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Posts tagged with "google maps"

Google Maps Debuts ‘For You’ Recommendations in 40 Countries on iOS

Previewed in May, Google has added a ‘For You’ tab to its Maps iOS app that is rolling out in stages today to users in 40 countries. The Android version of the feature is debuting in 130 countries.

‘For You,’ which appears as a tab on the far right of the app’s toolbar, is a way to follow a restaurant news feed for particular geographic areas. According to Google’s The Keyword blog:

Simply follow neighborhoods or places you’re interested in to get updates and recommendations—everything from recent news about an opening or pop up, a new menu item, and even restaurant suggestions based on what you’re likely to enjoy. If you’re making a trip this holiday season, the For You can help you get a jump start on travel planning even before you take off.

The For You tab includes its own settings that suggest additional areas to follow based on your location history. You can also add regions manually by panning and zooming the map to show the location in which you are interested. Surprisingly, there is no search bar for finding areas to follow.

If the area you pick doesn’t include enough places to track, the app prompts you to zoom out. That’s not an issue in densely populated cities, but in the suburbs where I live, I had to zoom out to roughly a 10x10-mile square that included several towns before I could save the area. Even then, I had to scroll back about a week before I found any local news. Likewise, if the area you pick is too large (for example, the entire New York metropolitan area), you’ll be prompted to zoom in to a smaller area.

The For You tab overlaps with the Explore tab’s listings of area restaurants but focuses on recent reviews and other news aggregated from third-party sources instead of business listings. If you see a place you want to try, there’s tap the bookmark icon next to it to add it to your ‘Want to go’ list, another list you’ve created, or your ‘Short List’ for sharing with others, just as you can from the Explore tab.

In my limited testing, my recommendations were dominated by Chicago. That’s not a surprise, but there were only four nearby entries since the beginning of November, which is a pretty weak showing for suburbs just 25 miles outside of Chicago. It’s worth noting too that the For You tab is limited to restaurants, which I didn’t expect. Not including events feels like a missed opportunity. Despite the overlap with the Explore tab and limited content available, For You should be useful the next time I’m looking for a new restaurant to try in Chicago or visiting an unfamiliar city.

The For You tab is being released in stages and will show up in Google Maps without the need to update the app in the App Store. If you don’t see the feature yet, force quitting Google Maps and reopening it can cause the new tab to appear.


Google Maps Adds Commuting Features

Google has announced that later this week, it will add several new features to its Maps app for iOS and Android commuters. The update includes live, personalized traffic data, support for ‘mixed-mode’ commutes, real-time bus and train tracking, and integration with Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Spotify.

The update will include a dedicated ‘Commute’ tab in the Maps app. After users identify their commute, Google Maps will provide live traffic data about the route. The Android app will also include notifications about delays as they happen so you can adjust your trip.

Google Maps will also support mixed-mode commutes. That means, for example, commuters who travel by car, train, and on foot will see commute information relevant to each leg of their journey. Real-time bus and train tracking is being added in 80 cities worldwide too.

Playback controls for Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music is coming to Google Maps. Spotify users on Android will also be able to browse and select content from inside the app.

As someone who used to commute by train every day, I particularly appreciate the focus on public transportation. Google hasn’t said, but hopefully, these new features are included as part of Google Maps’ CarPlay integration too.

Google Maps is available as a free download on the App Store.



New Ways to Explore and Interact with the World Are Coming Soon to Google Maps and Lens

Google announced a series of new features at its Google I/O developer conference that it will add to Google Maps and the Google Lens feature of its Photos and Assistant apps in the coming weeks and months.

During the Google I/O keynote, the company demonstrated augmented reality navigation that combines a camera-view of your location with superimposed walking directions. The feature, which works with a device’s camera, can also point out landmarks and overlay other information about the surrounding environment.

Google Maps is gaining a dedicated ‘For You’ tab too. The new tab will suggest nearby businesses, restaurants, and other activities based on things you’ve rated, places you’ve visited, and other input. The same sorts of inputs will be used in Maps’ new match score, which will predict how much you will like a particular destination and is designed to help make picking between multiple destinations easier. Maps will also allow users to quickly create lists of suggested destinations, share them with friends, and vote on where to go.

Google Lens, which is incorporated into the Google Photos and Assistant apps, is also gaining new features. Much like the iOS app Prizmo Go, Lens will be able to recognize text in books and documents viewed through the camera allowing you to highlight, copy, and paste the text into other apps. Lens is adding a Style Match feature which allows users to point a camera at something and see similar items too. In a demonstration, Google pointed Lens at a lamp, which generated a list of similar lamps almost instantly.

More than ever, Google is showing what can be accomplished with the vast amount of data it can bring to bear in real-time on mobile devices. The insights that are possible may seem creepy to some people, but if used responsibly, they allow Google to provide powerful contextual information to its users.


How Far Ahead of Apple Maps Is Google Maps?

Another fantastic essay by Justin O'Beirne, this time focused on explaining one of Google Maps' strongest advantages over Apple Maps: the ability to use data to create more data.

With “Areas of Interest”, Google has a feature that Apple doesn’t have. But it’s unclear if Apple could add this feature to its map in the near future.

The challenge for Apple is that AOIs aren’t collected—they’re created_. And Apple appears to be missing the ingredients to create AOIs at the same quality, coverage, and scale as Google.

This is a perfect example of Google's institutional approach to data collection paying off in the long term, giving them a substantial lead over the competition. O'Beirne's visual comparisons between Google Maps and Apple Maps are just brutal.

