For many people around the world, this is the holiday season. We're packing things up and hitting the road to visit family and friends. Most of us will put at least some part of our trip into Google's hands as we launch Maps and wait for it to tell us which turn to take next. A new version hit the beta channel yesterday to prepare for some of these road trips. There are a few new features and a boatload of items for a teardown.

Note: An unfortunate event resulted in the v9.67 update being skipped, so this post includes details for that version and v9.68.

What's New

Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)

  • v9.68
    • Indoor Maps displayed in detail pages
    • Picture-in-Picture dismissal hint
  • v9.67(.1)
    • Regular Routes toggle in Settings

Indoor Maps

Indoor maps are hardly new to Google Maps. In fact, Google began displaying indoor maps of many malls and airports all the way back in 2011. However, they weren't entirely obvious and many people never actually noticed which locations had indoor maps without zooming in. A teardown showed that Google was experimenting with reminder notifications, but that implementation was later removed before it launched to users.

Now indoor maps are getting a prominent and more accessible place where people will see them. Open the detail page for any place with an indoor map and scroll down to the area between the Q&A and the Popular Times. You'll now see the indoor map clearly displayed in that spot. Tapping on it will return you to the main map view with the indoor map centered on the screen.

Picture-in-Picture mode gets a helpful hint

Outside of video apps, there haven't been very many implementations of Picture-in-Picture mode, but Google Maps launched support pretty quickly with a useful mini-navigation window. The latest update adds a little bit of polish with a short hint that lets you know the window can be dismissed by dragging it to the bottom of the screen.

The hint only lasts for a few seconds, then fades away to show the standard navigation map, next turn, and the expected arrival time.

Directions using regular routes

As part of the launch of commuting, Maps has been working harder to understand which roads we travel to get to and from the places we go most often. Now that information might be useful for more than just commutes.

After the release of the v9.67, Google began rolling out a new option that lets users decide if Maps should give preference to regular routes when suggesting directions. This can be useful if you are more familiar or simply prefer one route over another, even if it might not be quite as short or as fast.

The regular routes option is enabled by default, but you can find it at Settings -> Personal content if you want to shut it off. Since this was activated remotely, it's possible not all users have the option yet, and it may not be available in all countries.

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.

Out of range warnings

No car can run forever, they've all got to stop and refuel at some point. That's doubly true for electric cars, which have to find special charging stations when they're on the road. Google Maps is already great for searching along your route and adding stops, but if you can't make it all the way to your destination in one go, it's important to know that up front. The Maps team is working on a new feature that can let you know if your car may not be able to make the journey and offer to find a place to recharge along the way.

<string name="CAR_EV_MAY_BE_OUT_OF_RANGE_TTS">You may not have enough charge to reach your next destination, please find a charging station along your route.</string>
<string name="CAR_EV_OUT_OF_RANGE_TTS">You don\'t have enough charge to reach your next destination, please find a charging station along your route.</string>

<string name="CAR_MAY_BE_OUT_OF_RANGE">Your destination may be out of range.</string>
<string name="CAR_OUT_OF_RANGE">Your destination is out of range.</string>

<string name="CAR_LOW_RANGE_FIND_STATIONS">Find stations</string>
<string name="CAR_LOW_RANGE_REMAINING_RANGE">%s remaining</string>

Just to be clear, it's possible this feature will also work for those of us still using fossil fuels, but the text and how it's used currently lead me to think that this is intended for electric vehicles.

Edit (December 10th): New information confirms this feature is meant to work with both electric cars fuel-based cars.

The text is split into some lines that clearly state that you can't make it to your destination and others that hedge on the possibility. No doubt this is to account for different driving habits, traffic, lots of steep roads, and other unforeseen conditions that might impact your efficiency. Regardless, you're probably taking a big risk by ignoring either warning.

There's one obvious question to consider with a feature like this: How does Google Maps know how far you can go? I haven't seen any specific clues in the APK to answer that, but it's likely this requires data directly from a car, and that means there would have to be direct integration of some type. Alternatively, this could be using some clever behavior tracking and analysis algorithms, and we've all seen what Google can do with those. However it's done, this is definitely a cool, and very smart feature for drivers.

