Could this be the most useful Google Maps update in ages?

Could this be the most useful Google Maps update in ages?

Among the applications that are regularly updated, introducing new functions, software stabilizations and bugfixes, we naturally also find Google Maps, the most used navigator on Android. Although it is a full service, Google developers are constantly working to improve it and make it even more intuitive. The latest news might just be the killer feature that you've been waiting for...finally, you can come back to details of your route after checking something else.

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Return to your current route after searches

Google is working on several major new features for Google Maps, including a handy update that would combine driving and transit menus into a single Commute option. But there's a new feature in the work that travelers have been dying to see. Isn't it a pain when you've got a long route set on Google Maps, but after you check the location of something else and want to return to your route, you have to start over? This could soon be a thing of the past.

First reported by Android Police, the Current Trip feature allows users to return to the navigation route they previously set up in Google Maps. So a quick search for something on your journey (a landmark, restaurant, store or whatever) won't lose your route. 

You can see the Current Trip is still active even when searching far away. / © Android Police (Screenshot)

The original report used sources from Sweden, and confirmed with screenshots from several users on Google Maps 9.86.0 that even when using Navigation for directions, users could use the Explore function to make new searches while keeping their route. The users also reported that this currently only worked with transit routes, but we hope that this handy feature will become available for all types of locomotion after its testing period.

Are you hoping to be able to use Current Trip in Google Maps soon? Let us know in the comments!

Other upcoming features

Google Maps introduces practical new shortcuts

Shortcuts, the latest new feature for Google Maps, is not coming through the regular update process, but some users have reported being able to use it as Google is able to enable the function via server and is doing so gradually in a slow rollout.

Shortcuts have previously been discovered in teardowns of the Google Maps APK but had yet to appear in any functional capacity.

The news of active shortcuts by Google come to us from a tipster in India via our colleagues at Android Police. The Indian UI of Google Maps you can see in the screenshot below is different from the Explore/Drive/Transit panel that we are used to, but we can see how the addition of shortcuts makes the app more useful.

google maps shortcuts
We hope that these functions are available soon in other regions. / © Android Police

Shortcuts initially appear in Google Maps as a card with three options, but are accompanied by a "+" button for adding more options. In the top right corner is the Edit button that will allow users to remove and replace shortcuts.

In total, you can choose from 14 shortcuts but can only have 4 active at any given time. Options include the most commonly used Maps functions such as location sharing or the ability to download maps for offline navigation.

Notification channels and offline country maps

There are some interesting new possibilities shown in the beta of Google Maps introducing the 9.55 version but, unfortunately, only for those who have Android Oreo. The most important news could be the possibility to download maps of entire countries (no longer limited to those of cities, as you could do so far) and some improvements in the management of notifications of the app.

Thanks to the so-called Notification Channels - now 28 - the user will have the possibility to customize at most different aspects including vibration and notification sounds. By accessing the settings of Google Maps you can then customize these entries.

android police google maps
We can download the map of an entire country and use it offline! / © Android Police

But let's move on to the new developments we've been waiting for. The Android Police team, through a teardown of the APK code (that is a decompilation of the new version of the app) have been able to locate the new feature "OFFLINE_SELECT_COUNTRY" which allows users to download a larger part of the map than we can do today. This means that it will be even easier to travel abroad thanks to the wide-ranging offline maps.

Previous Updates to Google Maps

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.

androidpit screenshot google maps graph
Google Maps now suggests the optimal time for your journey. / © NextPit

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.

reserve with google
Find appointments near you. / © Google

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.

androidpit google maps 2
Add stickers to indicate your home and workplace. / © ANDROIDPIT

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).

androidpit google maps 1
See how much it will cost to get a taxi with Google Maps. / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

Have you found the latest Google Maps updates useful? What features would you like to see in future? Let us know below.

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  • What I really need:
    - radar sound alerts just like Sygic;
    - visual speed limits of the road/street with sound alerts just like Sygic;
    - offline maps of states of a country just like Sygic;
    - route for motorcycles;
    I prefer Maps rather than Sygic because Maps is integrated with Android Auto and Google Assistant and give better traffic conditions

  • Will be good if they introduce larger offline country maps (or provincial maps for giant Canada, as OSM does.) The other thing needed is to let users decide if they want to keep an offline map instead of making it expire monthly and disappear. Being on the road with crummy hotel internet or camping with none, and having half a GB of map data time out and disappear is a serious limit to Google's functionality, as compared with OSM. (Google could avoid liability for inaccuracies on older offline maps by simply warning users.)

  • I think this update is better than any other updates of Google Maps. But who knows it will be the best one or not! Let's see the next one....

  • Some of these actions/shortcuts are indeed pretty useful.

  • Great.. Thanks for posting a detailed guide on this. This is really helpful...

  • steve Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

    How often are these articles being regurgitated.lucky I've dementia.

  • Ceince Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

    The new features are great. Especially the voice commands. But when is google going to add a HUD setting?

  • Exactly! But actually this is such a great help though especially when you are in a busy hours and looking for vacant place to park.

    It’s surprising that they continue to develop Waze in tandem with Google Maps and don’t provide the same features and look for both. Maybe Google is using Waze as a way to test new features that they will eventually incorporate into Google Maps?

  • White trash fast food..... Really?

  • What happened to the "speed limit" on the screen? Did that not make it past beta?

  • Thanks for sharing!

  • Didn't know about changing Home and work icons.

    I'm always having to add places to my timeline, I'm not entirely sure if it's lack of GPS reception or WiFi. I have added my own flags for dog walking location and repeat the route dailly but it's hit or miss whether Maps records it.
    I presume that because I'm in a rural location that there is a lack of free WiFi spots to triangulate my position.

    Peace ✌

  • nice :) good to know.

  • Just another reason to narrow down the map app field. As long as you don't get bad directions which has happened to me with Google maps a couple of times over the last six months or so. It's still my go to map app.
    Thanks for the new information.

  • Sounds interesting!

  • Some nice and useful features added. I guess we now have less of a reason to leave Google Maps, ever. Just merge it with FB or WhatsApp and what else can an Android user want ;) I remember the times when you would visit one website to get restaurant recommendations and when I found out about a site that compares gas prices what a great invention for me that was. I guess soon we'll be using only 2-3 apps and it won't be a browser.
    Thanks for the tips. Gonna check them out.

  • Google Maps now lets you customize locations with colorful stickers. it'll be much easier to differentiate between those favorite locations.

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