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Google Maps got a tiny new feature that might significantly improve performance

Published Nov 15th, 2019 7:06PM EST
Google Maps Directions
Image: Valentin Wolf/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Google is back with another minor Google Maps refinement that fixes something you didn’t even realize it needed to fix. It’s not a major addition to the app, though we’ve seen several of those this year, but rather a minor change that might help clean up the Maps interface and improve the overall experience. The change is a brand new map layer that helps you toggle a detail that’s not always useful. But the new feature might help speed up Google Maps, especially on devices with older or more limited hardware.

By default, Google Maps is showing 3D profiles of buildings on the screen, which can be helpful while trying to find your way around. At the same time, however, those 3D renders add extra clutter to an already busy screen and might hinder navigation in some cases. And, of course, the smartphone needs to process all that information on the screen continuously as you change the perspective.

Thankfully, Google has a quick fix for that. A 3D layer can now be easily toggled on and off on Android devices that have been updated to Google Maps v.10.28.

As you can see in this animation that Android Police captured, 3D buildings disappear and reappear with a push of a button, regardless of how you’re looking at the map. The feature is especially useful when zooming in on a specific location. More importantly, by eliminating 3D elements from the screen, Google Maps might work even better on low-end Android devices that would otherwise struggle with 3D renders, or on devices with slow connections.

The new toggle has been placed right next to another recent addition, Street View, as seen in the animation. Android Police points out that 3D structures appear only when the Default map is chosen, so if you’re looking at the map in Satellite or Terrain mode, you’ll then be switched back to Default before the buildings reappear.

It’s unclear whether the iPhone will also get the new 3D layer button, but Android users will get it as soon as they update to the latest version of the Google Maps app.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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