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Google Maps 2013

Gordon Kelly



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Google Maps 2013
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This article was originally published in June 2013 during the beta period of the new Google Maps, which is now available for everyone to use.

The maps of the future...

Nexus phones, tablets and Android 5.0 were three things we didn't get at Google I/O 2013. What we did get, however, was something arguably of far greater significance: the vision of a company with unified core services and a grand master plan. It impressed us. And nowhere were we more impressed than the way in which a complete overhaul of Google Maps will sit at the heart of it.

So, having now spent some considerable time with the preview edition, does it live up to the hype?

Google Maps UI

The side panel is dead, replaced with just a search bar. How very Google.

Google Maps 2013 - User Interface

The most notable change to the new Google Maps is the interface. Gone is the longstanding side panel, replaced by a map that fills the screen and a seemingly innocuous search bar. Yet it is from here that the magic happens.

Google has built a dizzying amount of functionality into the search bar. It is now the gateway not just to specific addresses and categories (bar, restaurant, etc), but also to dynamic routing and contextual information wherever and whatever you click on the map.

Key to keeping things tidy is the introduction of Google’s increasingly ubiquitous ‘card’ design, as seen in Google Now and common Google search results. Cards sit under the search bar and split themselves into clear sections that can also be stacked to switch between different sets of information. Cards appear and disappear as needed again saving space compared to the old side panel.

Initially the system can seem transient compared to the permanence of the search panel, but as it is far more contextually aware it is also smarter, faster and more flexible. It brings you information with every click. Google tried to do this in the previous version of Maps, creating pop up windows above whatever you clicked, but the result simply covered up the immediate surrounding area.

Google Maps London Eye

The Street View 'pegman' has retired. In its place come thumbnail previews.

Another neat touch is the integration of Street View. Google has done away with ‘pegman’ and instead anywhere you click on the map will load a preview thumbnail in a card under the search bar. This is ingenious and saves a great deal of time dragging and dropping pegman around the screen. Increasing numbers of locations offer Street View inside the premises with the ‘See Inside’ option so you can check out the decor, not just the store front.

User generated photography is also neatly integrated into a scrolling gallery along the bottom of the map. Wherever you are clicking, the gallery automatically updates showing relevant photos and if one has a play icon a click will start a ‘photo tour’ that smoothly morphs between the best images of their subject (for example, the London Eye). Should the gallery get in the way it can be minimised.

One thing that cannot be minimised though, is a gallery thumbnail named ‘Earth’.

Google Earth

The Google Maps 2013 does away with the old Satellite view in order to integrate the mighty Google Earth. This was previously available in the old Google Maps via a plug-in, but the new version takes things to a whole new level.

Google Maps 3D

Major US cities include 3D buildings

Most simply, Google is expanding the tilt view with three-dimensional buildings akin to ‘flyover’ in Apple Maps. This remains largely US focused at present, but what is there looks stunning and Google has promised to soon expand to other major cities around the world. That said there are occasional iOSapocalypse moments and we’re sure Apple will have something to say in court about infringements of flyover.

A limitation is Earth doesn’t allow you to zoom as far into the map as the old Satellite view, something we miss, but it does let you zoom much much further out. Zoom out far enough and Maps shows you the earth spinning in space with real-time Clouds.

Zoom out again and you see Earth amongst the stars and the sun, with the relevant time zones reflecting which parts of the earth are in day, night or twilight. Countries in darkness are beautifully lit up by lights at their major population points. We doubt this view will be useful for helping you plan journeys, but is a wonderful reminder to keep life in perspective.

Google Maps earth

Google's version of the Total Perspective Vortex

Aside from the limited ability to zoom in with Earth though there is another caveat and that is performance requirements. These are relatively meagre, but old systems with under 512MB RAM, 500MB of drive space and a DirectX9 GPU with 64MB of dedicated RAM will miss out.

Paulo Pascoal

June 3, 2013, 11:52 am

When you type geographic coordinates the new map don't show the exact location, just one random point in the nearest street (in the old one you also had that but when you clicked a 2nd time you got a arrow with the real location). That functionality is very important for me and as such I reverted to the old version. Hope they fix it.
Also, in the old maps when picking the Pegman I could see immediately the areas where street view was available, now that's gone too...

Рон Джамин

February 21, 2014, 5:31 pm

This new map is terrible. Can't figure out how to use it. Google is screwing with too much. They ruined Youtube with their strong-arm force to make you use Google+. Frankly, I've been using Bing maps more often. Better aerial shots too.

