In early May, Google released a new version of the browser-based Google Maps, as well as the Google Maps app for iOS and Android devices. Drivers and commuters will benefit from new features like lane guidance and the useful integration of Street View.
The latest version of Google Maps is a welcome improvement for drivers and commuters who use the Google Maps to navigate their journeys. Google Maps now features an improved search function, integration of 'Street View' and new options to discover public transport routes, walking routes and cycling paths.
Google also promises that the new Google Maps will improve with use: the more frequently the individual user selects maps, searches for content, rates businesses and facilities and interacts with other users, the more accurate and focussed upon the individual's interests Google claim the search results will bei.
A more useful and flexible app
The Google Maps app for Android and iOS has received a few key upgrades, which has increased the app's appeal as a free alternative to its paid competitors.
App users in the US, Canada and Japan will benefit from the inclusion of a lane guidance feature, which provides users with instructions on which lane to stay in or switch to during navigation modeii.
Australian drivers who are looking for a paid navigation app that supports lane guidance can download alternatives such as TomTom Australia ($59.99, iOS or $35.99, Android)iii,iv or MetroView GPS Navigation ($23.99, iOS or $19.80, Android)v.
The updated Google Maps app now features better integration of 'Street View'. Popular tourist destinations, restaurants and bars can be viewed in 'Street View' mode within the app, allowing drivers to familiarise themselves with a destination before departingvi.
Public transport users can now specify departure and arrival times when searching for public transport directions. The intuitiveness of this feature has also improved, with the app now taking timing factors into account to give travellers enough time to make transport connectionsii.
Improved browser-based functionality
The new browser-based version of Google Maps is more responsive; upon entering an address or business name in the search box, Google Maps will begin to zoom in on the relevant search area. Search results appear immediately on the map, signified by pins, which can be hovered over - in the case of businesses - for customer reviews. If the search result selected on the map is, for example, a restaurant or a point of interest such as a public recreation area, a breakout box will display images of the point of interest, contact and booking details where applicable.
If the user is signed into a Google account, Google Maps is able to generate route information from their favourite saved locations to search result locations. Once a place has been saved by the user as a favourite, it appears on the map as a star symbol; other favourite places such as 'Home' and 'Work' can also be saved with designated symbols.
The new Google Maps allows users to include multiple stopping points within a single journey plan. This feature is particularly handy for drivers who use the browser-based Google Maps to plan their journeys.
Users can now immediately compare different routes and modes of travel to their selected destination including estimates of travel times and traffic conditions. Walkers and cyclists are also offered useful information such as a general terrain description, for example whether a route is flat or hilly. Cyclists can immediately select mapping showing all bicycle paths: whether bicycle trails, dedicated lanes or "bicycle friendly" roads.
A new perspective
A 3D perspective of certain locations has been made available for browser-based users thanks to the integration of Earth View (not available in all locations or on older browsers). Street View imagery now carries a date stamp, which is useful as street imagery can either be quite recent, or several years old.
The visual overhaul of Google Maps is a big change, but so are the new features of the application. It's worth upgrading your app or checking out the browser-based version to take advantage of the new features.
Watch a demonstration of the new features of Google Maps' desktop version.