Google said earlier this month it was rolling out a big new update to Google Maps for Android and iPhone that introduces a new layout. It started with just a change of the icon, but over the last week or so you may have finally received the other changes Google announced.
There are now five buttons on the bottom of the screen — Explore, Go, Saved, Contribute and Updates. Some of these options were already available in Google Maps, but they were hidden away inside menus. Now they're front and center, and they're pretty useful for finding the best way to get somewhere, reviews of places you visit, recommendations on restaurants you might want to check out nearby, and to quickly access lists of places you want to visit when you travel somewhere.
Here's what each new button does and how to use them.
The Explore button on the bottom of the screen shows a small menu with some restaurants nearby that you might want to check out. But, if you pull this menu up, you'll see a lot more information. It'll show you upcoming events, like concerts, festivals, events at performance arts centers and more. Scroll further, and you'll see lists by featured users. In my area, for example, I see "Top Rated Desserts" in West Bronx, a list curated by Google from places with the top reviews. There are also photos of the area I'm in posted by other people.
It's a useful tab if you land in a city for work and want to know where to go for a restaurant, or maybe if there's some good nightlife events going on while you're in town.
The "Go" tab used to be called "Commute." It now includes information on how long it will take to get to destinations you've recently searched for, how long it will take you to get home or to work by the transit system of your choice and nearby public transit lines.
The transit lines feature is especially useful in cities. It shows real-time information in New York for arrivals of buses and subway lines, for example, and if they're running late. In March, Google will roll out new features on select lines that will tell you if there's security onboard, a women-only car in select countries like Japan and India, and if people are reporting the bus or train is cold or hot.
I like the commuting feature the most, since it always shows me how long it'll take me to get home or to the office by car. It's nice to have that quick, at-a-glance information.
The Saved tab gives you quick access to anything you've saved to visit. So, if you're traveling to Lisbon, Portugal, for example, your friends might tell you a bunch of places to see. You can mark those places in Google Maps and create a saved list. Then, pull up this tab to see where you should go when you arrive. It also has other convenient features, like saved parking spots, favorite places you've marked and more. And, if you go through the tabs at the top, you'll see restaurants you've made reservations at (so long as it's pulled in from your Gmail account), custom maps you've made and more.
Contribute is basically a quick-access spot to add your own reviews. As you can see, I'm a pretty active Google Maps reviewer. This lets you add new places that might not yet exist in Google Maps, review places you've visited, post public pictures for other people to see, edit map areas that might be incorrect and more. It's Google's way of crowdsourcing data from its users, so you may not want to do this if you don't want your reviews and photos to be public, but it can be really helpful for other users, which is why I like it.
Finally, there's an Updates button on the bottom right. This is kind of similar to the Explore tab, but has more curated content that has popped up in the news. So, for example, I see stories about what's going on at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York by Playbill. If I scroll down, I see news about places that recently opened in the town I live in, and places that are trending in places I've visited recently. In Philadelphia, for example, there's a note from a lobster place I marked as a favorite place that says it has a new Allagash beer to try.