July 6, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Google Maps is already the most downloaded Android app, and today’s update makes the navigation app even more compelling for anyone running Android 2.1 or higher.
Google Maps Navigation now includes Transit Navigation, a beta feature that directs how to get from Point A to Point B using public transit. This isn’t just “Get on the Bus Route 1 and Take Train Route B,” though. This is live navigation using the phone’s GPS and location services to guide users through the entire journey.
Imagine you’re in New York City for the first time and want to get to Times Square from Laguardia Airport. Google Maps might tell you which bus to get on and where to exit to get your train, but how the heck are you supposed to know when you’ve reach 125th street if you’re on a crowded bus clutching to your luggage and can’t see the street signs outside your window? You don’t have to because version 5.7 of Maps now provides a visual guide and actually tells you to get off at the next stop.
Best of all, you can go about your business – reading email, tweeting, etc. – and Transit Navigation continues running in the background, so it will alert you when the stop nears. The only drawback is that reliance on GPS means it will be sketchy on underground transit; however, it will work well on city buses and above-ground monorails/train lines. Transit is available now in more than 400 cities across the globe and more are expected to follow.
Other new features in Google Maps 5.7 include:
- Updated Directions – Driving and walking navigation get easier access from the search screen. It should provide one-click access to go into Navigation mode from the directions tab, as well as a shortcut from the Places tab.
- Search Suggest - Results will be better organized with Google Places getting pins or stars so they are easier to identify, a clock if you have searched for that place already, and a person’s silhouette if it’s a contact’s address.
- Google Places - Users can now view photos of Google Places within the app, so it should be easier to spot locations.