Google has updated its beloved Maps phone app for Android — the iPhone update is "coming soon" — and in addition to new "explore" and "reviews" features for learning more about places, it has adopted one of Waze's signature features. Among the updated navigation features Maps now allows users to "see reports of problems on the road that you can tap to see incident details," the announcement explains. Waze — the popular Israeli mapping company that Google bought for reportedly over $1 billion this June — because of its crowd-sourced data alerts drivers to construction, accidents, and other interfering incidents. Now Google Maps conveniently does this, too. (Though, to be clear: the Waze technology itself isn't in this version of the app — just the idea.) As you can see pictured right, the app indicates an "incident." To see details just tap on it, at which point Google will offer other, faster routes that you can choose to take or ignore. It sounds incredibly useful. But, of course, like with all Maps apps its utility will be in how well it handles real time situations. In practice, the feature will require a lot of very accurate data. Then again, Google has so far been pretty good at that sort of thing vis-a-vis maps.
In addition to the navigation tweaks, the updated app for both tablets and cell phones has a slightly different design, looking more like the new Google Maps desktop version. The "explore" tab has tiled cards of places to go to eat or visit, pictured at left. To go along with that, Google has also updated its ratings system (using all that Zagat intel it bought and social intel from Google+). "A new 5.0 star rating system that gives you a quick read on how your friends and others rate places like restaurants, bars and cafes," reads the release. Or, for an "expert" opinion, the Zagat rating comes up, too.
The one drawback of the new app so far is the lack of offline maps. But Google's engineers built in an Easter egg for people who want to cache maps. Just type OK Maps into the search bar and it will automatically save it for offline use later.
It's unclear when all these tweaks will come to the iPhone. The version for Google's Android OS often has the best new features — like bike directions and voice turn-by-turn directions — long before they show up in iOS.