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Every cool new Google Maps feature you should know about after this month’s huge update

Published Feb 25th, 2020 7:37PM EST
Google Maps
Image: Valentin Wolf/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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This year marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of Google Maps, and I have to say right off the bat that I’m certainly surprised at how much I’ve come to rely on the iOS version of the app far more than Apple’s own native map product over the years — and not just to help me navigate from one point to another, either. Like more than 1 billion other people around the world, I now depend on Google Maps for everything from directions to simply obtaining more insight into the world around me, via everything from opening up a business’ “page” within Maps to quickly place a call right from it, to check hours of operation, see what’s around me, share ETAs with friends and loved ones, and so much more.

In honor of reaching such an auspicious milestone in 2020, Google has unveiled a huge new update for the service that includes a new look (complete with a new mobile app icon) as well as a slew of new features baked into the product itself. Here’s a rundown of everything that’s new in the Android and iOS versions of Google Maps, including the five new tabs you should have access to by now that will open up so much more Google Maps functionality for you. They’re named Explore, Commute, Saved, Contribute and Updates.

Here’s what each of those five tabs, which you can see in the animation above, will help you accomplish:

  • Explore: This tab is meant to give you the information you need before you actually need a map to help you navigate there. The idea being that you select this tab to find a spot for lunch or, say, some quality entertainment options around you. Information, ratings, reviews and more granular detail about 200 million places around the world will then be surfaced, at which point you can then decide how to actually, you know, get there.
  • Commute: This tab will help you make sure you’re on the most efficient route for whatever journey you happen to be on, whether you’re in a car or riding on public transit. You can set a commute, get real-time traffic updates as well as suggestions for alternate routes. What’s more, starting in March, Google Maps is going to roll out new functionality globally that builds on the crowdedness predictions Google introduced last year so you can see how crowded your public transit ride is likely to be. What’s coming next are crowdsourced data including whether riders have marked the temperature on this ride as cold or warm, and which public transit lines are staffed with accessibility assistance, have accessible entrances and seating, an accessible stop-button, and/or high-visible LED lighting. Also, in regions where transit systems have designated women’s sections or carriages, Google Maps will help surface that information along with whether other passengers abide by it. And, finally, you’ll be able to see whether a public transit line has sufficient security protections.
  • Saved: This is the tab where, just like the name says, you can “save” important places you’ve either been — or that you want to visit! Especially useful for an upcoming trip or planning a vacation.
  • Contribute: Google Maps’ crowdsourced data can be found here. It makes a lot of sense for Google to add something like this, because this is where you’d presumably look to find knowledge about roads, landmarks, and local businesses from people who live where you’re traveling. Users will be sharing everything from business reviews to photos (as well as places that users identify that are missing from Google Maps) here.
  • Updates: Since there will now be lots of new activity and data flowing into Google Maps thanks to all these new bells and whistles, Google has also decided to have this tab serve as a kind of feed of what’s trending within the app at any given moment. You’ll tap here to check out must-see spots from local experts, as well as to chat directly with businesses to get your questions answered.

As if all this wasn’t enough to underscore just how full-featured Google Maps has become in the 15 years since its launch, Google says it will also be expanding the Live View feature that was introduced last year, which combines real-world imagery from Google Street View, as well as the power of machine learning and smartphone sensors.

Live View in Google Maps now shows users their surroundings, with the directions overlaid in augmented reality. In the months to come, additional capabilities are going to be tested, according to Google, “starting with better assistance whenever you’re searching for a place. You’ll be able to quickly see how far away and in which direction a place is.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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