Public transit guidance through notifications

If you're weaving through subway terminals and stepping off of one train just to get on another, you might not want to have Google Maps open every step of the way. Not only will it reveal your status as a tourist, it might flag you as an easy target for thieves. If you're playing it safe, you might want to keep your phone out and simply watch as new instructions pop up as notifications.

Disclaimer: I live really far from the nearest mass transit, and I haven't tried any of this in a very long time, so I'm not sure quite how much is already operational.

Judging by a huge batch of new strings, Google Maps will be adding some new functionality to make it easier to navigate through transit stations and get on the right busses and trains, and it will all be visible through notifications. None of the instructions look particularly new, they are simply customized to fit notifications a little more comfortably so you'll have fewer instructions that wrap to a new line or cutting off before the end.

strings
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_ARRIVE_TIME">Arrive at %1$s (%2$s)</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ACCESSIBILITY_NEXT_STEP">Next step</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ACCESSIBILITY_PREVIOUS_STEP">Previous step</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ACTION_STOP">End trip</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ARRIVE">You have arrived!</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ARRIVE_DESCRIPTION_REVIEW">to %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ARRIVE_DESTINATION_LEFT">Your destination is on the left</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ARRIVE_DESTINATION_RIGHT">Your destination is on the right</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ARRIVE_TIME">At destination by %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ARRIVE_TITLE_REVIEW">Arrive at %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_DEPARTS"> departs</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_DEPARTURES">Departures</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_ERROR">An error occurred during trip guidance</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_FROM">from %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_GET_OFF">Get off at %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_LEAVE">Leave in %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_LEAVE_DESCRIPTION">for %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_LEAVE_REVIEW">Leave at %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_NEXT_STOP_DESCRIPTION">Next stop (%1$s)</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_NO_GPS">No GPS</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_NOW">Now</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_PERIODIC_DEPARTS_EVERY"> departs every %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_PERIODIC_DEPARTURES_EVERY">Departures every %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_RIDE">Ride to %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_RIDE_DESCRIPTION">%1$s (%2$s)</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_TAKE">Take</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_TITLE">Transit guidance notification</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_WALK">Walk to %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_NOTIFICATION_WALK_TO_DESTINATION">About %1$s (%2$s)</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_SEGMENT_TRANSIT_RIDE_DURATION">Ride about %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_SEGMENT_TRANSIT_RIDE_STOPS_DURATION">Ride %1$s (About %2$s)</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_STOP_EXISTING_TRIP">You have an ongoing trip to %s. Do you want to end that trip and start guidance for this route instead?</string>

<string name="TRANSIT_PERIODICITY_IN_NOTIFICATION_MULTIPLE_LINE">Departures every %1$s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_PERIODICITY_IN_NOTIFICATION_SINGLE_LINE">Departs every %1$s</string>

<string name="TRANSIT_REROUTE_NOTIFICATION_TITLE">Reroute</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_REROUTE_NOTIFICATION_TITLE_TEXT">Route no longer viable?</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_REROUTE_NOTIFICATION_TEXT">Tap for new options.</string>

<string name="TRANSIT_STEPTHROUGH_GET_OFF_AT">Get off at %1$s</string>

<string name="ACCESSIBILITY_TRANSIT_GUIDANCE_OFF">Turn transit trip guidance off</string>

New layouts:
/layout/transit_guidance_actions.xml
/layout/transit_guidance_content.xml
/layout/transit_guidance_next_previous.xml
/layout/transit_guidance_notification.xml

With some basic comparisons with the existing instructions for navigating public transit, it looks like this may be slightly improved and the instructions are a little more precise. However, since I have no way to test or see quite what this looks like, I'll leave it to readers to fill in some of the blanks down in the comments.

Update optimizations for offline maps

Offline maps are great for those with unreliable, slow, or expensive data service. However, keeping a huge collection of maps stored on your phone is a waste if you're not using them. A new message indicates that Maps may begin backing off on the regular updates to unused maps.

<string name="OFFLINE_MAPS_SETTINGS_AUTOMATICALLY_UPDATE_SUMMARY">To save you space and data, only recently used maps will be updated</string>

The message is a bit unclear by saying that only recently used maps will be updated, but it doesn't explain what "use" is or what will happen to unused maps. Does it expect the Maps app to actually be used in a given period, or is it sufficient if you simply enter the areas covered by your offline maps? And if a map is considered unused by this rule, will it be expired and removed from the device or will it be allowed to remain there and get updates once it's used again?

