Google is continuing to build on the continuing evolution of its mobile Google Maps app with the release of a new version aimed first at Android smartphone and tablet users.
"The new Google Maps for mobile builds on the design we released for iPhone last December and improves on it with a few useful search and navigation features," wrote Daniel Graf, the director of Google Maps, in a July 10 post on the Google Official Blog.
The updated new version is "the first dedicated app for Android tablets and iPads," which provides "a new mapping experience that makes exploring the world and getting to the places that matter to you a lot faster and easier," wrote Graf.
The new Android version is gradually rolling out globally in the Google Play store and an iPhone and iPad version will be available soon in Apple's App Store, he wrote. The new app will run on Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean versions of the operating system. The Apple version will support iOS 6+ when available.
Among the new features of the new app is an "explore" option that allows users to visually browse and discover new places without typing. Instead, users can tap the search box, and they'll be shown pop-up "cards" that display nearby places to eat, drink, sleep and shop, wrote Graf. Also included are enhanced navigational capabilities that can help users navigate around traffic. "You can now see reports of problems on the road that you can tap to see incident details," he wrote. "While on the road, Google Maps will also alert you if a better route becomes available and reroute you to your destination faster. This feature is available only on Android and is coming soon to iOS."
Android tablet users will find that the newly redesigned Maps app works better on their devices because it is now specifically designed to render images and information in a tablet format, wrote Graf.
Also unveiled in the refreshed Maps app is a new 5.0 star rating system that gives users ratings on restaurants, bars, cafes and other destinations, wrote Graf. "For an expert's opinion, the Zagat badge of excellence and curated lists are integrated into search results so you can quickly spot the very best places. From 'Best Restaurants to meet for a drink in NYC' to 'Best Restaurants in the Mission' in San Francisco, Zagat's there to help you uncover the local gems." Reviews from friends and acquaintances are also available through the app.
Another new feature is the availability of mobile offers and discounts from national brands like Macy's, Michael's and Toys "R" Us, that are presented and labeled on the user's map screen, wrote Graf.
As part of the changes, two older Maps features, Latitude and check-ins, are missing from the new app and will be dropped from old versions of the app as of Aug. 9, he wrote. "We understand some of you still want to see your friends and family on a map, which is why we've added location sharing and check-ins to Google+ for Android (coming soon to iOS)."