about the repackaged apps on developer previews is that they lack the microAPKs that should be installed on Wear devices. I'm not sure if there's an official reason for leaving them out, but they aren't there and that means your watch will be missing quite a few standard features. This release restores the Wear micro app to its rightful place.
Fixes Android Auto On Developer Preview 4
As it turns out, the Maps app included with Developer Preview 4 did not get along with Android Auto. Users quickly discovered that Maps automatically crashed anytime it was launched in Auto. This version has been confirmed to fix that issue and restore Maps/Navigation on Auto to full working order. I've got a feeling this is the reason we're getting a version that can install on N right now, so even if you don't have (or use) Android Auto, you've probably got it to thank for an N-friendly update. – Thanks, Christian Simpson
Timeline Gets a Facelift
Left: previous version. Right: latest version.
The most notable changes for this release can be seen in the Timeline view. In fact, the changes are almost entirely limited to the title bar, which has grown much taller and includes a couple new parts. The month/year dropdown has been removed entirely, but the calendar next to its left has been moved to the right side. It still functions the same way, so this is mostly a cosmetic adjustment. The date and day of the week have also been removed from the first row below the mini map. It also looks like the mini map might show more business icons than it used to.
There's a new edit button (the pen icon) that opens a screen where a title and note can be added. Tapping on the big date text above the mini map will also open this screen. If something is filled in here, it causes the date to shrink in the Timeline screen while the title and note are filled in. This allows you to put some context to your trips, perhaps to document a delivery route or remind you of a particular day during vacation.
We're still looking around for some other changes, so let us know in the comments if anything else turns up. The big news for this update is in the teardown, so let's get straight to part 1.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.
SD Cards + Offline Maps
It has been one of the hottest requests since Offline Navigation and Search were added to Maps–if not before–and it's finally happening. Google is going to add support for storing offline maps on SD cards. This will give users the ability to free up some internal storage by moving those large data files where they won't be in the way.
The strings related to storing offline maps on an SD card are mostly uninteresting, so there's not much to read into here. In fact, most of them are just copies of existing strings, but with "SD card" in place of other words. However, one warning message does point out a potentially annoying issue for some: switching your storage location requires a total re-download of your offline maps. For some reason they can't be moved from one local storage to another. This probably won't be a huge issue since most people will only have to make the switch to an SD card once, but even that one switch could be a problem for people with no access to Wi-Fi and very restricted cellular data.
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_DOWNLOAD_STORAGE_SETTINGS_TITLE">Where do you want to store your offline areas?</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_MISSING_SDCARD_ALERT_BODY">Your offline areas are unavailable. Insert the SD card you used to store them.</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_MISSING_SDCARD_ALERT_TITLE">"Can't find SD card"</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_SDCARD_NOT_AVAILABLE">"Can't find SD card. Insert the SD card you used to store offline areas."</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_SETTINGS_STORAGE_SETTINGS_DESCRIPTION">Changing this setting will delete any existing offline areas and redownload them to the new storage location.</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_SETTINGS_STORAGE_SETTINGS_PHONE_DESCRIPTION">Device (%,d MB available)</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_SETTINGS_STORAGE_SETTINGS_SD_DESCRIPTION">SD card (%,d MB available)</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_SETTINGS_STORAGE_SETTINGS_SD_TITLE">SD card</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_SETTINGS_STORAGE_SETTINGS_TITLE">Storage preferences</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_ONBOARDING_AVAILABLE_SIZE_SD">You have over %,d MB available on your SD card.</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_ONBOARDING_INDIA_AVAILABLE_SIZE_SD">You have over %,d MB free space on your SD card.</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_ONBOARDING_SIZE_AND_MODALITY_SD">Maps can store information so searches and directions are faster, with good connections or bad. This will use up to %1$d MB of your %2$d MB available free space on your SD card.</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_SELECT_AREA_SIZE_STRING_LANDSCAPE_SD" formatted="false">Download may take up to %,d MB. (You have over %,d MB available on your SD card.)</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_SELECT_INDIA_AREA_SIZE_STRING_LANDSCAPE_SD" formatted="false">Downloading areas of India may take up to %,d MB of your %,d MB free space on your SD card, and it happens over Wi-Fi.</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_SELECT_INDONESIA_AREA_SIZE_STRING_LANDSCAPE_SD" formatted="false">Downloading areas of Indonesia may take up to %,d MB of your %,d MB free space on your SD card, and it happens over Wi-Fi.</string>
There's no doubt that this will be a welcome feature, especially for people with Android One phones or any device that lacks Marshmallow's adoptable storage feature.
My only real question is whether or not this will be strictly limited to SD cards or if it can also be used with USB drives. Since many phones (*cough* Nexus *cough*) lack an SD slot, the reach for offline maps is a little limited. But it could be the perfect use case for very small external drives. After all, when you're driving down city streets with your phone locked into a dash mount, you're not going to care about having a little key-sized drive poking out to the side.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.