Like a Hermes for the modern age, Google Maps has been keeping travelers safe for years. Google Maps updates come out very regularly and new features are easily missed – this is the place to find all the latest Google Maps news, features, tips and tricks.
Highlight recent changes
Find out the best time of day to travel to your destination
As well as journey time and actual navigation, Google Maps will now also tell you the optimal time to leave for your destination. This appears as a graph above the navigation instructions from which you can deduce the best time you should leave, based on traffic.
Reserve and pay for fitness classes using Reserve with Google
Google has just announced that users in the US will be able to sign up for fitness classes via Google Maps and Google Search. Users will also be able to pay for their spa, studio, and gym visits with the new feature.
Both the mobile and the desktop versions of Google Search will have the new feature. However, this will only work on the desktop version of Google Maps. Just search for a fitness studio and tap Reserve with Google. You can also go to the official Reserve with Google website to get recommendations and special discounts. There are already many partners, including Front Desk, Appointy, MINDBODY, MyTime, Genbook, Full Slate, Zingfit and more.
Google Maps 9.44 shows parking availability and atmosphere images
One of the main frustrations which we face when we take a car anywhere in a major city is parking. Google is aiming to make things that little bit easier by including parking availability into their recent update. The parking availability feature shows up as a small "P" icon on your mapped route when you search for driving directions. Google takes an even bigger step forward in this respect by also providing further information on how much parking is actually available. There are three levels to look for: Limited, Medium and Easy.
Another addition is the inclusion of "Atmosphere" photos, which you can quickly browse through to check out what a particular restaurant, hotel or cafe is like before you head there. Google Maps already uses smart photo algorithms to single out photos of food in "From Menu" and location shots taken "By Owner", but this adds another layer of detail and will no doubt be popular with many users.
Google Maps 9.37 expands voice commands when navigating
Staying hands-free when navigating is important for convenience as well as safety. And now Google Maps is expanding its voice command options when you're in navigation mode or driving mode. Once you're in this mode you just need to say 'OK Google' and then say the command.
According to the official Google Maps blog, the voice expansion includes – but is not limited to – the following phrases:
- 'What's my next turn?'
- 'What's my ETA?'
- 'Show/Hide traffic'
- 'Mute / Unmute voice guidance'
- 'Avoid tolls'
- 'How's the traffic ahead?'
- 'Show alternate routes'
You can even give voice commands for apps and functions outside of Maps, such as: 'play some jazz', 'call mom', 'send a text', etc. Here's a link to the Google Maps Cheat Sheet in case you want to explore all the new options.
Google Maps 9.22 lets you rename your favorite places and add stickers to the map
Google has provided its Maps users with a way to turn their home into a castle - at least in digital form. Google has added the ability to choose an icon for your home and work. Options include a castle, submarine and windmill. Once selected, the location will appear as that icon on the map. Hopefully, Google will expand or refine the icons, as they're somewhat dubious and limited at the minute, but it's a fun feature to have for the time being.
The other addition in this version is that you can add labels to businesses or locations. By selecting a location, bringing up its info screen and pressing the options button (the three dots) you can select Add label. This allows you to choose any name you like for a place, be it your home, office, favorite bar or sports club.
Another Google Maps trick you can now try out is viewing taxi prices when you're getting directions to a place. Just click on the taxi icon (second from the right), and you can now see how much it will cost to get to your destination via private transport, be it Uber or another taxi service (Google currently partners with different taxi companies in Brazil, India, the UK, Spain, and Germany).
Google Maps 9.20 adds photos to reviews, enhanced audio navigation options, additions to Timeline
If you add a review of a restaurant, attraction or business through Google Maps, you can now include photos to illustrate the location. Google will even pair photos you took at the location to your review automatically, saving you the trouble.
A Play voice during phone calls option has now been added in Settings > Navigation settings. It is enabled by default, so head to the settings menu to turn it off if you don't want the voices to become overbearing.
Navigation mode now has street names and exits displayed on the map itself, rather than solely in the bar at the top of screen, making it a little more convenient for quick scanning.
A final, minor addition is the ability to add a stop on your Maps Timeline. If Google misses something, you can tap the options button and select Add a place.
Google Maps 9.19 adds Driving Mode, Timeline settings and audio toggle for navigation
Driving Mode has been made accessible through a shortcut and now loads up without you needing to enter a destination. The mode uses your location history and web searches to guess where you might be heading. When you're on the go, it also feeds you traffic updates and ETAs.
The audio toggle for voice navigation has also returned to a more visible location, so you can easily switch it off when it starts to irritate you.
The Timeline feature also saw a couple of small improvements, including a way to toggle photos on and off, and an option to determine whether your past searches and app activity affect how inaccurately chosen locations are edited.
Google Maps adds offline search and navigation - November 10, 2015
Offline search and navigation features were first previewed all the way back in May, at Google I/O, and are now beginning to roll out to Google Maps users. You simply search for a city, county or country and tap Download on the place sheet, or go to Offline Areas in the Google Maps menu and tap the + button.
Once you've downloaded your area of choice, Google Maps will switch to the offline map whenever it detects patchy or non-existent internet connectivity. Offline, Maps will function much the same as it does online, giving you turn-by-turn directions, business opening hours, useful information and contact numbers. If your internet picks up again, Maps will switch back to online mode, granting you access to live information, such as traffic alerts.
The feature is rolling out to Android users first, with iOS users said to be getting it "soon".
Google Maps 9.16 adds gas prices and detours - October 20, 2015
Fluctuating oil prices are driving a fixation with gas prices and Google, as ever, is tapping the collective modern mind. It was always pretty easy to just ask Maps to direct you to the nearest station, but that served convenience alone. Now you can view which stations close to you are offering the cheapest gas prices, and save a few cents at the pump.
Additionally, the new update lets you add detours while you're en route. When you're using navigation mode and you realize you've forgotten to pick up the vital ingredient for dinner, or you've been traveling for hours and are approaching starvation, you can now tap the magnifying glass in the the top right corner to access a drop-down menu with options like restaurants, grocery stores and coffee shops. If what you want isn't on that list, you can search or use voice commands to get to where you want to go.
Google Maps 9.13-15
A number of small changes were made to Maps through several incremental updates earlier this year.
First, a small Street View thumbnail was added to the screen when you drop a pin in a location covered by one of Google's Street View cars. Then, Google added the Add a missing business option to the navigation drawer, making it more visible, so you can add in places that haven't yet been picked up on.
The navigation UI now features a much larger map in between the journey time and location/destination input. A popular times feature now lets you see when a particular restaurant is likely to be busy, which presumably will be at lunch and dinner, but who really knows? And finally, you can now turn off traffic notifications, which might well save you enduring an onslaught of updates when you already know the situation.
Have you found the latest Google Maps updates useful? What features would you like to see in future? Let us know below.