It has been several years since Google’s last big makeover for Maps, though the company announced a new version at I/O back in May. The updated app popped up intermittently over the last few weeks, but now it’s rolling out to everyone. There are a few new features in store, but the thing you’ll notice first is the updated Material Design interface.
Material Design came about back in the days of Android Lollipop as a replacement for the aging Holo design language. Material Design presented a layered, flat approach to making apps, and introduced concepts like the floating action button and navigation drawer. Google announced new tools for designers at I/O along with the Material Theming framework. Material Theming helps brands create Material apps that express a unique brand identity — that’s what the new Maps app is. It’s Google’s version of Material Theming.
The new Maps app looks familiar if you’ve used the new Gmail or Android P developer preview. There are fewer sharp corners and more colorful elements (the four trademark Google colors) that draw the eye to important items. It’s also very white, which can be irksome when you need to use the phone in a dark room. The heavy use of white space is just Google’s version of Material Theming, though. Other apps built on the new framework don’t need to be so bright.
On the functional side, Google Maps has a redesigned Explore tab that offers quick recommendations for restaurants, bars, and other points of interest. It also surfaces local events and activities based on Google’s algorithms. There are also trending lists of locations based on input from Google Local Guides. Maps will even keep track of your progress through these lists automatically as you visit new places.
The new Maps also aims to customize recommendations to you. If you have location history activated on your account, Google gives each restaurant or bar a numeric score to indicate how likely you are to enjoy it based on where you’ve been in the past. You can tell Maps more about your food and drink preferences to refine recommendations. There’s also a new “For You” tab that collects nearby events and new restaurants in areas you frequent.
The updated Maps app is now live for users on both iOS and Android world wide. However, the For You tab is limited to the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan for now.
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