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Google Maps is getting a UI refresh and a new icon

By Koh Wanzi - on 6 Feb 2020, 7:00pm

Google Maps is getting a UI refresh and a new icon

Image Source: Google

Do you remember when you could spot tourists from a mile away because of the huge paper maps they had open? That feels like a lifetime ago, and I can't even imagine what I'd do without Google Maps to help me navigate. Maps turns 15 today, and it has ushered in an era where finding out how to get somewhere is almost effortless. You can even get real-time information on traffic, and a new beta feature introduced last year called Live View uses augmented reality to overlay directions on your surroundings. 

In the past year alone, Google says it mapped as many buildings as it did in the past 10, thanks to machine learning models that were trained to recognise building edges and shapes. 

Now, Google is looking ahead to the next decade, and it's rolling out a few updates, including a new look for the app and even more detailed information about your commute. Maps is getting a new celebratory icon too – it's a patchwork of Google's colours and will feature on both mobile and desktop for a limited time.

Starting today, Google Maps on Android and iOS will be reorganised into five tabs – Explore, Commute, Saved, Contribute, and Updates. These are built around the main ways in which people use Maps, and they're supposed to let you launch the app and quickly get to whatever you need to do at the moment. Do you have a list of saved restaurants that you often refer to? Now that lives in one of the main tabs, and you don't have to root around in one of the sub-menus anymore. Similarly, Google is bringing the community's contributions to the forefront, allowing you to more easily add to the massive pool of information and recommendations that goes toward improving others' experience of Maps.

Image Source: Google

Here's an overview of what each tab does:

  • Explore: This tab already exists in the previous version of maps, and it's where you go to input your destination. You can also search for nearby restaurants or anything else you're looking for, in addition to information, ratings, and reviews. 
  • Commute: This helps you find the most efficient route to your destination, whether you're travelling by car, public transit, or on foot. You'll also get real-time traffic updates, travel times, and suggestions for alternative routes.
  • Saved: All your saved places will show up here, making it easier to find and organise plans for upcoming trips or share recommendations.
  • Contribute: Google already has a Local Guides program that lets people share reviews, photos, and other useful information on the places around them, and the new Contribute tab builds on that. 
  • Updates: Finally, Updates gives you a feed of trending, must-see spots from local experts and publishers. On top of that, you can save and share recommendations with your friends and even chat directly with businesses. 

Next, Google is rolling out new transit features that provide more detailed information on your transit route. Last year, the company introduced crowdedness predictions to let you know what to expect on your next bus or train ride, but you'll now get new information such as temperature – yes, really – and whether or not it is wheelchair-friendly. Other new additions include the availability of women's carriages, whether or not there is security onboard, and how many carriages are available

This information will come from past riders who have shared their experiences, and they'll appear alongside public transit routes when available. 

The upgraded transit features will start rolling out globally in March, but availability will vary according to region and your local municipal transportation agency. 

Image Source: Google

Finally, Google is continuing to build out Live View, which will soon let you see how far away and in which direction a place is, as opposed to just following the directional arrows.

These changes don't represent a major overhaul on the part of Google, but they should help make navigation slightly more intuitive.