New Transliteration Layer in Google Maps

Google Maps has a new layer that “switches between the labels in the local language and transliterated text”. It’s enabled by default, but you can disable it by mousing over the layer box and unchecking “English”. Until now, both versions were displayed and the map looked cluttered.

Google Maps adds New Weather Layer

Google Maps added a layer for weather. Just mouse over the satellite box and select “weather” from the list of layers.

“When zoomed out, you’ll see a map with current weather conditions from U.S. Naval Research Lab. And, if you look closely, you can also tell if it’s day or night around the world by sun and moon icons. Enabling the weather layer also gives you an instant weather report for friends and family living around the world,” informs Google. Weather reports are powered by and include information about the current conditions (humidity, wind speed, temperature) and a 4-day forecast.

The nice thing about Google Maps layers is that you can combine them. For example, you can enable both the terrain and the weather layers, like you can see in the screenshot above.

More Features in Google Maps for Mobile Browsers

One of the most underrated Google mobile Web apps is Google Maps. Most smartphones and tablets have a native app for Google Maps, so a mobile Web app doesn’t seem necessary. Unfortunately, native apps aren’t always updated frequently and there are many missing features. Google does a good job at updating Google Maps for Android, but Apple’s Maps app for iOS rarely includes new Google Maps features.

That’s probably one of the reasons why the Google Maps mobile site was updated to include most of the features from the desktop site. Another reason is that Google wants to offer “a consistent Google Maps experience wherever you use it.”

The updated Google Maps mobile site has features like local business search, Google Places, driving directions, layers, My Maps, starred locations, search suggestions. If you can’t find biking directions or information about businesses in the Maps app for the iPhone, you can go to in your mobile browser and use these features.

Just like the mobile YouTube site, “Google Maps for mobile browsers is platform independent – you will always get a consistent experience and the latest features without needing to install any updates, no matter what phone you use.”

I’ve tried the updated mobile interface on an iPhone 3GS, a Nexus One and an iPad 2. While all the new features are great, the site is still too slow and unresponsive to be useful. Until Google solves performance issues and mobile browsers become more powerful, people will still use the native app.

New Google Maps Navigation Controls

After more than three months of testing, the new Google Maps navigation controls have replaced the classic tabs. By default, Google shows a small preview of the satellite imagery and a link to the traffic layer, but you’ll get more options if you mouse over “satellite” or “traffic”.

Google lists the layers that are available (terrain, webcams, the confusingly named Buzz, videos, Wikipedia, bicycling, real estate, transit, 45 degree imagery, labels), including a list of previous searches and driving directions.

“When we launched Google Maps, we had one layer — the map. Since then, we’ve added more than ten different ways to explore the world around you, including photos, transit and traffic information, as well as satellite and terrain views. We’ve now updated the design so that you can more easily see and switch between the various viewing options that are available,” explains Google.

I find the new interface more confusing, but I admit that it will better accommodate the new layers that will be released. Until now, if you wanted to switch to the satellite mode, you clicked the “satellite” button and that was it. Now Google shows a lot more options when you mouse over the button and you might even forget what you wanted to do.

Welcome to The next generation of mobile maps

I’m excited to announce Google Maps 5.0 for Android, with two significant new features: 3D interaction and offline reliability.

We launched Google Maps for mobile a little more than five years ago. Since then, we’ve added dozens of features, and we’ve grown from a few thousand to more than 100 million users. Still, a couple of things have remained the same: a flat, north-up map and the need for a strong Internet connection. Today, we’re changing that for the first time.

Tilt while zoomed in (left) or use compass mode (right) to orient yourself with 3D buildings.

Explore maps in 3D
Until now, Google Maps has always downloaded the map as a set of small, square images that we stitch together to form the map you see. (You’ve probably seen those gray squares getting filled in, block-by-block, as the images load over the network.) Starting today, we’ll use vector graphics to dynamically draw the map on your device as you use it, allowing you to interact with it in new ways:

  • Tilting: Drag down with two fingers to tilt the map. Tilt while zoomed in on one of the 100+ cities around the world with 3D buildings to see a skyline spring to life.
  • Rotating: Twist with two fingers to rotate the map. After tilting to see 3D buildings, rotate around them to gain a new perspective from any direction.
  • Smooth zooming: Slide two fingers together or apart, and see the map and labels continuously scale to any zoom level, stopping when your fingers stop.
  • Compass mode: Center the map on your location, and then tap the compass button in the top right corner. The map will flip into 3D mode and start rotating to match your perspective, while still keeping all the labels upright and readable.