So far, this message doesn't seem to appear anywhere that I've checked or with any settings I've changed, but I don't have any unused offline maps laying around, so it might not have shown up for me anyway. If you normally keep a few offline maps of rarely traveled regions, keep an eye out for possible changes to the offline behavior, just in case it does the wrong thing and leaves you lost.

Friendly GPS messages

If you're dealing with a spotty GPS signal, it looks like Maps may begin showing a couple of friendlier and helpful messages. Reconnections will be met with "There you are!" while dropped connections will tell you that the signal was "Lost just now" or include a timeframe if the signal doesn't come back immediately.

<string name="GPS_SIGNAL_STATUS_GPS_BACK_TITLE">There you are!</string>
<string name="GPS_SIGNAL_STATUS_GPS_BACK_DESCRIPTION">GPS signal found</string>
<string name="GPS_SIGNAL_STATUS_NO_GPS">No GPS signal</string>
<string name="GPS_SIGNAL_STATUS_NO_GPS_DURATION">Lost %1$s ago</string>
<string name="GPS_SIGNAL_STATUS_NO_GPS_JUST_NOW">Lost just now</string>

Proper names for administrative divisions

If the title of this section has you snoring already, I don't blame you. In short, if you've seen a term like 'postal code' where another word is technically correct, that's probably about to be fixed, or may already be fixed in some screens. A set of accurate terms has been added that should cover many of the variations around the world, including: Oblast, Post Town, Postal Code, Prefecture, Province, and ZIP Code.

strings
<string name="OBLAST">Oblast</string>
<string name="POST_TOWN">Post Town</string>
<string name="POSTAL_CODE">Postal Code</string>
<string name="PREFECTURE">Prefecture</string>
<string name="PROVINCE">Province</string>
<string name="ZIP_CODE">ZIP Code</string>
<string name="INVALID_OBLAST">Enter valid oblast</string>
<string name="INVALID_POST_TOWN">Enter valid post town</string>
<string name="INVALID_POSTAL_CODE">Enter valid postal code</string>
<string name="INVALID_PREFECTURE">Enter valid prefecture</string>
<string name="INVALID_PROVINCE">Enter valid province</string>
<string name="INVALID_ZIP_CODE">Enter valid ZIP Code</string>

Ring in 2018 with location sharing

A promotional reminder will be coming up in a few weeks as the world prepares for some New Year's Eve parties. If you'll be at a large event and want to help others find you amidst the crowd, Google wants you to know that you can share your location by tapping on the blue dot in Maps. But I'm sure you all knew that already, so this one is mostly for your friends and family that don't read Android Police.

<string name="LOCATION_SHARING_NYE_PROMO_TITLE">Ring in 2018 together</string>
<string name="LOCATION_SHARING_NYE_PROMO_TEXT">Tap the blue dot to share your location with family &amp; friends</string>

Fare breakdown

If you call for an Uber on NYE, you're probably not going to be surprised when the bill costs more than it did on a random thursday night during the slow hours. It looks like Maps may be showing a more detailed breakdown of fares.

strings
<string name="HIGH_FARE_DIALOG_TITLE">Confirm your fare %1$s</string>
<string name="HIGH_FARE_DIALOG_SUBTITLE">Due to demand, fares are higher than usual</string>
<string name="HIGH_FARE_DIALOG_ACCEPT_BUTTON_TEXT">Accept</string>
<string name="HIGH_FARE_DIALOG_CANCEL_BUTTON_TEXT">Cancel</string>
<string name="CONTENT_DESCRIPTION_CONFIRM_SCREEN_FARE_BREAKDOWN">Tap to open fare breakdown</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_TITLE">Fare breakdown</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_BASE_FARE">Base fare</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_BOOKING_FEE">Booking fee</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_DISCLAIMER">Your fare will be the price presented upon booking or based on the rates above and other applicable surcharges and adjustments.</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_MINIMUM_FARE">Minimum fare</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_PER_KILOMETER_COST">+ per kilometer</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_PER_MILE_COST">+ per mile</string>
<string name="FARE_BREAKDOWN_PER_MINUTE_COST">+ per minute</string>

