Google has released a revamped Google Maps app for Android devices.
The app, which will eventually find its way to Apple’s iPhones and iPads, introduces a handful of new search and navigation features. There’s Explore, which allows the user to tap the search box and see a variety of cards with places to eat, drink, shop, and more. New crowdsourced reviews (based on a 5-star system) offer additional insight into locations on the map; Google has also integrated Zagat’s curated lists and “badges of excellence,” in case you don’t trust the wisdom of crowds.
On the traveling front, the app can alert the user to better routes in mid-journey, and warn of incidents on the road ahead. But just as important is what Google’s removing with this version of the app: first, there’s no longer an offline maps feature for Android. “Instead we’ve created a new way for you to access maps offline by simply entering ‘OK Maps’ into the search box when viewing the area you want for later,” read a July 10 note on Google’s official blog. “Finally, My Maps functionality is not supported in this release but will return to future versions of the app.”
Second, Google is sunsetting Latitude, its mobile app that allowed users to share their location with others. “We understand some of you still want to see your friends and family on a map, which is why we’ve added location sharing and check-ins to Google+ for Android (coming soon to iOS),” the blog posting added. “More details about Latitude and check-in changes can be found in our help center.”
Google, Apple, Nokia and other firms have expended considerable resources in the mapping space, snatching up navigation startups and spending millions in software-development costs. Google maintains a slight edge over other IT giants, having spent years accumulating mapping data and building the underlying software; as Apple proved when it launched its buggy Maps app with iOS 6, constructing a seamless mapping platform takes a lot of work. But in tech, a sizable lead can disappear in an instant, should a rival roll out a superior product; hence, Google’s drive to constantly update its mapping offerings.