Hands-on with the New Google Maps
The New Look Google Maps
The first thing you'll notice about the new Google Maps is that the left-hand sidebar has been removed, allowing the map to fill the entire screen. The old tile based maps have also been replaced by nicer looking, faster loading vector maps delivered via WebGL.
The new maps have a more neutral color palette (bright yellow roads are now mostly white or grey), and Google has also added its custom Roboto font, which you'll recognize from its range of Nexus phones and tablets.
Rather than a separate search bar above the map, a new search widget can be found in the upper-left section of the screen. Your last three searches show up automatically (as long as you're logged in) and, like before, you can search for a specific location by name or you can do a generic search (e.g. "Italian restaurants").
Results for your search are displayed as pins on the screen. One of the neat new features of Google Maps is a synergy between itself and Google+ which highlights results on the map that have been reviewed by your friends. The map will also highlight results that have garnered a lot of high reviews in general. Maps also features a learning algorithm that analyzes your search preferences over time and tries to make result recommendations based on those findings.
Clicking on one of the result pins will pop up an information card right below the search widget. The venue's address is displayed at the top of the card, along with its opening hours if available. To the right, you’ll find a navigation icon for directions, a star icon to save the location for later viewing, and the website URL and phone number of the location. There's also a Street-View photo icon, as well as the option to look up more images of a specific location.
Integration with Google Earth and Street View
Google Maps is now fully integrated with Google Earth and Street View. Clicking on the satellite-photo icon at the bottom-right of the map will bring up the Google Earth view of a particular area.
At the bottom of the page for any location, Google also features a series of photos scrolling images that include those that Google has taken, as well as public images and those uploaded by your friends to Google+. You'll also find a few 360-degree photo panoramas here.
As a nice bonus, you can also zoom all the way out of Google Maps to view the entire earth from space. Cloud cover is a real-time representation of what’s actually in the sky.
The new Google maps is currently rolling out via an invite only preview. You can request an invite here.