A new version of Google Maps began rolling out this week. Unlike most recent releases, this one doesn't seem to be packed to the gills with new features. Even the teardown brings a fairly minimal number of clues for new things. Nevertheless, it looks like Google may be adding battery stats to shared locations and lining up several small-ish improvements to mass transit support.
Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)
- Screenshot button on detail pages
Left: Detail page w/ new screenshot button. Center: Old share button. Right: v9.71 Share button.
In our teardown of Maps v9.70, there was a short section about some new text for a screenshot tool. Earlier today, we received a screenshot showing that it's appearing for some users. The screenshot button replaces the share button on the far right in the Overview tab, just below the tab strip.
This may be a staged rollout, or the Maps team could be doing an A/B test. Even Marcel, the source of the screenshot above, only has the screenshot button on one of two phones. Whatever the case, it seems that this probably isn't going to be live for most people. – Thanks, Marcel Mayer!
As a quick note, the update to v9.71 changes the text of that button to read "Share place" instead of just "Share." Not an important change, but worth mentioning here since we're already talking about that spot.
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.
Location sharing will display battery stats
If you're trying to find a friend at an event or waiting for somebody to drive over and meet you, location sharing can be a great tool. However, sometimes it helps to know how long you can count on being able to see where they're at. Some new text in the Maps app suggests it will begin communicating battery level and charging status along with your location.
The basic format will read like, "Brian's battery level is between 50% and 75% and is charging." If for some reason the battery level can't be determined, perhaps due to outdated information or maybe permission hasn't been granted, it will simply say, "Brian's battery level is unknown."
<string name="BATTERY_LEVEL_KNOWN_AND_NOT_CHARGING_ACCESSIBILITY_TEXT">%s\'s battery level is between %s%% and %s%% and is not charging.</string>
<string name="BATTERY_LEVEL_UNKNOWN_ACCESSIBILITY_TEXT">%s\'s battery level is unknown</string>
I've tested location sharing with two devices running v9.71, but it looks like the battery level isn't showing up yet. Since these lines are labeled as accessibility text, they may be used to complement a visual display that includes the battery level and a charging symbol.
Mass transit: Shortcuts to favorite stations
Mass transit is fundamentally important in many cities and Google Maps has thoroughly embraced it with an ever-growing set of features to enhance the navigation experience. A few months ago, a little bit of text revealed that it may be possible to select a preferred station near home, likely to make commuting suggestions a bit smarter. The latest update brings text that suggests users will be encouraged to create shortcuts to commonly used stations.
<string name="TRANSIT_STATION_CREATE_SHORTCUT_MENU_ITEM">Create shortcut to %1$s</string>
It's not really clear if these shortcuts will be classic shortcuts on the launcher or if they'll use the start screen shortcuts that have been in development for a while. Both make sense, but each caters to a different use case, mostly determined by whether or not a user is already inside of the app or coming to it from the launcher.
Mass transit: Arrival times and sharing your trips
Google has been making some cool inroads with navigation through transit stations. The latest big addition was the addition of step-by-step instructions delivered entirely by notifications. It seems a new addition to that system may be a notification that informs users about their arrival along with the exact time.
If you happen to be on your way to a destination, or possibly already there, you may also want to let others know you're there. It seems as though users will also have a simple button to share their trips with others.
Mass transit commuting v2
If you love mass transit for commuting, get ready to love it a little more... or maybe complain about what's wrong with it. Transit commuting appears to be getting a rewrite. A handful of new lines with "v2" in the name have turned up in the latest release. They aren't particularly revealing of any new feature, they just relate to getting alternative suggestions for departure times and routes to various destinations. Nevertheless, there are changes in the works, so an updated experience may be on the way.
<string name="TRANSIT_COMMUTE_V2_MORE_DEPARTURES">More departures</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_COMMUTE_V2_MORE_DEPARTURES_CONTENT_DESCRIPTION">More departures to %s from %s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_COMMUTE_V2_MORE_ROUTES_BUTTON_CONTENT_DESCRIPTION">More routes to %s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_COMMUTE_V2_TIME_TO_DESTINATION_CONTENT_DESCRIPTION">%s at %s</string>
<string name="TRANSIT_COMMUTE_V2_TITLE_CONTENT_DESCRIPTION">Routes to %s</string>
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: 9.71.0 beta