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Review of the New Google Maps

Review of the New Google Maps

To the standard end user, this year’s Google I/O  left much to be desired. The disappointment was mainly in the fact that Google failed to release the highly anticipated Android update, Key Lime Pie.  Instead, the annual developers conference, which was held the week of May 15, focused on developer tools and a rebuild of Google Maps. The “new Google Maps,” as the Mountain View company calls it, is a major update that integrates Google Earth to create three-dimensional tours of user surroundings. According to Google, the application highlights the things that matter most to you, wherever you go and whatever you are doing.

On July 10, two months after Google’s announcement of the exciting new update, the company finally introduced the mapping application for Android smartphones and tablets. Google Maps v7.0.0 is gradually rolling out global updates to Android 4.0.3+ devices through the Google Play store, and soon  through the App Store for iOS devices. For those of you who cannot wait for the update, leaked APKs are already being seen in the wild. Updates are specific to Android versions, so if you can’t wait for it to be officially rolled to your device, make sure you are following the correct download.  For quick access to Android 4.1+ updates, see Android Police’s compiled list of mirrors.

As a Nexus 4 user, I followed this thread created by XDA Senior Member gear.h34d.2012, during my test drive (get it? “test drive,” “Google Maps,” bahahaha) of the app. Unfortunately, the original link is unavailable do to increased traffic on his Dropbox account. However, a mirror was posted directing traffic to grab the file at Dev-Host.

Google has continued with the simplistic and modern Holo user interface aesthetic seen in the rest of its recent app updates, but has deviated a bit in certain design choices. Keeping in form with the rest of the Gapps package, they have also replaced the old fashioned drop down menu with a hidden swipe-to-access gestures. Unfortunately, the drop down menu isn’t the only thing missing from this update. Latitude and check-ins, offline mode , and My Maps have also been removed.  If you are steering clear of the update for this reason, you will only have until August 9 before Latitude and check-ins are retired for good. In the meantime, those who want to continue to stalk their friends and family can do so via the location sharing and check-in features on  G+.

For those of you who tend to travel in low-signal areas and require offline maps, you still have the option to cache portions of your map by zooming into the map and typing “OK Maps” into the search box. Lastly, although My Maps is not available in this release, it will return in future versions of the app. Google recommended using Maps Engine Lite on desktop for those who absolutely cannot live without custom maps.

So what exactly does the new Google Maps bring to the table? For one thing, the entire map is interactive. Clicking on any of the nearby location marks will give you instant reviews, business information, street view pictures, and a navigation option that displays how long it will take to arrive at that destination. You can also save locations and share them right from the main maps screen. These options are not new by any means, but the new design shaves a few steps in the process.

Navigation also became a lot simpler with quick access to recent locations, and the ability to easily choose whether you are traveling by car, bus, bicycle, foot, or boat (okay maybe not by boat, but the other four options should get you where you need to be). One thing I found handy is the ability to easily choose to navigate from either your current location or a completely different starting point.

For those of you who like to explore, Google has made it possible to quickly uncover local favorites, including places to eat, shop, play, and more.  And for those who are unable to find the “Explore” option, it seems to be location-based and may not be available if you live in a less populated area. Try searching for the closest city near you, such as Sacramento, CA, and then check to see if  “Explore” appears.  With the built in five-star rating and reviews system, you can easily decide the places that best fit your needs. Who really needs a Chamber of Commerce when you have Google Maps and detailed reviews?

Lastly, the latest Google Maps will not only help get you to your destination efficiently, it will also get you their as quickly as possible by “outsmarting traffic jams,” as the company puts it. Through dynamic rerouting and live incident reporting, Google Maps will help get you to your destination on time, and without delay.

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