I found 3D buildings especially useful on a recent trip to New York. From my hotel to the Google office in Chelsea and bars on the Lower East Side, this richer representation of the real world made the map much more helpful. And whenever I walked out of a building or subway station, I used compass mode to get myself quickly oriented and on my way. Check out the video below to see tilt, rotation, zoom and compass mode in action, or see more pictures.

Offline reliability
Google Maps has always been, and continues to be, a fundamentally Internet-connected experience, meaning you always get the freshest map and place data, search and voice search, live traffic conditions, satellite and Street View imagery, and much more. Still, we understand that mobile Internet connections aren’t 100% reliable. So today we’re happy to take the first steps toward greater offline reliability, so you can find your way even if you lose your connection.

In the past, you’ve probably had frustrating moments when you get stranded without a map, whether ducking into the subway, sitting at the back of a restaurant or traveling anywhere with a flaky Internet connection. But dynamically drawing maps requires 100 times less data to get maps across all zoom levels, so now we’re able to proactively cache (or store) large areas on your device based on where you use Maps the most. This way, you can rely on having fast, robust maps available to you where you’re most likely to need them.

For example, I live in San Francisco and work in Mountain View, so Maps makes sure I can always pull up detailed street maps of each city and area maps for the whole San Francisco Bay Area. When I do have an Internet connection, I still get live traffic, imagery, richer map details and all the other features I’m used to with Google Maps.

Rather than having a static set of maps when installed, Maps will automatically start caching the areas you visit the most when your device is plugged in and connected to WiFi (e.g., the nightly charge). We’re already hard at work improving the algorithms and technology behind these features, so over time you can expect to see maps work better in more offline situations.

Offline rerouting
If you’re one of the more than 10 million people relying on Google Maps Navigation (Beta), our free turn-by-turn GPS navigation feature, losing your Internet connection can be particularly painful. (This happened to me on a recent ski trip to Tahoe, and I was left trying to manually find my way back to my route.) So we’re also introducing offline rerouting. You’ll still need a connection to start a route, but if you miss a turn along the way, we’ll quickly get you back on track, even if you don’t have an Internet connection. We’ll be rolling this feature out gradually over the next few weeks.

Google Maps Navigation now automatically reroutes you, even if you lose your connection.

These new features are just the first steps in maximizing dynamic map drawing technology to create a faster, more interactive experience where efficiency really matters: mobile devices. For example, we estimate that viewing maps now requires almost 70% less mobile network data overall than before. We can’t wait to take the next steps in making Google Maps faster, more reliable and even more useful no matter where you take it.

Get Google Maps for mobile 5.0 by searching for Google Maps in Android Market (or tap on this link if you’re on your phone). Android 1.6+ devices can get Maps 5.0, but 3D and offline features require Android 2.0+, and some features may not be supported for all devices or countries.

So try it out. Wander around in compass mode, explore 3D buildings—even dare to open Maps on the subway! I hope you enjoy all the new features as much as we do.

Posted by Michael Siliski, Product Manager


Send a message of holiday cheer with Google Maps

For me, celebrating the holidays is about spending time with family and friends. Along with sharing delicious meals and building snowmen in the backyard, getting into the season often means traveling to places both familiar and new, whether going to visit family or walking down the Champs-Élysées to see the holiday lights.

We’re sure many of you have holiday plans in the works, so we’ve designed greeting cards you can email to friends and family—to share those fun adventures or just to say hello from wherever you are around the world. In addition to choosing from 10 holiday covers and adding a personal message, you can include specific directions, a Street View image or a favorite place on the inside of the card.

Since I grew up in New England, the holidays always make me think of skiing. So I’ll send some of my friends cards with inspiring ski scenes in Street View, or directions to Squaw Valley for an upcoming ski trip.

Around this time of year, I also get nostalgic about specific places where great holiday memories were made, so the card I’ll send to my family will remind them of the amazing breakfasts we had at Lou’s during past holiday seasons. And the card to my friends in New York will suggest a restaurant we should try when I visit them in a couple of weeks.

Thanks to Christoph Niemann for inspiration

And of course, to share some winter weather with my friends in California, I’ll send a card with some wintry scenes of Antarctica and Whistler, and snowy greetings on the cover.

