Google Announces New Google Maps
Like many people, I was glued to my screen watching the live feed from Google I/O this year. I was anxiously waiting for Google to announce their new, cool stuff. I wasn’t disappointed when I saw the new Google maps.
I had posted a short little comment about the new S4 with vanilla Android on it, and it turned into a kind of accidental live blog of I/O. A couple friends replied, and it was off to the races from there. It wasn’t long after the announcement of the new Google Maps thatÂ C. Anthony Esposito II posted the link to sign up for Google’s preview of Maps. I signed up for it right away. My invite came the next day.
I might have said something inappropriate for work when I first saw my invite. I didn’t mean it in a bad way. Quite the opposite. I was so excited to give this a try. The preview I’d seen during I/O blew me away, and I don’t think I was the only one.
Not a Great Start
I clicked on that link to start the new maps so fast I might have gone back in time. The page didn’t come up quite as quickly. I was offered a tour of the new features first, and opted to take it. I was on the second feature when my browser locked up and Chrome crashed all the way. I didn’t worry about it since I’d had some memory issues with that computer and I had a couple tabs open so I thought that maybe Chrome ran out of memory. I fired it back up, closed all the other tabs, and brought the tour back up again. Same place, Chrome crashed horribly.
This is when I decided to forget the tour. Maps loaded fairly slowly, but finally succeeded in not crashing. I’ll cut to the chase here since this went on for a while. Nothing worked. I couldn’t get directions. The browser crashed regularly. I couldn’t view satellite pictures. Nothing. I’ll admit I was worried. This was not a great start.
Maps was Not to Blame
I gave up on maps for part of the day there. Finished my work and picked up my kids and went home. It had been a fairly long day. The rest of the night was fairly typical. Mickey Mouse Club House and dinner on the couch. Kids get a bath and off to bed. Finally I sit down at my computer again. I’m not at work this time.
Let me spell out what that means. At work, I have a Dell laptop. It’s currently running Windows 7 and it’s packed to the gills with every security measure our IT department could find. It’s got 4GB of RAM, and I can max that out by adding 5 Chrome Tabs one more application. This isÂ not a good machine. At home, I’m still running a Dell, but I’ve got Ubuntu 12.04 running XFCE with 6GB of RAM. I don’t need to pack those 6GB of RAM full of security apps because Linux takes care of that for me.
When I fired Google’s new Maps up on my Linux computer, it was like night and day. Everything was perfect. The graphics and effects pristine. Directions worked. I haven’t had a single crash. The only thing I can think is that Maps was not to blame. My lame work computer was to blame. Insert the sound of a sigh of relief here.
How About those Maps?
So, how about those maps? At first, the real difference is in the interface. Google’s map search has been moved to a floating bar in the upper left hand corner of the map. The bar that used to be at the top is gone. The option to change from normal maps to satellite view has been moved from the top right to the bottom left. The zoom scroller is gone from the left of the screen along with the directional pad. Replacing it is a +/- toggle in the lower right and some tiny thumbnails of images.
Zooming in close on the map shows the improvement in the graphics. It just looks cleaner and it has more detail than it previously did. Clicking on a named item on the map brings up pretty much the same information as it did previously, but instead of the 3D kind of bubble it used previously, that information shows up in a Google Now type card in the upper left hand corner. The information presentation is significantly more clean that it was previously.
Directions are nice as well. After choosing your origin and destination, Maps will now display several possible routes on the map, with theÂ recommendedÂ route in blue and the secondary routes in gray. Switching between them is easy. The same features are offered on the walking, biking, and mass transit routes.
Not the Only One Blown Away
So, my general impression with the new Google maps? I was blown away. They’re amazing. Smooth and beautiful, with more information than before and a more graceful way of displaying it. There’s nothing out there that compares to this. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one blown away. So was all of Google’s competition.