Whether your navigating the Adirondacks or tracking down that hip new bar everyone’s talking about, Google Maps has your back. It’s packed to the brim with useful features like a speed indicator, turn-by-turn navigation, and parking reminder. And starting today, it’s getting location sharing.
Location sharing isn’t novel. Waze boasts location-sharing features, as does Glympse. And Google’s own Latitudes app, which the search giant retired in 2013, let you share your real-time whereabouts with friends. But there’s something to be said for convenience. With close to 95 million users (according to ComScore), Maps is Google’s most-used app after YouTube and the fourth most used app overall. In other words, you likely know a friend who’s used it once or twice.
And sharing your location with that friend is now as simple as a tap. Within Maps, touching the blue “Share location” icon via the app’s side menu will serve up a menu from which you can specify with whom you want to share your location. You can broadcast your whereabouts for a set period of time (between 15 minutes and 3 days) or indefinitely. And if you opt for the latter, you’ll receive an email every two or three weeks to remind you that it’s on.
You’re not restricted to people in your Google contacts list. You beam a link to your location via email or text, but links are restricted to time-based sharing — they expire once a specified amount of time has elapsed.
Once you’ve shared your location with a privileged circle, you’ll be able to see which folks you’ve granted access to in the app’s Location Sharing screen. When someone shares their location with you, you’ll have the option of reciprocating by sharing your own location, or pulling up directions to the person’s address.
There’s more. You can hide friends on the map who’ve shared their location, and “unhide” them when you choose. Obsessive types (and parents) can pin a person’s location to their home screen for speedier access. And if you’re navigating to a spot using Maps’ turn-by-turn features, you can send friends your real-time location and expected arrival time.
The new Google Maps also brings the number of supported ridesharing apps to 14 across 70 countries, up from 9 in January.
Where real-time location’s involved, there’s an obvious privacy concern. But Jen Fitzpatrick, vice president of Google Maps, said that sharers are in control.
“Our goal is guiding and assisting users in the real world everyday,” Fitzpatrick told Engadget. “We’re stretching people’s perceptions on what maps can do for them, and the real-world tasks that we can help them with.”
Google further noted that it’s working with the Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse (CORA), a domestic abuse agency, to figure out the best way to protect the privacy of people dealing with abusive relationships.
Location sharing is rolling out to iOS, Android, and desktop users worldwide in the coming weeks.