Last week Google updated the BlackBerry Google Maps application adding the layers feature. You can download the application over the air at m.google.com/maps. I’ve been playing with it for a bit and here is a rundown on this handy upgrade to the application.
The layers feature is available in the Google Maps application menu. When you first access it, no layers will be selected and you will need to click “More layers” in order to select the options. From the More Layers screen you can pick any of the 5 layers that are currently available. They are
- My Maps,
- Transit Lines,
- Latitude and
I’ll explore each of these layers as well as search in this post.
Once you have selected which layers to view on your map then in future visits to the layers menu those selected layers, as well as any searches, will appear.
This simple feature allows you to access all of the locations that you set up on the standard website on your mobile Google Maps app. Those locations will then appear as pins on the map in your mobile application. There isn’t more to this layer than that, but it’s nice integration and I find that it comes in very handy with mobile directions.
The Wikipedia layer shows any locations on the map with Wikipedia entries. Those locations are identified by a box with a W in it on the map. This feature creates a virtual tour book of your surroundings and is a great discovery tool.
By moving the sight over a location on the map you get a pop-up identifying it. If you click that, a larger pop-up opens with more options:
- more info
- show on map
- get directions
- street view and
- save as a favorite.
Clicking More Info launches a pop-up window with Wikipedia information about the location and a link to the Wikipedia entry. “Show on a map” does exactly that, it takes you back to the map view. “Get directions” opens the directions window with the selected location as the destination. “Street view” displays the street view at that location, which is pretty handy for directions. Finally, “save as a favorite” saves the location as a favorite in your application. Once you have saved it the option changes to “edit this favorite” and you can rename, move or delete the favorite.
The Transit Lines layer shows the subway lines in a city with the stops marked. Clicking on a stop you can access information on transit service, show the stop on the map, get directions, see the street view and save it as a favorite. The “view transit service” link opens a window with an upcoming schedule of departures. The other options function as described in the Wikipedia layer.
It would be nice to have bus lines included in this layer as an option or a separate layer, though perhaps that would make for a very busy map and the stop information would be a memory hog, but still that would be a useful feature for those not served by the subway. In addition in Boston the map is not complete as it does not include the new (opened in 2004) Silver Line (though that it is bus that runs under and above ground) nor does it show the commuter rail.
The Latitude layer simply shows your location (assuming that you have registered for Latitude) and the location of any of your friends on Latitude (if you have any). If you have not registered or have no friends, then this layer is not particularly useful.
The Traffic layer obviously shows area traffic. Red lines indicate roads where traffic is heavy, yellow lines indicate some traffic and green is light traffic. Pretty basic, but very handy. As an aside I just want to acknowledge that I just stated that having up-to-the-moment traffic information available for free in my pocket is a “basic feature”. Such is the fantastic world that we live in in 2009.
The search layer shows past map searches that you have done. Selecting one of these searches displays the location of search results on the map. In my example I searched for burrito and therefore all of the taquerias nearby are displayed.
Rolling over a search result with my scope shows the name of the location. Clicking on the location opens a window with the address, phone number, links to get directions and see the location in street view. The details tab includes information from a variety of sources and there are also reviews. That Yelp integration is missing stands out like a sore thumb, but there are obvious reasons for that omission.
A video of these new features with a good use-case scenario is available on the Google Mobile blog.
The layers feature adds an incredible new level of functionality to the Google Maps application making it even more valuable and useful for me on he BlackBerry. I’m hopeful that more layers will be coming in the future in order to blow out this feature even more, but in the mean time this is a great start.