Apple Maps prioritizes searches that matter more during pandemic

Apple Maps for mobile has reprioritized the categories in its search list so that it now focuses more on those that have taken on greater importance during the coronavirus crisis.

It means that now you’ll find buttons for groceries, food delivery, pharmacies, hospitals, and urgent care at the top of the page, placing them ahead of other search options such as restaurants, fast food, and gas stations.

Sure, it’s a small change in the grand scheme of things, but it makes it that little bit easier for users to zone in on the important stuff more quickly, while also allowing Apple to show its ability to respond to fast-changing situations on the ground.

In a similar move, Google Maps recently rejigged its search carousel with a similar aim in mind. So now, when you open up the Maps app, you’ll find that the buttons for delivery and takeout have been moved front and center, enabling you to find local providers in a single tap.

Prioritizing such services in these challenging times not only helps customers, but also businesses that may be struggling, among them restaurants in lockdown zones that at the current time can only offer takeout and delivery.

In other changes related to the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, Google Maps added an option for businesses hit by the lockdowns to add a “temporarily closed” label to its listing. The information shows in Google Search results, too.

Both Apple and Google have also been busy working on new tools prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple, for example, launched an online screening tool (web and iOS app) that lets you check whether you might be infected with the virus, and whether you’re at the point where treatment is required. It also updated Siri to help you work out the seriousness of your symptoms if you suspect they’re caused by the virus. Simply ask: “Do I have the coronavirus?” and answer the questions that follow.

Google, meanwhile, recently launched a site offering information and resources about COVID-19. You’ll find explanations about the virus, information about its symptoms, and advice on treatment. You’ll also find tips on prevention, and a link to a map showing confirmed coronavirus cases by country as well as each U.S. state.

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