Google Maps for Android adds tablet UI, revamped user ratings

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is rolling out a new version of its popular Maps application for Android, introducing a dedicated user interface for tablets alongside new search and discovery features.

Google Maps - Tablet

Google Maps rolls out a dedicated user interface for tablets.

The overhauled Google Maps--compatible with Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean devices and coming soon to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS--includes Explore, which enables users to visually browse and discover nearby places with no typing required. "Simply tap the search box and you'll see cards showing great places to eat, drink, sleep and shop," explains Google Maps Director Daniel Graf.

Google Maps for Android also enhances motorist navigation, introducing traffic reports highlighting transit problems complete with incident details, as well as re-routing options. Graf told CNet that the traffic enhancements do not leverage technologies acquired from crowdsourced location services firm Waze, which Google purchased last month for $1.1 billion, explaining that the deal closed too recently to impact the Maps redesign process.

Also new: A 5.0 star rating system promising users a quick read on how their friends and others rank destinations like restaurants, bars and cafés, as well as search results incorporating Zagat badges of excellence and expert-curated lists like "Best Restaurants to Meet for a Drink in NYC" to "Best Restaurants in the Mission." Maps also labels current offers from national retailers.

The retooled Google Maps additionally eliminates the Latitude location finder and check-ins. Google is retiring Latitude on Aug. 9, shifting users to its Google+ social networking platform. Google is also removing its offline maps feature for Android: "Instead we've created a new way for you to access maps offline by simply entering 'OK Maps' into the search box when viewing the area you want for later," Graf explains. "Finally, My Maps functionality is not supported in this release but will return to future versions of the app. People who want to create powerful custom maps can still do so with Maps Engine Lite on desktop."

Google Maps is the second most popular mobile application among U.S. consumers, trailing only Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), according to a recent comScore Mobile Metrix report. After Apple dumped preloaded Google Maps access on iOS devices in favor of its much-criticized Apple Maps platform, Google late last year introduced a native Maps for iOS, generating more than 10 million downloads in the application's first two days of availability in Apple's App Store.

For more:
- read this Google Official Blog post
- read this CNet article

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