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Google Maps App for Android: Redesign brings cleaner aesthetic & more contextual information

New update for Android devices also revamps tablet version
  • @jjvincent

The update to Google Maps first previewed at the I/O conference this May has been released in full.

The redesign brings a cleaner aesthetic to the app, with a simplified interface showing just a search box, a button to center the map on your location and a small menu button. There is also a greater integration of Google's sweeping 'cards' aesthetic - small rectangles of condensed information that offer anything from reviews to alternate routes.

On tablets the interface now more closely resembles the Google Maps app for desktop. The same card-based information found on the mobile is used, though Google take advantage of a larger screen size to offer more of these information bites.

New features include an Explore function - an extra-swipeable interface that lets you "browse and discover new places without typing"; Enhanced Navigation (probably not deserving of the capitals) that takes account of traffic info to offer alternate routes - no Waze integration as of yet however; and increased visibility for offers and reviews (the latter now presented in a 5 star system powered by 2012 acquisition Zagat).

But as Google giveth, Google also taketh away and the removal of an integrated offline map cache is being bemoaned by many. The old feature allowed users to simple zoom out, draw out a square on the map, and Google would save that area for offline access - extra handy for last-minute route changes on the tube.

The feature is still available, but is no longer so simple to use. To create offline maps users will now have to enter 'OK Maps' into their search box to create a cache of the portion of the map visible. The updated version is also not available for iOS just yet, though Google promise that updates for Apple users will be coming "soon".