Yes, Apple Maps may be "prettier", but when you're going somewhere, or need to find a specific point of interest, I bet you don't care about "pretty". You just want your map to tell you where to go, or show you accurately where you're meant to be. Google is objectively ahead here, and Apple Maps' slow evolution is concerning. There's an interesting parallel here between Apple Music and Apple Maps: both nicer iOS apps than Spotify and Google Maps, and both far behind in terms of intelligence of the service itself.

As I wrote earlier this year:

Speaking from personal experience, Google Maps has considerably improved in my area in the past year, while Apple Maps has remained essentially the same. Which isn't to say that Apple Maps is bad – Google simply has an edge over local business information and they're evolving at a faster pace than Apple. To me, Apple Maps looks and feels nicer; Google Maps seems smarter and it has modern features I'd like Apple to add.

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Google Maps Updated with iPhone X Support

Google continues to chip away at iPhone X and iOS 11 support for its iOS apps. Today, Google Maps was updated to take advantage of the iPhone X’s expansive display. Maps extend in every direction to the edge of the screen, which looks much better than the previously letterboxed version of the app.

The design could use a few tweaks though. As Adam Swinden points out on Twitter, the corners of the ‘Explore’ button at the bottom of the screen are clipped and it is too close to the top edge of the Home indicator.

Earlier this week Google updated Docs, Slides, and Sheets for the iPhone X and implemented basic drag and drop support.


A Year of Google Maps & Apple Maps

Justin O'Beirne is back with another in-depth analysis of Google Maps and Apple Maps, with a focus on how Google has taken a different approach over the past year:

Shortly after I published my Cartography Comparison last June, I noticed Google updating some of the areas we had focused on:

Coincidence or not, it was interesting. And it made me wonder what else would change, if we kept watching. Would Google keep adding detail? And would Apple, like Google, also start making changes?

So I wrote a script that takes monthly screenshots of Google and Apple Maps.1 And thirteen months later, we now have a year’s worth of images.

The screenshot comparisons in his post perfectly demonstrate Google's iteration and Apple's relative stagnation.

Speaking from personal experience, Google Maps has considerably improved in my area in the past year, while Apple Maps has remained essentially the same. Which isn't to say that Apple Maps is bad – Google simply has an edge over local business information and they're evolving at a faster pace than Apple. To me, Apple Maps looks and feels nicer; Google Maps seems smarter and it has modern features I'd like Apple to add.

I wonder what Apple has in store for WWDC and if they should consider separating Maps from their monolithic software release cycle in the summer.

(See also: O'Beirne in May and June 2016.)

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Google Maps Adds Your Timeline, Directions Widget, and iMessage App

In its latest update, Google has added several new features to Google Maps for iOS. Most prominent among them is Your Timeline, a feature that has been available on the web and on Android since 2015, but is welcome nonetheless. Your Timeline keeps track of all the locations you've visited and allows you to easily view that travel history in one place.

Your Timeline is available in a couple of different locations within the Google Maps app. The primary way to access it is from the main menu, where it's prominently listed near the top. The other place Your Timeline will appear is on the place cards of locations you've visited before. While viewing information about, for instance, a restaurant you visited on a prior vacation to London, you would see a label that tells you how long ago you last visited. Tapping that label will take you straight to Your Timeline and to the date of your visit, so you can easily view other exploits from your trip.

There are a couple of nice touches with Your Timeline that deserve mention. One is that you have the option to fully customize the information that's logged in Your Timeline. Besides simply editing a location's name or other basic details, you can also assign an activity to that trip. Options include 'Boating,' 'Hiking,' 'Catching Pokémon,' and many more. A second feature is that you can opt-in to receive monthly emails summarizing all the places you visited that prior month, which is a nice way to revisit and reflect on time past, and perhaps a source of encouragement to visit new places and try new things more often.

Although Your Timeline took almost two years to reach iOS, time has at least meant that it's arrived well-polished.

The latest update to Google Maps also brought with it a new directions widget and an iMessage app. The directions widget provides directions for your current trip, allowing you to scroll through each step of the journey without needing to unlock your device. The new iMessage app serves only a single purpose: sending your static location to friends. Once you open the iMessage app, a still image of your current location is loaded up and available to send by message. It's a simple utility, but perhaps some will find it useful.


Google Maps Introduces Location Sharing Features

Announced today and rolling out soon to all users, Google Maps is adding two new sharing features to its iOS app.

The first feature allows for Find My Friends-style location sharing. From the app's menu you can select 'Share Location,' which presents options for how long your real-time location will be shared, and who it will be shared with.

The second sharing feature is the more interesting one in my mind. It allows you to share your Google Maps trip information. Daniel Resnick provides the details:

Next time you’re on your way or running late, you can share your real-time location and trip progress from navigation as well. During your next trip, tap the “More” button on the bottom on the navigation screen, and then tap “Share trip.” When you share your trip with people, they’ll see your expected arrival time and can follow your journey as you head toward your destination. Sharing automatically ends when you arrive.

Although the two sharing features perform mostly the same function, this kind of trip-specific sharing seems the cleaner, simpler solution for many scenarios. The example of running late and wanting to provide real-time updates to those you're meeting is a good one. In that situation, you won't want to fiddle with choosing a specific period of time for your location to be shared – you might overestimate and need to manually turn off sharing, or underestimate and have your location stop being shared before you reach your destination. Trip-specific sharing seems like just the right solution, and it's a feature I'm eager to try out.