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Posts tagged with "google maps"

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.


Google Maps Adds List Creation and Sharing

Today Google introduced a new feature for Google Maps that allows curating lists of places you want to remember and sharing those lists with others.

In previous versions, Google Maps allowed saving a location in a way that's similar to marking a place as favorite in Apple Maps. Every saved place went on one list, and there was no way to further categorize items you had saved. Today's update is a helpful expansion of that feature, making it possible to save places to pre-set lists like "Favorites" or "Want to Go," or to your own custom created list.

The ability to create custom lists opens so many possibilities: future vacation planning, restaurants to try, date night ideas, or whatever else you can think of. Any list that you've created can be shared with others via a link. When you share a list with others, they'll have the option to follow that list, meaning any future updates made to it will be visible to them.

Last fall my wife and I took a vacation to New York City for the first time. In researching places we would want to visit in the city, I would look up a location in Apple Maps, then use the share extension to add that location to a note in Apple Notes that was shared with my wife. Throughout our trip, we would use the links in that note to get us where we wanted to go. It wasn't a terrible system, but if Google's list feature had been around at the time, it would have been a perfect solution for us.

The new list feature will be rolling out in the next version of Google Maps for iOS, expected soon.


Apple Maps vs. Google Maps vs. Transit

Concise, well-illustrated comparison of transit maps from the developers of Transit for iOS:

Transit maps are hard. Really hard. Even for Apple and Google. Piecing a transit map together, city by city, agency by agency, stop by stop, without it turning into a hairy mess is INCREDIBLY difficult. So far, no one (not even Apple or Google) have been able to create a transit map that is both automatically generated and well designed. Why is that?

As Apple outlined at WWDC, their approach to transit takes a long time because it involves manually curated details (things like signs, directions, and cultural conventions that match the real world), which wouldn't be possible with an algorithm alone.

That said, I can vouch for Transit in Rome. The app is excellent. Well designed, with some clever interactions (such as an "arrive by" option to plan a trip on a timeline), and a joy to use. It's also the only decent transit app that combines public transit with local car sharing services on the same map.

I wish Apple Maps transit data was a) available in Rome and b) as flexible as Transit.

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Google Tweaks the Design of Maps and Adds Areas of Interest

Google Maps is on the move. Just last week, Google added enhanced crowdsourcing features to Google Maps making it easier for users to edit map locations and add richer information about them. Now, Google has updated the design of its iOS, Android, and web apps to make them easier to explore visually too.

Downtown San Francisco before and after.

Downtown San Francisco before and after.

The goal of the Google Maps update was to create a less cluttered look:

… as part of this update, we’ve removed elements that aren’t absolutely required (like road outlines). The result is a cleaner look that makes it easier to see helpful and actionable information like traffic and transit.

Google also modified the typography and color scheme of Maps to make it easier to identify different map elements.

The update to Google Maps includes an all-new feature as well – areas of interest, which are shaded orange. The shading, which is determined algorithmically and by humans makes it easy to spot areas where you may want to zoom in to browse points of interest.

I like the design changes that Google has made. In the before and after screenshots of downtown San Francisco above, the neighborhood names and other points of interest are much more legible than they were previously, which should make it easier to use Google Maps to explore and navigate new places.

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