Google March 17 has improved search and added a widget for the Google Latitude location-sharing application to its latest version of the Google Maps program for mobile phones.
Available for smartphones based on Google Android 1.6 and greater, Google Maps for mobile 4.1 has a cleaner search user experience.
Google has removed the tabs from the Google Maps for mobile search results page to put more important information on one page. Users can simply tap the new buttons to see the place on the map.
The company's programmers said the extra space enables them to surface more details and reviews so users needn't navigate elsewhere. This is an important move as the search engine strives to keep users within Google search and Web services.
The search engine also included a gesture technology to let users swipe the screen on search results pages from their mobile phone to the left and right to see the next or last result. See the example here.
Swiping is clearly taking on greater importance for the Android platform and Google applications, as Google earlier this month released Google Gesture Search for Android devices.
Google also added a new widget to the home screen panel for Latitude, which lets users see from their mobile phones which of their friends are nearby. Mobile phone users can press the Menu button from the home screen and select Add, then Widgets, then Latitude to add this tool.
Users of Android 2.1-based phones such as the Nexus One and soon the Motorola Droid, can make their home screen a big, interactive Google Map with the new Maps live wallpaper.
For example, Nexus One users can tap the Menu button from the home screen and select Wallpaper, then Live wallpapers, then Maps. Those who have location enabled on their phones and use Latitude will see their nearby friends or a map on their home screen until they change the wallpaper.
Google March 18 also added a Google Buzz widget, which lets users of Android devices 1.6 and higher post text and photos with a single tap of a button.
In other Google Maps news, Google has begun putting ads from its local business partners on Google Maps pages in Australia and New Zealand.
When users searching for information on businesses zoom in to Google Maps, participating businesses will be identified by a small representation of their logo.
"Advertisers will pay to have these sponsored map icons appear on the Map instead of a generic icon, helping to generate awareness of their locations among the millions of people who visit Google Maps every day," Google Maps Product Manager Matthew Leske wrote in a blog post.
If or when such ads appear on Google Maps in the U.S. is unclear. A Google spokesperson told eWEEK that if there is interest from advertisers in other countries and Google is pleased with the results, the company will extend this program.