The 8.2.0 update to Google Maps app for Android has added a new function that people who use their phone as a satnav have been anticipating for a good long while. With a tap of a button you can now talk to your phone, getting it to show you alternate routes, figure out if there’s any traffic you should avoid and a whole bunch of other excellent features as well.
The service only works when you can see the microphone button in the bottom-left of the screen, which means you can’t use it when you’re walking at the moment. But if you’re in a car a single tap is all it takes to figure out where you should be going next. You can re-route and pull off plenty of other tricks too. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly better than what Maps offered previously. All you’ll need for this tutorial is an Android smartphone with the latest version of the app. Once you’re sure you’ve got that, you’re good to go. Let’s get started.
For more expert tutorials, make sure to check out the latest issue of Android Magazine.
Get your motor running
First you’ll need to set your destination. You can do this straight from the Google app. Start the app, then say “OK Google, show me directions to…” and the app should automatically process where you are and where you want to go. It’s quicker than finding your Maps app too.
Set your defaults
AIf you’ve never moved from the Google app to the Maps app before, you might be asked which app to use to look at your new map. Select Maps and set it as your default, it’ll save a lot of faffing around if you ever want to get speedy directions like this again.
Where you’re at
You’ll need to manually start the navigation with a couple of taps on the screen unfortunately. You might have to tap through to select a route as well, but this is something you can do later with voice control if you’d prefer. When you start this is the screen you’ll see.
What do you know?
You can get the app to show you alternative routes by saying just that. They’ll come up on the map, and as well as giving you the directions, you’ll be able to see which way to your destination is quickest, and check out the traffic on each of the routes.
“Show me different routes”
You’ll find that app overlays work in the same way as the standard app shortcuts you can use on any Android smartphone. However, these overlays can then be resized and grouped together to make more use of the precious space on your homescreen.
“Show me traffic”
Saying this adds extra lines to the road network that show how well the traffic is moving. Red lines mean things are moving very slow, orange lines slow and green means everything is flowing fine. “Turn off traffic” will let you hide the lines if you don’t want to see them.
Turn off satellite
If you’d rather have a simpler view you can turn off the satellite imagery and just see a basic image that shows you the road network. You can turn it back on by saying “Turn on satellite”. The traffic lines will stay as long as you don’t turn them off as well.
Directions to destination
If you want to change your destination at some point in your journey all you have to say is “show me directions to…” and the app will work out your route. You’ll have to tap to start the navigation again, and can look for alternate routes the same way.
“When’s the next turn?”
You can ask the Maps app how far it is to your next turn. It’ll reply in its default unit of measurement, and give you an estimated time frame for when you’re going to get there. You can change the unit of measurement in the main Settings menu for the app.
“How’s the traffic?”
You might think this one would show you the traffic buildups en route, but you’d be wrong. Instead it tells you what time you’re likely to arrive. It’s not super useful, but it serves a purpose and means you don’t have to tap ahead to see what time you’re expected.
In the notifications
If your phone goes to sleep while you’re driving you can get back to Navigation mode from the notifications drawer at the top of the screen. Just tap to go to the directions. It’s not the ideal situation, and you should definitely get a passenger to sort it out if you can.
“Turn off voice directions”
Another of the voice controls lets you turn off the voice directions. It’s a strange thing to be able to do, but it’s included in the four options from the Directions menu, so it’s not that much of a surprise. You can turn it back on with “Turn on voice directions”.
And you’re done
Those are the voice commands and tips you can use to get the most out of the new features in the Maps app. They’re not perfect, and there are some pretty obvious features missing, but they’re a good start. Hopefully we’ll see even more improvement with the next big update.