Google's developers are back to work now that the holidays (and CES) are over, and the first major app update is here. Maps v9.19 is out and it brings a host of pretty awesome new features. There is a new settings screen for your timeline that gives a bit more control over its operation and what is shown. A new audio toggle has been added to the navigation modes so it's a little easier to quickly shut off those over zealous turn-by-turn notifications. And there's a new driving mode that uses Google's knowledge of your habits and search history to predict where you're going during a drive and volunteer useful information as you drive—if you can get it enabled, that is.
Google Now is genius... most of the time. When you first enable it, it takes a couple of days to get started then it figures out where you live, work, go to the gym, and your other favorite places. Then it starts letting you know how long it'll take you to get to those places depending on the time of day and your previous history of travels to that location.
The problem with Google Now's predictions though is that sometimes they can be inaccurate from the start or take a little longer to adapt to change. Moved your home? Switched jobs?
If you saw our post about last month's update to Maps, you may remember a teardown showed hotels would soon gain listings for amenities. Google didn't keep us waiting for long; amenities can now be viewed on many hotel listings and in search results. As usual, we've got the download links below if you don't want to wait for the slow rollout to hit your device.
As a former student of archaeology, Machu Picchu is a place that has always fascinated me. As someone direly afraid of heights, Machu Picchu is a place I will almost certainly never go, barring the invention of personal air transport. As such, today I was quite pleased to learn that Google's globetrotting street view team has mapped the ancient city-temple-palace-agrarian-center with a backpack of many, many cameras.
Machu Picchu sits nearly 8000 feet above sea level, and its real purpose still largely eludes archaeologists and ancient historians to this day. While it's clear it housed royalty and peasants alike, was used for religious purposes, commerce, and extensive agriculture, exactly why it made sense to the Inca to build what essentially amounted to a mountaintop city remains unclear.
No matter how much we use our Android devices, there are tips and tricks that we don't discover until someone shares them with us and we hit ourselves on the head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" One example is how to enable traffic view in Google Maps in countries and areas where the app says it isn't available.
Live traffic is officially enabled in about 50 countries in the world, and the rest of us often have to just start driving and then discover that the route we picked was jam packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Some countries have a local solution in terms of a standalone app or traffic provider, but that isn't as universal and integrated of a solution as Google Maps.
Google announced yesterday on their Lat Long Blog that the Local Guides program would be receiving one of the largest updates since its inception. Local Guides is a global community of people who love to contribute to Google Maps. These contributions come in the form of writing reviews, uploading photos, adding new places, answering questions, and fixing data about businesses. Millions of people around the world rely on information in Google Maps every day to navigate to their destination or choose where they want to eat dinner, so having more information at their disposal can only be a good thing. Becoming a Local Guide is as easy as visiting this sign-up page.
Offline navigation and search (and a few other things) are now legitimate features in Google Maps, even if most of us can't use them until our individual accounts are blessed by Mountain View. I get it, I'm in the same boat. Even though there are quite a few additions in this update, it seems that a couple of things didn't quite make the cut; but there are bits and pieces that show they're in the works. A teardown shows that we're probably going to see prices for different types of fuel, rather than just regular.
Several years ago Google introduced the ability to use Google Maps offline, sort of. You could save portions of an area, but you couldn't use navigation, nor could you do much else. It was more of a tease than a practical feature.
At this year's I/O, Google announced that better things were on the way. Soon, the company said, we would get offline search. We would get turn-by-turn navigation.
Nearly half a year later, Google has now officially rolled out the functionality. The feature is making its way to devices. If you cannot wait, you're in luck, because we have the APK available for download at the end of this post.
Back at Google I/O earlier this year, Google teased offline maps and turn-by-turn navigation in Google Maps, a feature that many of us have wanted for a long, long time. Today, that feature comes to fruition.
As of today's Maps update, users will be able to save specific areas to their devices when they know that they'll be in an area with poor data coverage. When an unacceptable connection is detected, Maps will automatically switch to offline mode; turn-by-turn directions, searches, store hours, and the like will all continue to be available.
You'll be able to grab the desired areas by searching for a city, county, or country, then tapping the "download" button on the card.
It's nice to stop every once in a while and realize just how much Google search has improved over the years. For quite a while, Google didn't really prioritize time-sensitive content versus regular content when it crawled the web. This meant breaking news stories were cached about as frequently as Wikipedia entries on the history of the Roman Empire. That didn't really change until the events of September 11, when Google realized people who were searching for news on the attacks were instead being greeted with tourist information for the World Trade Center.
All these small improvements are hard to notice individually, but they really add up over time.