Google Maps is making it easier to use the app to bypass traffic jams on the fly and to find highly rated places.
An update Wednesday for the Android version of Google Maps app adds a new discovery feature and the ability to reroute navigation directions whenever the app finds a quicker route.
Google said users can now tap the app's search box to see a feature called "Explore," which they can then tap to expand. The feature will then show recommended places to shop, eat and visit.
Google said its Maps app will now also look for quicker traffic routes. If a better route becomes available, the app will alert users so they can choose to reroute. Users also will see reports of problems on the road, which they can tap on for more information. These features appear to be influenced by Waze, the navigation app that Google purchased last month.
The updated app, which will arrive on Apple devices later, will look different when used on tablets. The new "dedicated tablet design" is tailored for the larger devices, so that the app is not just an oversized version of the Google Maps smartphone app.
When users visit places like restaurants, they'll also be able to see a new five-star rating system Google is introducing. That feature will show users how their friends and others have rated a particular place. Users can also see expert reviews for places that show the "Zagat badge of excellence."
Additionally, Google Maps will now also show users places with special offers. When users search for businesses and see a blue tag, that means the business has an offer that they can tap on to use. This feature appears to be similar to the special offers available in the Foursquare app.
The updated version of Google Maps launches Wednesday for Android smartphones and tablets and will arrive soon for the iPhone and iPad.
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