Google has been busy updating “Google Maps” and revealing new features for its desk top and mobile versions. Among the innovations to Google Maps for smartphones and tablets is a new feature called Explore, a tool that is part of Google’s efforts to gradually make the map app more interactive and social.
Explore is designed to bring real-time information to directions, particularly in the map features that help users navigate around traffic. Users will now be able to get incident reports on chosen routes, which that will help them assess traffic conditions. They will also receive alerts with a new route if a new route means a faster travel time.
To make it more social there are also new features geared towards discovering new places to visit. Explore is a highly visual part of Google Maps that gives you a quick survey of the best options around you across five categories: Eat, Drink, Shop, Play, Sleep. The app’s Explore feature enables users to browse for new restaurants and stores as well as places of interest. The app’s new 5-star rating system offers a summary of how friends and like-minded individuals feel about local places. Every place that has a Zagat rating will have it displayed next to the place’s address.
The features work great on tablets because they have enough screen space to display all the information Explore offers. On smartphones you can only view a limited amount on the screen at once.
Explore is Google’s next big move towards overtaking its rivals. It is only the first of many Google Maps innovations that should give sites such as YELP pause for concern.