A new update to Google Maps began rolling out late last night to members of the beta channel. This one is arguably light on notable changes, except that there is one feature that may go live in the next few days: Commuting. It was at least briefly live before being disabled remotely. There are also several new topics for a teardown, including more points for longer reviews, new badges, and more.

What's New

Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)

  • Commuting (coming soon?)
  • Another notification channel for timeline notifications (fixed in 9.63.1)

Commuting: It was is live

Commuting appears to be live

At least as of October 9th, the Commute settings appear to be live again. However, it appears to be coming and going a bit on v9.63.0, so you may have to update to v9.63.1 if you don't already have it.

A quick test of commute settings leaves me thinking that they just add a card to the driving tab at roughly the right time of day. That card opens a fairly straightforward navigation screen with the right destination and mode of travel already set. At least I think that's what it does, but that's not really any different than the old commute card, so I'm not really sure. Try it out and see if anything interesting happens on your return home.

It was a short-lived tease, but it did happen. Just as I began poking around for changes in v9.63, I found the Commute settings screen that was shown off in the teardown of Maps v9.62. Unfortunately, just after I finished entering my details, the option vanished from the settings screen. Obviously, this wasn't intended to go live yet, or at least not for everybody – well, probably not me.

The screenshots aren't very remarkable, but they do put a picture to the previous description. This is basically the step-by-step setup process. Your home and work addresses will be filled in automatically, assuming you have them set, and you should only need to pick a mode of transport and your schedule. After that, there's a final screen to confirm your settings.

Unfortunately, commuting seems to have been disabled while I was setting it up, so there was no opportunity to test it out and attempt to trigger some notifications. But seeing as it's probably finished and ready for operation, it shouldn't be long before everybody can try this out for themselves.

New notification channel: Timeline notifications (x2?)

It's pretty normal for Maps to have new notification channels, but the new addition with this version is a little confusing. It's called Timeline notifications, but if you look just a few lines up in the screenshot, you'll notice another channel bearing the same name. I'm not sure if they are linked to the same thing or not, but I imagine one will be renamed soon enough.

Note: This notification channel was removed with the v9.63.1 update.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that plans could change or may be canceled entirely. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

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.

Bonus points for longer reviews

The point system used for Local Guides was greatly improved a few months ago when new levels were added and the point rewards for activities were restructured to be a little more fair to contributors that provided lots of photos, reviews, and other things that took more time than tapping on a star.

Unfortunately, there are now a couple of loopholes that incentivize lazy behavior, espeically with reviews. Skim through a few popular places and you're bound to see quite a few reviews that barely break 10 words and merely list some obvious details, but they hardly qualify as reviews. It looks like Google is about to change the curve a bit to encourage people to be a little more detailed with their comments. A few new lines point to bonus points that will be awarded for reviews exceeding a set length.

<string name="REVIEW_BONUS_POINTS_EARNED">+%dpts earned!</string>
<string name="REVIEW_BONUS_POINTS_EARNED_DESCRIPTION_FOR_ACCESSIBILITY">%d points earned</string>
<string name="REVIEW_BONUS_POINTS_ENCOURAGEMENT">Bonus points for %d\ncharacters and above</string>

The amount of the bonus and the minimum point at which you can receive it will be determined by the server, and I wouldn't doubt that it will be adapted based on user behavior and the language used for a review – we're looking at you, German.

Contributors should be able to justify the time to write more thoughtful reviews if the points make it a little more worthwhile. On the other hand, now people have a reason to write way too much before getting to the point. (I may be guilty of that from time to time.)

As a bonus, there's also this cool new image to go along with writing reviews.

More badges may be coming

You need look no further than the Local Guides program for an example of how a small amount of recognition for an achievement can inspire people to do more. At the time, the only badge you can earn in Google Maps is from Local Guides, but there may be a wider array becoming available. New text suggests there will be a new UI coming that will showcase your badges, plural.

strings
<string name="MAPS_BADGES_NOTIFICATION_SETTINGS_TITLE">Updates about your badges</string>
<string name="MAPS_BADGES_NOTIFICATION_SETTINGS_SUMMARY">Get updates about badges you can earn in Google Maps</string>
<string name="MAPS_BADGES_NOTIFICATION_OPT_OUT_TITLE">Updates about your badges</string>
<string name="MAPS_BADGES_NOTIFICATION_OPT_OUT_MESSAGE">You\'re getting updates about badges you can earn in Google Maps</string>

<string name="BADGES_EARNED_TITLE">Badges</string>
<string name="BADGES_DETAILS_PAGE_TITLE">Badges</string>
<string name="BADGES_LEVELS_DETAILS_BUTTON_DESCRIPTION">Badge levels details button</string>
<string name="BADGES_SHARE_CONTENT_DESCRIPTION">Share badge</string>
<string name="BADGE_INFO_DIALOG_TITLE">Badge Levels</string>
<string name="BADGE_SHARE_TITLE">%s is now a %s</string>

No specific badges are mentioned yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the traditional achievements represented here, like distance traveled by car or by foot, and maybe the number of countries or states you've been to.

Shared lists will get a follower count

This is a pretty small detail, but it looks like we're going to see follower counts on our shared lists. It's not showing up on my shared lists yet, so I assume this isn't live. Probably soon.

strings
<plurals name="LIST_COUNT_FOLLOWERS">
<item quantity="other">%d followers</item>
<item quantity="zero">%d followers</item>
<item quantity="one">%d follower</item>
<item quantity="two">%d followers</item>
<item quantity="few">%d followers</item>
<item quantity="many">%d followers</item>
</plurals>

Diwali celebration

If you celebrate Diwali, or at least live somewhere that does, you already know the festivities are only a few weeks away. The Hindu festival of lights will begin on October 19th this year, and Google Maps is getting ready. Several new lines of text were added in preparation for the event. This year, you'll be invited to "bring a rangoli to life" each day of the event. It's actually going to be pretty simple, you just tap the screen three times to fill a design with color.

strings
<string name="HAPPY_DIWALI_CONTENT_DESCRIPTION">Happy Diwali from Google Maps. Double tap to dismiss message and return to map.</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_RANGOLI_CONTENT_DESCRIPTION">Tap three times to colour</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_TITLE_GET_READY">Get ready for Diwali</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_TITLE_DIWALI_ON_THE_WAY">Diwali is on the way!</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_TITLE_DIWALI_IS_NEAR">Diwali is near!</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_TITLE_DIWALI_ALMOST_HERE">Diwali is almost here!</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_SUBTITLE_FIRST_TAP">Bring this rangoli to life. Tap it for a surprise</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_SUBTITLE_SECOND_TAP">Add more colours! Tap it again</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_SUBTITLE_THIRD_TAP">Add the last colour. Tap it one more time</string>
<string name="RANGOLI_CARD_SUBTITLE_RANGOLI_COMPLETED">Beautiful! Come back tomorrow for more.</string>
<string name="DIWALI_SEE_MAP_BUTTON_TEXT">See map</string>

Happy Diwali, everybody!

Download

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: 9.63.0 beta

Maps - Navigation & Transit
Maps - Navigation & Transit
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free