The full Google Maps experience is headed to your wrist. A series of updates to the Google Maps app and Android Wear seem to have added a new style of navigation, where the screen on a smartwatch is taken up by an entire map, showing your location and providing directional views using the compass.
However, before anyone gets too excited, it’s not a seamless, perfect experience just yet, and may not even be available on your device at all. According to a Reddit post, the new feature comes alive when your watch is running Android Wear 5.1.1, and version 9.9 of Google Maps is installed on the smartphone to which it’s connected.
Officially, Android Wear 5.1.1 is only available on the LG Watch Urbane, but there are ways to install it on other smartwatches, and one of the posters on Reddit has it setup on an Asus ZenWatch. At the time of writing, our Watch Urbane is all ready to go, but Google Maps is still at version 9.8.1, which means the feature isn’t enabled yet.
Android Central reports that it has got Google Maps operating on the Urbane, but says that while it looks great, it’s not working as one would hope. Apparently, it provides a top-down view for Maps, which can be scrolled around, and a pinch will zoom in on details. A set of zoom in/out buttons work in the same way, plus it all works in ambient mode too, when the map shows as a black and white outline on the screen.
Sadly, the app is plagued by crashes and instability, making it frustrating to use at the moment. Remember, the update isn’t available for everyone, and may simply be in the late stages of testing before Maps 9.9 is sent out on general release. We’ll keep a look out, and will update here once the feature goes live.
If you’ve got this latest version of Maps running on your Android Wear smartwatch, tell us about the experience in the comments below.