Graham Steel

February 21, 2014, 9:58 pm

I use Google Maps all the time at work, and have found more disappointments than improvements with the new version. It is difficult to get a Google Street View of a precisely selected location. The old version allowed a split screen with Street View above and a Google Map showing Pegman at the current location below. Most disappointingly, the right-click menu has gone - I used "what's here" a lot, which showed the coordinates of the required map location - I notice that BIng Maps now does this rather well! I hope that Google restore these missing features.

Sean Reeves

February 25, 2014, 7:53 am

Why fix something that was not broken. It was great before now it slow, doesn't go where you want it, really jerky. Its Crap.


March 11, 2014, 9:44 pm

What a waste!!! Nothing intuitive about it. It fades away. I can't move the map around. I'll go back to Yahoo.

Creagh Warren

March 12, 2014, 3:54 am

Unfortunately Google has traded speed for bloat - I hate the new version. Google are losing the plot, trying too hard to be feature rich and forgetting the usability and, of course, privacy, as we are seeing from the numerous legal actions against Google all around the world. They have lost sight of their users and focus only on their bank account.


March 15, 2014, 7:10 pm

The new version is terrible. I expect as with anything some adjustment when you need to get used to a new interface, but the performance is so bad, it's not worth using. I'm looking for any other decent map options I can find until this changes. Using mapquest as often as I can, and looking for more.


March 20, 2014, 5:49 pm

Messy, nausea inspiring, too much junk on the screen which you can't remove, and worse, while on google streets, as you turn, the images are distorted and stretched and it jumps all over the place and down side streets. Look at the cars on the street, they're all stretched out and store fronts are like a reverse fisheye lens. Terrible. Streets used to be so good, it was like standing in the scene, now it makes you feel sick.


March 21, 2014, 8:53 am

I absolutely hate the new version and I won't be using it any more, it's really difficult to use, especially the direction options. Also the streetview is distorted, part of the reason I used it in the past is to help me get a feel for a place I'm due to visit, because I can suffer panic attacks when I'm in a strange place, but you can't even look up to see what a building looks like with this version. Also you don't seem to have the option to click on a bus stop in order to find out about bus services anymore, obviously we all have to be driving now. The thumbnail images along the bottom of the screen are just annoying. It was fine before, why change it. Google seems to be intent on ruining the internet experience for everyone, first the ads popping up everywhere, now this. Let's hope others take full advantage of google's falling standards and lack of concern for the user to offer us some better options for everything that google once did well.

banditste600 .

March 28, 2014, 8:54 am

What was wrong with just a map that can give you the option to use street view to see where about you are and an info bar on the side that says the mileage to travel in total, the roads you will be using, even the estimated fuel usage was very handy!!!

Google has done EXACTLY the same as modern car manufacturers!!!
Your trying to make something so advanced that you don't have the correct technology for... so it has become unreliable!

we want something that looks good and works!
NOT what you have done here!!!



March 29, 2014, 10:30 am

The new google maps is rubbish if i cant stay with the older version i will use something else the new one is unusable and there is also no print option the person who decided to alter google maps should be sacked


April 7, 2014, 10:26 pm

The "my maps" with new version is HORRIBLE compared to old version. Author obviously did not spend any time with the new maps and fell for the "eye candy".

jennifer leslie

April 17, 2014, 6:45 am

Just awful! It annoys & frustrates me. Bring back the old one. Designed by a showoff not an end user & as a result no-one can use it. Wake up & smell the coffee Google!


April 17, 2014, 1:54 pm

Doesn't work for me on linux and firefox 28.0.

The question mark and settings on the bottom doesn't select.

I have disabled ALL my addons and rebooted.

Its useless to me.

Typical...break working software.

I guess they learned it from the masters...Microsoft.


April 21, 2014, 7:16 pm

I use Bing maps because Google Maps is so slow.

Jennifer Harkins

April 29, 2014, 5:55 pm

Why have so many roads with blue lines which were available in old street view no longer available. really disappointing and frustrating.


May 15, 2014, 12:28 am

+I thought maybe it was me...Google maps is terrible...what in the world have you done....I hate it...its all over the place...back to mapquest....the onw question is "Why?"


May 25, 2014, 10:00 pm

Please change back to old version Google Maps or I will go to Bing!!!

The Duck

June 15, 2014, 2:59 pm

Go back to the old version NOW!! The new one is not good in any way just annoying. I used to love Google Maps but not any more.


June 21, 2014, 9:50 am

This is worse than the new coca cola formula. This piece of crap is absolutely horrible. Flashearth.com is a hell of a lot better. Bing maps is also better. what the heck were they thinking when they designed this slow, nonintuative crap filled monster?


June 26, 2014, 3:56 am

It takes a cluster of super computers to run it!!!!!!!!!!! Beyond ridiculous! Hey, lets take a completely excellent product and rebuild it! Thats American.. "INNOVATION" for you! If your not changing things even for the worse, your not innovating!

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