Google Maps, the ubiquitous navigation and mapping software, is apparently in the midst of a user interface (UI) overhaul. Reports suggest that Google is testing a redesign that makes the app visually more similar to its chief competitor, Apple Maps. This move has led to varied reactions from the user community.
Main Changes Observed
- Color Palette Shifts: Google Maps’ once familiar gray city blocks and white streets are now inverted to become white blocks with gray streets. Notably, expressways and freeways are depicted in a darker gray. Previously, the yellow color which was used for freeways is now assigned to mark routes with moderate congestion.
- Natural Features Colors: For those living near water bodies, the previous lavender-bluish representation has been replaced with a teal blue shade. Forests and brushes now feature a bluish hue, moving away from the bright leaf green to a more subdued emerald green. This same green is now incorporated into various UI elements, curiously replacing the bright green from Google’s iconic logo.
- Updated Bottom Bar: The bottom navigation bar in the application is shorter, and there’s a conspicuous absence of the Material You dynamic theming.
Similarities with Apple Maps
9to5Google, an authoritative source on Google-related updates, highlighted the striking resemblance between the new Google Maps UI and Apple Maps. The similarities are most evident in the color schemes employed, such as the almost white background for lands and the darker gray roads, which has been a characteristic feature of Apple Maps. Apple’s recent move to allow offline map downloads in its iOS 17 update, a feature Google Maps has long boasted, adds another layer to the parallels being drawn between the two tech giants.
While the redesign brings a fresh look to the app, not all users are impressed. Some of the newly introduced color schemes, particularly for water bodies and parks, are closely matched, potentially causing visual confusion. However, those not favoring the new design can take solace in the fact that Google Maps remains relatively unchanged in its dark mode variant.
Rollout & Future Implications
The redesign has not been universally introduced yet. Some speculate it could be a phased rollout or limited to a test group. Moreover, there are hints that this could be part of a larger change, given the ongoing tests on redesigned pins for saved places. The reason behind these updates remains speculative at best. Given that Google Maps underwent significant color overhauls in 2020 and prior to that in 2017, this could simply be Google’s routine redesign initiative.
Impact on User Experience
- Navigational Efficiency: One of the core functionalities of Google Maps is providing clear and efficient navigational guidance. With the color changes, particularly the inversion of street and block colors and the adjustments to water bodies and parks, there’s a question of whether these changes will improve or hinder navigational clarity for users. Darker roads may indeed offer better contrast, making them more distinguishable, but the close hues of water and parks might pose challenges in areas where these features are closely intertwined.
- Brand Recognition: Google’s decision to shift away from its signature colors, especially the green from its logo, may impact brand recognition. Users have grown accustomed to Google’s color themes, associating them with reliability and functionality. The new, more muted color scheme, while possibly aiming for a more sophisticated look, could potentially alienate some long-time users.
In the tech world, evolution and redesign are constants. Whether it’s to enhance user experience, introduce new features, or remain competitive, change is inevitable. Google Maps’ new look, drawing clear inspirations from Apple Maps, could be a strategic move or just a periodic redesign. Time will tell how users adapt and respond to these changes and what further innovations Google has in store for its Maps users. In the coming months, it will be crucial to monitor user feedback and see how it shapes the final version of the app.