by James A. Martin

Google Updates Android Maps App After Apple Boots it from iPhone

Sep 21, 20123 mins

Google’s Maps app for Android smartphones just received an update with a particularly nice new feature. Too bad the directions still feel like they’re in beta.

Google released a significant update to its Maps App for Android on Wednesday. That was, of course, the same day Apple’s new iOS 6 rolled out to the legions of iPhone users—with Apple’s Map app in place of Google Maps, which was available in past versions of iOS.

Google’s Android Maps update isn’t earthshaking, but it offers one particularly nice new feature. Google search queries performed on a desktop computer (while you’re logged into Google) are now synced to Google Maps on your Android.

Imagine that you searched for a specific shop on your PC a few days ago. Now you’re trying to find the store while out and about with your Android device. As soon as you launch Google Maps on your Android and start to type the shop’s name in its search box, Google Maps knows you’ve typed that name before on your computer. The app autosuggests the shop’s name, sparing you from having to type further. You’ll also see other places you’ve searched for on your computer or your Android.  

Google Maps was already good at autosuggesting, so this just kicks it up a notch. You can also access previous searches, starred locations, saved maps and more using the app’s enhanced My Places feature.

Google Maps Android screen shot

The latest Google Maps also supports single-handed zoom, which is nice if you have a big Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note. You just double tap the screen to zoom in and double tap again to zoom in closer.

All told, Google Maps is an excellent search tool for easily locating businesses, addresses and more. And with Zagat’s restaurant data built in, it’s ideal for scouting out nearby restaurants.

I just wish Google Maps did a better job with its main task: telling me how to get from point A to point B. Google’s Android navigation will have me turning left in San Francisco (where I live) when I know damn well I should take a right. It doesn’t always do this, but it happens frequently—enough so that I only use Google’s navigation on my Android as a last routing resort–or to find good restaurants near me. Unfortunately, Apple’s new Maps app doesn’t seem to be much better, judging from all the negative press it’s been getting.

Still no official word on whether or when Google will release a Maps app for iOS, now that it’s been drummed off iDevices so unceremoniously. Apple gave Google’s YouTube app the heave-ho earlier, which didn’t stop Google from releasing a new and improved, free downloadable version.

So there will probably be a Google Maps app for iOS again in the near future—one that gives better directions, I hope.