Follow-up: Start screen shortcuts

A teardown back in August turned up some text related to setting up shortcuts, or at least that seems to have been the intent. Recent updates have added even more text, suggesting that users will be able to customize quite a bit about their experience in Maps. The new lines indicate that the vast majority of different screens in the app will be supported, including everything from your photos and reviews to opening a list of your starred places.

strings
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_ADD_LABEL">Add</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_FAVORITE_PLACES">Favorites</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_LABELED_PLACES">Labeled places</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_SAVED_PLACES">Saved places</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_STARRED_PLACES">Starred places</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_UPCOMING_PLACES">Upcoming places</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_WANT_TO_GO_PLACES">Want to go</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_YOUR_EDITS">Your edits</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_YOUR_PHOTOS">Your photos</string>
<string name="START_SCREEN_YOUR_SHORTCUTS_YOUR_REVIEWS">Your reviews</string>

<string name="YOUR_SHORTCUTS_GROUP_TITLE_GETTING_AROUND">Getting around</string>
<string name="YOUR_SHORTCUTS_GROUP_TITLE_IMPORTANT_ROUTES">Important routes</string>
<string name="YOUR_SHORTCUTS_GROUP_TITLE_SEARCH_NEARBY">Search nearby</string>
<string name="YOUR_SHORTCUTS_GROUP_TITLE_YOUR_CONTRIBUTIONS">Your contributions</string>
<string name="YOUR_SHORTCUTS_GROUP_TITLE_YOUR_PLACES">Your places</string>

If any one of these features is something you open frequently, this should give you the freedom to put it front and center. It's still not really clear if this is meant to create old school shortcuts for your launcher, fill in some of the unused slots made available through App Shortcuts (Android 7.1 and above), or if these are just set to be buttons visible in the Maps app once it's open. Nothing appears to be live yet, so we'll keep watching for this one since it's likely to be a pretty useful feature once it's up and running.

Wait for Wi-Fi

Maps may be giving contributors an opportunity to rethink photo and video uploads before they burn through their cellular plans. New text shows that posts containing pictures and video can be put on hold until the device reaches a usable Wi-Fi connection. This looks like a prompt, so you should be able to bypass it and continue uploading through mobile data if you choose to.

strings
<string name="WAIT_FOR_WIFI_SWITCH_TITLE">Wait for Wi-Fi before uploading</string>
<string name="WAIT_FOR_WIFI_SWITCH_INFO_TOOLTIP_MESSAGE">Save mobile data by turning this on before posting</string>
<string name="WAIT_FOR_WIFI_SWITCH_INFO_TOOLTIP_ACCESSIBILITY_MESSAGE">Wait for Wi-Fi before uploading. Activate to know more.</string>

<string name="WAIT_FOR_WIFI_SWITCH_ON_DIALOG_TITLE">You\'ll post only on Wi-Fi</string>
<string name="WAIT_FOR_WIFI_SWITCH_ON_DIALOG_MESSAGE">After you post photos and videos using the button at the top, they\'ll be uploaded as soon as you\'re connected to Wi-Fi</string>

Reviews are getting counters for views and likes

Let's be honest, if you've submitted photos to Maps, you probably enjoy the occasional reminder that your contributions are getting views. The same incentive appears to be coming soon to your reviews. New text shows that review cards will contain counters for the number of likes and views each has received.

<plurals name="REVIEW_CARD_LIKES_COUNT">
<item quantity="other">%s likes</item>
<item quantity="one">%s like</item>
</plurals>
<plurals name="REVIEW_CARD_VIEWS_COUNT">
<item quantity="other">%s views</item>
<item quantity="one">%s view</item>
</plurals>

It's becoming pretty obvious that the Maps team is planning a big change to reviews, especially to encourage higher quality. Teardowns have also provided insight that longer reviews will be worth more points and that it may switch from the 5-star rating system to a basic thumbs-up/down vote. With the addition of visible counters, reviewers will be able to get a simple form of feedback from readers.

Fullscreen and compact review editor

While we're on the subject of reviews, there is one last addition to mention quickly. A new line explains that a button will switch the review editor into fullscreen mode. However, since the review editor is already fullscreen, this must mean there's a new editor coming that will begin as a floating dialog, or maybe inline with the detail page for a business.

<string name="FULLSCREEN_REVIEW_EDITOR_BUTTON_DESCRIPTION">Expand to fullscreen review editor for %1$s</string>

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: 9.68.0 beta

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