This year’s Google I/O Conference was quite full of surprises, including the new Google Edition Galaxy S4, Chromium notebooks, redesigned Google+ and Hangouts, Google Play Music All access and what not. Though the limelight of the show remained the next generation of Google Maps, which the search engine company revealed to a huge ovation from the lucky attendees. Google Maps was shown as a complete overhaul with a staggering new design and impressive features. While the web interface has been live for a several weeks, the Android version has also now found its way to Google Play. Google Maps 7 for Android has been built from the ground up, and now looks fairly close to its iOS counterpart while maintaining a clean, card-based interface. It also comes packaged with a slew of features like dynamic traffic conditions, incident reports, 3D-esque turn-by-turn navigation and more.
Google Maps 7 works equally great on phones and tablets, and makes full use of the larger screen real estate available on the latter. The UI has been redesigned from scratch for both platforms and looks absolutely stunning. Admittedly, I’ve always admired the iOS app of the service for its UI and was fairly delighted to see the same interface on Google’s own mobile operating system.
When launched, you will notice that Google has rearranged the UI elements a bit, making them genuinely more accessible. The search bar at the top now has more resemblance to Google Now. Speaking of Google Now, information regarding nearby places, restaurants, banks etc. now also appear as cards. When you tap a location on the map, Google Maps brings in a flat card at the bottom, and sliding it up bring the full card into view.
There’s now a minuscule pull button at the bottom-right, which you can slide from the left edge of the screen to reveal the side menu. This menu enables you to toggle traffic, public transit and bicycling lanes views, as well as the satellite terrain. What’s more, you can launch Google Earth directly from here, provided it’s already installed on your device. Not many changes have been made in the Settings screen which looks quite similar to what it was in the previous versions of the app.
At I/O, Google also promised new exploration methods and markers for the service. The company has kept up with their promise and included them in the new Google Maps. Explorer focuses on five categories: Eat, Shop, Drink, Sleep and Play. You can tap your desired category to learn more about the pertaining locations nearby such as restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, ATMs, parks and other activities. You can also add your own score and review to the selected place straight from within the app.
A drastic change in the latest update has been made to the way the offline mode works. The previous offline caching method has been removed; to save the current map that you’re viewing, you’ll now need to speak or type ‘OK Maps’ (without the quotations) in the search box and hit enter. The app then caches the view for offline access.
Google Maps is well known for its turn-by-turn navigation. Thankfully, this area of the app has also been improved with some welcome changes. Upon specifying your current and destination points on the map, you can see a preview of your route in a semi-3D view. You can simply swipe the address bar at the top to left and right to move back and forth between the turn points.
Google will start rolling out the update soon. Though if you just can’t wait to get your hands on it, the folks at Android Police have gotten hold of the APK files of different variants of the app. The current APK files only support Android 4.1+ and 4.2. Download links for both versions have been added below.
[via Android Police]