Google Maps Adds Traffic Alerts, Upgrades Android Wear Experience

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Maps have been in the news a great deal lately with HERE for sale and Google Maps being hacked by racists. I’m happy to now be able to write something simply about improved functionality.

In time for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday in the US, Google has added “new” traffic alerts that estimate delays and provide alternative routing options. Google has had real-time traffic notifications from Waze for some time. But this appears to be a very useful enhanced feature:

Now when you input your destination, you’ll get an explanation of upcoming traffic conditions that helps you identify the quickest route. While you’re on the road, Google Maps will give you a heads up if congestion lies ahead, and how long you’ll be stuck in a jam. You’ll also get the option to take alternate routes, including explanations for why one is recommended—whether it’s the fastest or avoids an incident.

New Google Maps Traffic Alerts

It’s this kind of utility and feature richness that keeps Google Maps ahead of Apple Maps — and more trusted. I tend to use Apple Maps on my iPhone except in situations where I’m less clear on routing. I trust Google Navigation more and this kind of enhancement just reinforces that perception of superiority.

Separately, Google has updated the Android Wear version of Google Maps according to Android Central:

The app can be launched from the app launcher or by voice with an “open Maps” command, and when opened you get a full screen top-down map experience. You can scroll around, pinch-to-zoom (barely) and even switch between true North and device direction views. Zoom in/out buttons appear on the top of the screen when you tap it, which is much better than pinching, and you also get a small pin button that lets you quickly scroll through nearby places and navigate to them — though when you fire up navigation from the Maps app on the watch it still corresponds with launching Maps on your phone.

I’m not seeing it yet on my Moto 360 so I can’t offer any independent assessment. However in my experience Android Wear software and the overall user experience is still not polished enough to truly compete with the Apple Watch — even in its 1.0 form. Android Wear devices, like many Android phones still do, will compete on price until there are some major improvements.

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