It might be hard to believe, but the Google Maps we know and love launched 10 years ago today. Before Android, Chrome, Google Plus, Youtube, and most of the other services that make up the core of the Google experience, we had Maps. And while it might be saying too much to argue that Maps led the way to Google's recent successes, it is certainly under-appreciated for its role.
Google Maps wasn't the first online map service. It also didn't obviously relate to Google's claim to fame: search. It's important to remember that by 2005, Google was no start-up anymore.
Coming with the latest Google Maps update is Local Guides, a new program meant to increase the number of reviews original to Google and highlight the best of them. It is both a feature addition to Maps and something that exists independently of it. Guides are people who will be rewarded for their reviews, while you benefit by having them as a more credible source of information.
This looks similar to Yelp's Elite Reviewers, which is...well, similar. See below for an Elite Yelper in my area. Given that Google has decided to compete with Yelp, it makes sense that they'd want to do this.
The Maps team has been on a roll ever since the Material makeover early last month. None of the new features are inherently huge, but there is some serious fine-tuning going on. With the release of v9.1, businesses and landmark pages became more informative. The trend continues in v9.2 as there are new improvements to the interface for Navigation and search.
Google just updated the changelog on the Play Store page for Maps. A couple of these features look familiar and may have already been around, but not necessarily announced until now.
• Filter search results for restaurants by cuisine type
• See your Google contacts when searching for addresses
• Business owners, claim your listing page to manage your presence on Maps
• Bug fixes
The biggest change in this release can be found buried in the settings screen, about half-way down the list.
Google Maps is one of those apps that will always have an enormous number of potential new features, so it's interesting to see the things Google is focusing on with each new release. We just saw an update to v9.2 with new navigation settings and auto-correct for searches, but there are plenty of other really interesting additions in the works. Let's take a look at some of the features we might have to look forward to. It's time for a teardown.
Disclaimer: Teardowns are, by their nature, speculative and based on incomplete evidence. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong.
OK, European readers. We know Google doesn't always put a rush on features and products outside of the United States. America got lane guidance (which tells you which lane to get into before you approach a turn or exit) way back in May. It looks like US roads were the only ones on which this feature was available, at least until yesterday, when Google announced lane guidance for some European countries on the official Google Europe blog.
Specifically, users in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland now have access to lane guidance while turn-by-turn navigation is active.
Most of us don't want to think of Android without Google Play services. There's a good reason for that, without all of the tools Google offers, we would miss out on features like push notifications, integrated maps, and even newer things like Google Fit. Developers keep asking for more and Google is answering that call. With the latest release of Google Play services, new features are coming to Fit, Maps, Drive, And Wallet. Also, when the SDK lands, it will finally answer the single most common complaint from developers: that the GMS library is just too damn big.
Maps will receive the lion's share of new features with Play services v6.5.
I'd like to take a moment to both thank and blame Google. Thank you, Google, for offering a free and accurate method of maps and navigation, making it easy to find almost any address quickly and precisely. Also, it's your fault that I never actually know where I am anymore, since I just go where my phone tells me to. Now Google Maps users in no less than twenty new countries around the world can have the same experience.
It looks like this expansion is aimed primarily at boosting Google's navigation coverage in Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, though there are a few outliers like Nepal and Malta.