Google Maps is one of the most indispensable mobile apps. But it’s getting even better this week with an update for Android that provides real-time traffic data and other useful new features.
That real-time data addition appears to be the perfect mobile-based companion functionality to one of Google Maps’s best features on the PC: Its ability to predict how long a drive will take if you tell it when you need to arrive at the destination. For example, if you want to arrive at the airport at, say, 5 pm on a Monday, Google Maps can tell you when you should leave. Because that drive will vary according to both routine traffic changes as well as real-time incidents such as accidents.
So adding real-time traffic data to the mobile app makes tons of sense. And it’s happening first on Android, Google says. This feature provides real-time ETAs for your commute and other directions, including traffic conditions and delays, and more. (This is outside of the driving mode.)
“Starting today we’re rolling out an update to Google Maps on Android that provides helpful everyday info—in real time—at the bottom of your home screen,” Google Maps product manager Marcus Lowe explains. “Just swipe up and you’ll see three tabs that will help you find a nearby restaurant, beat traffic, or catch the next bus.”
As that quote suggests, the ability to find nearby places like restaurants is quite interesting, especially for those coming to Android from Windows phone: This appears to work much like the Local Scout feature that Microsoft implemented back in the day on its own mobile platform.
“Under the places tab, you’ll see curated lists of places to eat and drink like ‘best dinners,’ ‘cheap eats’ or ‘business dining,’ around you or in any location you choose,” Lowe notes. “In one tap you can also search for other everyday spots like ATMs, pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores. Peek at images of the area or read a short description of the neighborhood to get the lay of the land.”
The new transit functionality—shades of HERE Transit, perhaps—will provide recommendations for which bus or train to take, provide information about upcoming buses and trains, and will help you find nearby stations.
Google Maps is amazing. You should be using this, no matter what you think of this company.
(There’s no word, curiously on when this functionality is coming to Google Maps for iOS.)