Google rolls out new Android version of Maps, kills off Latitude

10 Jul 2013

Google has revealed a new version of Google Maps for Android smartphones and tablets which is rolling out today, followed “soon” by an iOS version. However, it also revealed its Latitude location service, which has its origins in Dodgeball and was created in 2000 by Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, then-New York University students.

The new Google Maps for mobile, which is gradually rolling out globally via Google Play today, builds on the design released for the iPhone in December and improves on it with new search and navigation features.

“And it’s the first dedicated app for Android tablets and iPads,” explained Daniel Graf, director, Google Maps, in the Google blog.

The new features include a tool that helps users navigate around traffic and see reports of problems on the road and tap to see incident details.

If a better route becomes available, the app will alert you and reroute you to get to your destination faster.

The feature is available only on Android but will be coming soon to iOS, Google said.

“There’s a new 5.0 star rating system that gives you a quick read on how your friends and others rate places like restaurants, bars and cafes,” Graf said.

“For an expert’s opinion, the Zagat badge of excellence and curated lists are integrated into search results so you can quickly spot the very best places. From ‘Best Restaurants to meet for a drink in NYC’ to ‘Best Restaurants in the Mission’ in San Francisco, Zagat’s there to help you uncover the local gems.”

The end of the line for Google Latitude

Graf said the Latitude location feature and check-ins are no longer part of the new Google Maps app and will be retired from older versions from 9 August.

Latitude, a kind of social network that let users see the location of friends who have chosen to share their location with them, had its origins a project called Dodgeball.

Dodgeball was primarily SMS-based and in January 2009, Google’s Vic Gundotra said Dodgeball was shutting down and was succeeded the following month by Google Latitude.

“We understand some of you still want to see your friends and family on a map, which is why we’ve added location sharing and check-ins to Google+ for Android (coming soon to iOS),” Graf added.

He said the offline maps feature from Android is also being retired.

“Instead we’ve created a new way for you to access maps offline by simply entering ‘OK Maps’ into the search box when viewing the area you want for later. Finally, My Maps functionality is not supported in this release but will return to future versions of the app. People who want to create powerful custom maps can still do so with Maps Engine Lite on desktop.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years