An update to Google Maps v9.54 began rolling out to users through the beta channel yesterday, but it doesn't appear to have any visible changes going live quite yet. However, a teardown of the apk does bring a few hints about what to expect in the future. There are clues about a couple of new saved destinations like the Home and Work slots that have become so useful, the first stirring of support for Android O's notification channels, a few new "promos" to get people interested in various features, and a very curious feature that might turn out to be a task list of sorts. As usual, we've got a link at the bottom to download this update to sideload if you're not interested in waiting for Google to deliver it to your device.
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.
Saved locations for School and Gym
If you find yourself regularly using the Home and Work saved locations for quick navigation, you'll enjoy this one. The Maps team is expanding the list to include two more common destinations: your gym and your school.
Since those two strings don't really include any specific telltale signs that they're intended to be default saved locations, I've included the two previously existing lines for Home and Work for comparison. It's pretty obvious that the naming convention matches up.
There is also a newly added icon for education, which I would naturally assume will go with the School destination. There doesn't appear to be a similar icon dedicated to the Gym slot, but it's not as if Google can't easily color-fill the existing fitness icon. Nevertheless, this one missing icon might be a hint that Google won't make these new destination slots available until a future update includes the missing icon.
These two new entries will obviously operate just like Home and Work for the purposes of navigation and quick route selection. And as always, users don't have to actually link these slots to real schools or gyms.
I'm sure a lot of people will welcome this simple improvement because so many of us travel to more than just work and home in a typical day.
The 'Other' Notification Channel
I'll just make a quick mention of this topic since it's not really that interesting. Google Maps is going to have a notification channel on Android O titled "Other notifications."
<string name="OTHER_NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL">Other notifications</string>
I doubt this will be the only custom channel for Maps. After all, there are several subsections in Settings dedicated to each notification type, so we'll probably see the channel list grow a fair amount in the future. I would assume the Maps team is still trying to decide how to best organize the app's notifications. This "other" channel will probably become a placeholder for most of the notifications until they are organized into suitable channels.
A few new prompts
I normally skip changes that are meant to advertise existing features, but sometimes the focus of banners and notifications can give a little insight into the features and apps that may not be performing as well as expected or simply need user awareness. The latest Maps update includes three new promos.
The first banner is for the Google Trips app. Launched around this time last year, Trips is basically an itinerary management app that's also intended for making local recommendations. Trips probably doesn't have a very substantial user base yet, so it's not hard to imagine why Google is trying to breathe a little more life into it.
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_TRIPS_APP_BANNER_TITLE">Take your travel info with you</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_TRIPS_APP_BANNER_TITLE_WITH_AREA_NAME">Take your %1$s travel info with you</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_TRIPS_APP_BANNER_BODY">Reservations • Things to do • Day plans</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_TRIPS_APP_BANNER_DOWNLOAD_LINK">Get Google Trips app</string>
<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_TRIPS_APP_BANNER_DISMISS_LINK">No thanks</string>
The next addition is intended to get users to try out the recently launched location sharing feature. It's pretty normal to show prompts to get users only newly released features, so there's nothing unusual about this one, but you can probably expect to see it in your navigation setup soon.
<string name="CAR_TI TLE_JOURNEY_SHARING">Share journey</string>
<string name="JOURNEY_SHARING_PENDING_PROMPT_TEXT">Share your trip with %1$s</string>
<string name="JOURNEY_SHARING_PENDING_PROMPT_TTS">Sharing your real-time location with %1$s until you arrive.</string>
<string name="CAR_MENU_START_JOURNEY_SHARING">Share journey</string>
<string name="CAR_MENU_STOP_JOURNEY_SHARING">Stop sharing</string>
The final promotional banner will belong to the always familiar Local Guides program. As usual, it's going to encourage users to contribute to Maps for points. The one interesting oddity is that these strings have "v2" in their names. It's possible this just means they are for a new set of promos, or this might hint at a revised version of the points program. I would expect the former, but it's at least worth acknowledging the latter is possible.
<string name="POINTS_V2_PROMO_TITLE">Reach new Local Guides levels</string>
<string name="POINTS_V2_PROMO_TEXT">Now earn more points for your reviews, photos, edits, and adding new places.</string>
<string name="POINTS_V2_PROMO_GOTO_STATS">SEE YOUR LEVEL</string>
<string name="POINTS_V2_PROMO_OPEN_HELP">Learn more</string>
A task list called "Nearby Need?"
There's very little to go on for this topic, but it looks just weird enough that I suspect there's a feature brewing in there somewhere. A pair of new layouts were added with the name "nearby need," one of which defines the look of a list, and the other is for items in that list. There is also a single string with a related name and just the word "navigate" for text.
Based on this very limited amount of information, it does sound a little like a shopping list of sorts. Perhaps less like a grocery list and more like a list of chores or tasks – e.g. getting new tires on the car, picking up some materials for a weekend project, and buying new clothes. I would assume each item goes into a list and Google Maps will make it easy to navigate to the next nearest place where each of these things can be taken care of.
I'm not actually sure if these are related, but there are also three new images to be found in the resources, and they certainly would fit with my theory. The first is for creating new tasks, the second is for completed tasks, and the final one is for "old" completed tasks. I suppose the old one might be for things a user did on previous days but hasn't removed from the list.
This is all guesswork right now, but many people have been asking for ways to use Maps to get through chores, and this feels like the first hint of something like that. The one aspect that's not yet hinted at, but I certainly hope to see, is a feature that will sort tasks efficiently so people can choose the shortest (or fastest) route to get everything done.
I'll keep watching and follow up when there are more developments.
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.
Version: 9.54.0 beta