Google Maps for Android 6.0 is a significant refresh, adding indoor layouts for some malls, department stores such as Ikea, Bloomingdale's and Macy's, as well as several airports in the U.S. and Japan.
The search engine provider already commands much of the online mapping market for outdoor geographic footage all over the world. With these app tools, Google has signaled its intent to corner the indoor market Microsoft's Bing and others are trying to feast on.
Need to find a restaurant in an airport, or the new shoe store you're heard about in the mall? Just open Maps for Android 6.0 and detailed floor plans automatically appear when you view the map and zoom in on a building.
The "blue dot" icon that indicates your location on the app changes when you move up or down a level. So, yes, the feature leverages the location data triangulation Google uses from cell towers, GPS and WiFi connections along with its location server to determine users' locations within meters. See how it works here:
As you can see, the data is pretty much a simple schema, a blueprint map. Nothing fancy:
What if new stores open in malls, or a retailer moves? How will Google keep up with stores that close in malls, or airport gates under construction?
And of course, it only works where indoor map data is available and that data is limited for now. Unlike most outdoor maps of the world, Google needs to get permission to use building layouts and cooperation from the stores to map them.
Even with those what ifs and caveats, this is a welcome feature for any Android phone user using the Google Maps app.
To wit, Maps for Android also now has a drop-down menu for the top toolbar for quick access to Google Places, check-ins and other perks.
Moreover, the new Places home screen includes popular searches for your current location, helping users find the best spots nearby.
This is a big upgrade to Google Maps. I'll talk about why in an update later this week.