The new Google Maps is more than just a Yelp alternative

Date: 2018-06-26 - Categories: Internet

Thanks to the company's vast wealth of data and a super-nifty Group Planning feature, the new Maps is extremely compelling.

Google announced so much stuff at I/O 2018 that there was barely enough time to cover them all. In addition to new Android P features, a "Digital Wellbeing" initiative and all manner of AI and accessibility improvements, the company also unveiled a redesigned Maps app that might change the way we explore places. I checked out a demo of the new app with Maps product lead Sophia Lin, and frankly can't wait till the new features roll out this summer.

Google knows a ton of stuff about its users -- where they're frequenting, what they're searching for and the places they've rated highly. Most of the changes to Maps will tap that data to show you more meaningful content, in each region you're looking up, whether it's your neighborhood or a new city you're researching.

Group Planning

Before we go into all that though, I want to go over my favorite of the new features: Group Planning. When you're searching for places to go to, like a hotpot restaurant, for example, you can long-press each result in the new Maps app to create a shortlist. After your first long-press, a badge similar to the Messenger chat heads on Android pops up on the side of your screen, with a number indicating how many items have been added to the list.

Once you're done picking your candidates, you can tap the badge to bring up your list. From that page, you can share your selection with your friends, and they can upvote and downvote each option. You can also switch between a list view and maps view. The latter makes it easier to see your proximity to each location, so you can factor that into your decision.

It's nice to see how straightforward this feature is, but most heartening is the fact that this actually solves a problem that plagues many of our lives. No longer will I have to create multiple chat groups for all the friends I'm arranging dinners with, and it will simplify the decision-making process. I might even go out with groups of friends more when this feature rolls out.