Hands on: Google Maps for Android gets a makeover and new card interface

Google Maps for Android - Cronuts

Ever since the I/O Conference back in May, Google Maps users have been anxiously awaiting the rollout of all the new features and changes that were promised to them. This Wednesday, Google opened the floodgates and unleashed the tidal wave of updates. Naturally, the first to get hit are Android users. Google is giving preferential treatment to the users of its own OS, though iPhone and iPad (iOS) users will get updates soon. How well does it work? Honestly, the only way you’re getting lost with Google Maps is if you’re too busy playing around with all its features.

GoogleMaps1Google Maps version 7 is one of the biggest updates the service has gotten in recent memory. It adds plenty of new features and modifies almost everything about the old app, starting with the interface. If you’re familiar with the Google Search app, you’ll already how the new cards of Google Maps work. These cards appear when you tap the search box, offering an Explore and Services card to help you find what you’re looking to find. For those new to cards, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Getting around in-app with these options is no problem.

Of course, you’ll want to get around on the road more than anything. The Maps updates aims to make that easier by giving you a clearer picture of what your route looks like. The Navigation feature now allows you to see your entire route, which is handier than ever thanks to Google populating the map with live traffic updates, road construction, and stoppages/road closures that you’ll want to avoid. If a better route becomes available to you, the app will notify you so you can change to the clearer path. We were surprised to see this work even when testing it in a smaller city , so it’s not just functioning in places like New York and Los Angeles.

If you manage to get caught in a jam anyway, or prepare ahead and plan out your trip before getting on the road (let us know what that’s like), you can find all of the gas stations, hotels, attractions, and restaurants you might need in Google Maps. Integration of Zagat, the popular location rating service, will give you an idea of what’s worth checking out wherever you’re going. Top locations will have a badge displayed on them, and Google offers some curated lists to give you suggestions of specific places to see.

GoogleMaps2As is customary for Google updates, when new features come out, old ones are packed away. That’s no exception here, though it’s not as big of a deal as some people have made of it. Latitude, the location check-in service from Google that was once featured fairly prominently in Google Maps, is gone. But the dozen people who used Latitude shouldn’t worry too much: they can still find it within the confines of Google+. This is yet another move by Google to slowly integrate everything into its social network service until its all but forced you to embrace it whether you want to or not.

The biggest absence people have noticed in this update is Google’s removal of offline maps. The feature is not actually gone, just hidden. We’ve already covered how to download cached maps for offline use in the new version, and it has since been revealed that offline maps has been added back as a “hidden feature” in Google Maps version 7 accessible by typing “OK Maps” into the search bar. The name is either a nod to Google Glass’ command words (“OK Glass”) or is a subtle bash of how inadequate offline maps are in comparison to Google Maps’ data-rich offering when connected to the Web. Regardless, it is still in your app, so you can stop panic-searching for a way to go back to the old version.

As a whole, the new Google Maps is pretty impressive. The new features that offer a more clear view of the road ahead while navigating are welcome and appear like they have the ability to be instant time savers for those that utilize them. The exclusion – or hiddenness – of previous features appear to be little more than minor inconveniences and aren’t outweighed by having things like Zagat-powered reviews and suggestions built in to the app. Users of Google Maps 7.0 can expect their road trips to go smoother and their roadside stops to be better. That’s pretty much the most you can ask for in a navigation app.

You can download Google Maps for free from the Google Play Store.

Product Review

In the 2019 Porsche Macan S, life starts after the "curves ahead" sign

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ Season 7 brings ziplines and airplanes as holiday gifts

The seventh season of Fortnite has arrived, and the holiday-themed update adds new weaponized airplanes to battle royale. The update also adds holiday wrapping for weapons and vehicles.
Gaming

Epic Games has stopped development on the new ‘Unreal Tournament’

The new version of Epic Games' Unreal Tournament has stopped development, the company tells Variety. The game will still be available to download for free but will not receive new updates.
Mobile

Google to end support for Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyone with an old phone that is still running Android 4.0 may want to look into upgrading their phone, as Google has announced that it will be ending support for this older version of Android.
Mobile

Amazon knocks $30 off its Paperwhite ebook reader in limited-time deal

Amazon is running a couple of limited-time deals for its Paperwhite ebook reader. One offers a $30 discount, while the other throws in a pair of headphones and a free, extended Audible trial.
Mobile

New Galaxy S10 leaks showcase display sizes, confirm headphone jack return

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Product Review

The iPad Pro is the best tablet ever. But don't sell your laptop just yet

Apple has unveiled a big redesign for the iPad Pro, slimming down the bezels, adding Face ID, and the ability to attach and charge the Apple Pencil. All of this comes at a high cost however, as the iPad Pro starts at $799.
Mobile

Android 9.0 updates to stretch into 2019 -- will your phone get a slice of Pie?

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

LG G7 owners experiencing dreaded bootloop will have to wait a few days for fix

If you’ve picked up LG’s flagship and it’s not behaving itself, then you might find a solution here. We’ve rounded up the most common LG G7 ThinQ problems and tracked down workarounds and possible fixes.
Mobile

A render video gives us a 360-degree look at the midrange Pixels

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.
Mobile

Honor to out-megapixel the competition with 48MP camera on upcoming View 20

After its phenomenal success with the View 10 in 2018, it looks like Honor is getting ready up the ante with its forthcoming Honor View 20. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Mobile

Xiaomi is preparing to set records with 48-megapixel phone camera

Bigger doesn't always mean better, but it certainly makes headlines. Chinese mobile giant Xiaomi is set to release a phone camera with a staggeringly large 48 megapixels on a single sensor.
Apple

Patent highlights Apple's sky-high ambitions for AirPower wireless charger

At its September event last year, Apple unveiled the AirPower -- its new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Deals

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.