November 11, 2015

Google Maps Makeovers: Offline Maps, Voice Alerts, & APIs

Image from The Dissolve.
By Megan G.

As much as certain providers would love to claim, Wi-Fi is not available everywhere.  Free, unending wireless service is a dream of the future, and until that day, we are restricted to letting apps eat up our smartphone data or to make do without the convenience of mobile technology. 

Luckily, one app is making our mobile lives a little easier.  Google Maps is now available offline!

That’s the big story of this week, but Google Maps has been receiving quite the makeover in other areas, as well!  Let’s catch up with last few crucial updates for our favorite navigation application.

No Connection?  No Problem!

Image from TIME
Few situations are more disorienting than trying to get somewhere new without any sense of direction.  Whether you are trying to get to a new friend’s dinner party on time or you are searching for an event in an unknown city, you can now do it with ease no matter where those Wi-Fi hotspots are hiding. 

The Google Maps and Search offline update went live on Android yesterday and should be on its way to iOS soon.  Now, Maps users will be able to search locations, get turn-by-turn directions, and view star ratings, contact info, and hours of operation.   As The Verge reports, things like photos and customer reviews will not be featured because of “space constraints.”

The one catch of the update is that you have to preemptively download the map, like so…

Image from The Verge.

Perhaps as Google Maps’ machine learning matures, the operating system will expect a user’s need for certain routes and cities, and save those digital maps automatically.  For example, an event address saved on your Google Calendar might prompt the Maps app to save a route for you before you even have to search for it.  Until then, we have a helpful feature on Maps that still needs only minimal effort from our end.

Shut Up And Drive!

Driving a car is distracting enough with your music blaring, annoying radio commercials, and noisy passengers—you definitely do not need to add a smartphone into the mix.  Yet, many people change their Spotify setlist, text friends, SnapChat, and check Google Maps while driving.  Don’t be ashamed because we’ve probably all done it, but just take this friendly reminder that it is
ILLEGAL to do all of those things.  

Someone just HAD to skip their song on Spotify.
For these reasons, Google Maps’ voiced traffic alerts will save many a driver from dangerous accidents and traffic tickets.  Before you even hit the road, Maps can give you the fastest possible route and say aloud whether or not your route will be overly congested.  You don’t have to get stuck in the middle of traffic before you find out you definitely chose to take the wrong freeway. 

Google Maps will also alert drivers of recent accidents, construction zones, or police activity, with its interface displaying the approximate amount of delay time a driver might face.

Image from Google Maps’ Google+ page.

Some Business Buzz

Our very own Nick has already covered the holiday hours update in his article Google My Business Helps You Prepare for the Holiday Season!  As we all know, any update that makes its way to GMB will also affect a business’ Google Maps display.  Now when you are out frantically trying to find holiday gifts, you can know exactly when that adorable corner store is open for business—or if you should call in to find out!    

For another business-related update, Google Maps introduced another new feature to iOS last week that grants users the ability to add missing businesses to the app. Small business owners, rejoice!  Now, everyone can easily get on Google Maps with the help of Google Map Maker integration.  If you have a Google account, you can add a business—no fuss, no muss.

“Predictive Travel,” A New Toy for Developers

The Next Web reports that Google Maps has made their “predictive travel” API free for web developers to sink their teeth into.  If you have ever used the desktop version of Google Maps, you know that the website features navigation prediction for hours or days in advance.  Need to get to Angel Stadium in time for the big game?  Check out traffic conditions for later in the day on your lunch break, and you’ll make it a way less stressful trip.

Now, that power is in the hands of devs who have signed up for the “Standard Plan” for Google Maps APIs.  The Google Geo Developers blog gives examples of what devs could create using this API, including a thermostat that could get your house warm and toasty by the time you get home from work. 

What do you think of these Google Maps makeovers?  How would you use the “Predictive Travel” API?  Let the Tek Team know in the comments!


  1. Hmm! Quite an exciting post on Google Map updates. New things are coming to this navigation platform. I am very pleased with the progress made and it sure cool to access how these really works for easy user experience.

    The Google Map Makeover and the “Predictive Travel” API are welcoming!
    This comment was left in as well

    1. Nice talking to you, again, Sunday!

      Are you a developer? We would love to hear what kind of apps you would create using the "Predictive Travel" API! Let us know :)


      The Tek Team