For many, Google Maps has become an indispensable tool for finding restaurants, exploring new cities, sightseeing, and navigation. Some younger folks probably can't imagine a world without the service, but yet, Maps has only turned 15 today. To celebrate the occasion, Google has refreshed its product with a new icon, a redesign, and improved bottom bar categories.
The most obvious change is the new icon you'll see on your home screen once the update arrives on your phone. The map has disappeared from the logo, leaving only the pin. It sports the same colorful corporate identity as other recent redesigns, like News, Fit, Home, or Lens.
To celebrate the birthday, Maps will also receive a "party-themed" car icon for a limited time when you navigate.
Once you enter the redesigned application, you'll notice that the number of bottom bar shortcuts has grown from three to five and that the hamburger menu is gone. The Explore and Commute sections remain intact, but Google has removed the For you shortcut in favor of Saved, Contribute, and Updates. Saved boots you right into the Your places section that used to sit in the hamburger menu, making a much-used feature more easily accessible. The same is true for Contribute. Meanwhile, Updates is a consolidation of the old For you shortcut and the Following section and is "a feed of trending, must-see spots from local experts and publishers," as Google calls it.
The new Google account switcher in the top right corner will let you access the rest of the missing entries from the hamburger menu, like Your Timeline, location sharing, and offline maps.
The new bottom navigation makes it easier to find your way around Maps.
Google has also teased improvements to Live View, the AR-powered walking navigation mode it introduced last year. A new button will soon appear when you search for places that allows you to enter Live View without navigation. The feature will let you see where and how far away the location is in the real world.
Live View will help you find nearby locations by showing them in an AR overlay.
Starting in March, Google also wants to roll out public transport crowdedness predictions internationally, a feature that estimates how full your bus or tram will be on your way to work thanks to the aggregation of user reports. After using transit navigation, you might be asked to fill out surveys that help Google collect and analyze data not only on crowdedness, but also on temperature, accessibility, security onboard, and the number of carriages available. This has previously only been available in about 200 cities around the globe.
Google has additionally prepared several blog posts for Maps' birthday. Check them out to get an overview of the service's history, a collection of the best 15 Street Views, the Maps team's plans for the next 15 years, and Sundar Pichai's reflection on the last 15 years of mapping the world. The CEO has also shared a map of his top 18 vegetarian burrito spots all around the globe.
We've already got our first glance at the redesigned app sans rethought icon back in December last year when Google tested the new UI with a few users in the wild. As far as we can tell, not too much has changed between then and now, with the exception that we'll see a wide rollout across Android and iOS starting today.
Screenshots of the new version
First people report they've received the new icon as part of an app update, but the redesigned UI isn't active for everyone on that latest version just yet — it looks like it's a server-side change.
To make the jarring transition away from the hamburger menu easier, Google has included a clever grayed-out version of the button in the new design that shows hints where the sidebar content has moved when you tap it.
Maps' birthday car
Google promised us a birthday-themed car icon for navigation, and we've now got a screenshot that shows the easter egg in action. The Maps team fittingly chose Google's self-driving prototype as the model, which goes to show that the company continues to put weight behind its vision of a driver-less future.
Redesigned interface rolling out widely
We've received tips that the five bottom tabs and the new Google Account switcher are starting to roll out widely at the moment. Just head to your Google Maps app to see if you've got the rethought interface, too. You can also take a glimpse at the redesign in the screenshots above.