Google Maps is getting a big new update on iPhone and Android — here's what's new

Key Points
  • The Google Maps app is getting a redesign on Android and iPhone.
  • The update coincides with Google Maps' 15th birthday.
  • It puts more features front and center, with new public transit and augmented reality options coming in March.
Here's what's new in the latest refresh of Google Maps
Here's what's new in the latest refresh of Google Maps

Google Maps announced on Thursday a major redesign for the app on Android and iPhone that will begin rolling out now. In March, users will get new upgrades for public transit and augmented reality.

Google demonstrated some of the features during a briefing with CNBC ahead of the launch, which coincides with the service's 15th birthday on Thursday.

The redesign makes the app easier to use and doesn't require as much digging to find some options. It focuses on five icons on the bottom of the screen, three of which are new.

In addition to the Commute and Explore buttons, which were already in the app, you'll soon see buttons labeled "Saved," Contribute" and "Updates."

As a quick refresher: Commute shows you how long it'll take to get to work based on your transportation preference. Explore shows you restaurants, events and featured lists from other Google Maps users.

The new main screen has five options at the bottom, three of which are new.

Here's what the new buttons do:

  • Saved shows you the restaurants, bars, landmarks and other places you've bookmarked to see. It's useful if you're visiting a city and want to make a list of places to visit when you get there. You can just tap Saved when you land to see everything in one spot, including different lists for different places.
  • Contribute makes it faster to add reviews or post photos of the places you've been. If you post pictures of a meal at a restaurant, for example, other people will see those pictures when they visit and it might help them know what to order.
  • Updates is a quick way to see what's popular around you based on recommendations from "local experts" or information outlets like The Infatuation, Google said. So, if you land in Lisbon, for example, you'll see trending restaurants, recommendations on places to see and more, all based on information shared by other Google Maps users.

In March, Google Maps will get a couple of additional new features that expand on what's already available.

For instance, you can already see how crowded a subway car or bus might be before you get on it.

New options inside public transit show temperature, accessibility and more.

Soon, you'll also be able to see the temperature, whether or not there are accessibility options like dedicated seating areas or a "women's section" in places where transit systems have that (Google said this is an option in India and Japan), and whether or not there's security like guards or security cameras. In Japan, you'll see how many cars are available on a train, too. Some of this data, like temperature, is provided by people who are already on the train or bus you're about to ride.

A new augmented reality feature shows you how far away something is.

Finally, Google is expanding its "Live View" augmented reality feature, which overlays digital guides, like big arrows showing you where to walk, on top of the real world when you view it through your phone. Soon, instead of just big arrows showing you where to go, there will be a more simple red dot showing you where and how far away a destination is.

Google has a lot of data on you — here's how to download it
How to download everything Google knows about you