The annual Google I/O conference is just a week away, and the rumor mill continues to churn on what the Mountain View, Calif.-based company will unveil. The latest rumors suggest Google will introduce an overhaul to its popular Google Maps application, updating key parts of the navigation app’s user interface.
According to leaked images on the Google Operating System blog, the new update will remove the left-hand sidebar from Google Maps and display all information on top of a full-screen map. This will put an increased focus on the map itself, rather than the navigational elements. Google is also reportedly updating Maps with new colors, icons and fonts.
Here are sample maps of downtown San Francisco and Seattle:
This Google Maps update would be consistent with Google’s increased focus on optimizing apps for mobile devices. By devoting more screen space to the actual map, Google Maps will look better and provide a more immersive experience on smartphones and tablets.
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Google is also looking to integrate social media into Maps at I/O. A new feature will allow users to filter Google Maps results to display only locations that have been recommended by people in Google+ circles.
Google acquired its Maps technology when it purchased Where 2 Technologies in 2004, and officially launched the app in 2005. Google Maps has since expanded to include features like public transportation planning, street view and biking directions. Recently, Google Maps made headlines with an update that recognized Palestine as a country instead of a territory.
This update to Google Maps could be a part of big makeover that the search engine giant could unveil at the I/O conference. An earlier rumor suggested an update to Google’s homepage, adding the Google Now app that has been so successful on Android devices.
There are also rumors that Google will use the I/O conference to introduce the highly anticipated Google X phone -- the first built by both Google and Motorola -- as well as updates to the Android operating system, a new chat service called Google Babel or Babble, and news regarding the much-anticipated Google Glass.
If you can't wait for the Google I/O conference to try out the new Google Maps, you can get a preview using the new Maps Engine Lite function. The Google Operating System blog speculates that this will eventually replace the My Maps feature, but the overall interface is consistent with the new Google Maps.