By Jim Karpen on Wed, 07/17/2013
Google has now released Google Maps 2.0 (free), with new features as well as a native version for the iPad. Finally! This remains a very popular alternative to the built-in Maps app from Apple, and its new features in version 2.0 such as live traffic updates and Explore make it even better. It also includes five-star ratings from users and from Zagat as well as indoor walking directions for malls, transit stations, airports, etc. Plus, unlike the previous version, you can now cache data so your maps info is available even if you don't have a live Internet connection.
The feature Google is really touting is Explore, which helps you find popular local places to eat, drink, shop, play, and sleep. It uses Google's new interface feature known as "cards," first developed as part of Google Now on Android devices. In a post in April, I described how Google integrated the cards feature into the Google Search app for iOS. Cards pop up onto the screen with specific information useful to you.
To invoke the cards in Google Maps for iPad, you tap the search box, and a line of small icons appears related to restaurants, coffee shops, gas, hotels, and more. Plus, if you tap the three dots at the end of the line of icons, a full list of a dozen categories appears, including malls, movie theaters, hospitals, and attractions.
Tap the restaurant category, and it shows you a card for a popular restaurant and a map showing locations of restaurants. Tap the bottom of the card to see a screen that lists restaurants in your area.
Tap on a restaurant, and a card pops up with specific information, including user ratings and reviews.
Using Google Maps is wonderfully intuitive. Plus, I like the fact that you can also get walking and biking directions, as well as driving directions.