Google began the rollout of its new Google Maps mobile app on Wednesday, which includes many of the features introduced at the Google I/O conference in May. The new Google Maps app will be available first for Android smartphones and tablets and will come to the Apple App Store soon for iPhones and iPad.
The new Google Maps app builds on the design Google released for iPhone in December after Apple replaced Google Maps with its own flawed Maps app on iOS 6. Google said that it has improved its Google Maps mobile app with new search and navigation features.
The Google Maps mobile app has a new “Explore” feature for discovering new places. The new interface in Google Maps is designed to be visual and avoid typing. Users simply need to tap the search box to browse through cards showing places to eat, drink, sleep or shop.
The Google Maps mobile app already displays current traffic condition, but now there are features to help drivers navigate around the traffic. Google Maps now gives users details of traffic incidents and other problems with the roads and will automatically alert drivers if a better route becomes available.
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This update also marks the first time that a dedicated Google Maps app is available for tablets.
Google has also made Google Maps more social, adding a five-star rating system as well as reviews from friends. For those skeptical of social review systems, Google Maps also incorporates Zagat reviews and puts a badge on highly-rated places. There are even curated lists in Google Maps such as “Best Restaurants to meet for a drink in NYC.”
Of course, this will also help Google promote its sponsors. Brands will also be able to offer Google Maps users special offers, and these will be labeled on the map.
As is tradition with Google, the new features in Google Maps mean the end of some others. Google will remove Latitude and check-ins from the new Google Maps mobile app and retire them from older versions Aug. 9; however, Google Maps will start incorporating Google+ check-ins for users that want to share their location with family and friends.
Android users will no longer be able to use the offline maps feature in Google Maps. To view maps offline, Android users will have to enter “OK Maps,” (an obvious connection to Google Glass) into the search box to view that area offline.
The new Google Maps mobile app is compatible with Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean as well as Apple devices running iOS 6 or higher.