We hope these online cards help you stay connected and share holiday cheer with your loved ones, whether you send directions to a holiday party, winter imagery from Street View or the various places that signify the spirit of the season to you. Start sending at Happy holidays!

Posted by Katie Mandel, Product Marketing Manager, Google Maps


Google Maps Will Now No Longer Support Mapplets

Three years ago, Google introduced mapplets, a special flavor of gadgets that added new features to Google Maps. “Mapplets are Google Gadgets that are made especially so that they can be loaded by a user on, and have access to the main shared map. Users can load multiple Mapplets simultaneously for a quick and easy way to mashup content from multiple sources.”

In May, Google announced the deprecation of mapplets, but only developers cared about that. Users could still go to the “My Maps” section from Google Maps and add a mapplet from the directory. Unfortunately, Google Geo Developers Blog informs us that the directory will be closed and all the links to mapplets will be removed.

As part of the deprecation plan for Mapplets we will shortly be switching from rendering Mapplets within Google Maps, to rendering them on a dedicated Mapplets page. (…) Bookmarks for existing Mapplets will continue to work. They will be automatically redirected to the new Mapplets page for the relevant Mapplet. (…) However because the Mapplets page is not part of the Google Maps application, Mapplets will no longer have access to Google Maps user profiles. (…) The above changes will be made on or shortly after Wednesday December 8th 2010.

Google Maps Directory includes 1550 mapplets that show crime information, weather data, information about population density, earthquakes, airports, hotels, golf courses and much more.

If you’ve added one or more mapplets to the “My Maps” section from Google Maps and you want to use them even after the links are removed, find them in the Google Maps Directory, convert their URLs and bookmark them. For example, replace:


Google Maps Navigation for Australia and New Zealand

Google’s free navigation software is now available in Australia and New Zealand. “Google Maps Navigation is a feature of Google Maps for Mobile that provides voice-guided turn by turn directions in real time. That means that instead of printing out your directions in advance, or having your co-pilot read aloud from list of directions, you can use your Android smartphone to guide you there directly,” explains Google. To use this feature you need a smartphone that runs Android 1.6 or a more recent version of Android.

At the moment, Google Maps Navigation is available in 17 countries, but this number will increase when Google starts to use its own mapping data in other countries. As Greg Sterling points out, “at some point during the course of the past couple of years, perhaps catalyzed by the shock of Nokia’s roughly $8 billion acquisition of Navteq, Google decided it needed to ‘own’ maps top to bottom. Since that time the company has been making a systematic effort to collect and improve the base data for this highly strategic product. That’s partly what Street View driving is about: getting roads and other data for Maps (and now Navigation) in addition to imagery and WiFi hotspot locations.”

Announcing the Panoramio Photo Contest

The Panoramio community enables you to share your photos and explore them on Google Earth, Google Maps and other places. If you’ve never geo-tagged a photo, watch this video to learn how easy it is to add photos to the Panoramio layer in Google Earth.

Now you can add some excitement to your photo project and enter your photos to the monthly Panoramio Geotagged Photo Contest! Starting this month, we’ll be giving away the new Casio Hybrid-GPS camera EX-H20G to the winner of each category (Scenery, Heritage, Travel and Unusual Location). The Panoramio community reviews all of the submissions and votes for what they consider to be the best each month.

Casio’s new Hybrid-GPS camera combines a GPS engine with autonomic positioning made possible by a motion sensor. This makes geotagging easy—both outdoors and indoors.

If you haven’t joined the Panoramio community yet, try it out and don’t forget to participate in our monthly contest. To enter your photo, click on “Submit to the contest” and choose a category. Good luck and we can’t wait to see your photos!

Posted by Gerard Sanz

A New Interface for Google Local Search

Google Maps was the only specialized search engine from Google’s sidebar that didn’t have a consistent interface for search results. When you clicked on “Maps” in the sidebar, you were sent to Google Maps, a service that has a completely different interface.

Google experiments with adding a “Places” option to the menu. The main difference is that local search results are displayed inside the regular Google search interface and users no longer have to visit Google Maps

In 2005, Google merged two distinct services: Google Maps and Google Local. “Google announced the official launch of Google Local, merging the technologies behind Google Local and Google Maps. No longer in beta in the U.S. and Canada, users can visit to find local search and mapping information in one place,” informed Google at that time. Google Local was renamed as Google Maps after a few months. Since then, Google launched a mobile interface for local search results, a large OneBox for local results, place pages for businesses and now a separate desktop interface for local search. Back to the roots.