First off, Maps will now ping you with “new and popular places” when you’re away from home. To Google’s credit, this is turned off by default (way too many apps are opt-out with features that ping you with notifications). You can find it under the Notifications tab.
Additionally, you can finally launch the always-handy “OK Google” voice commands from inside Maps, where before you would have to exit the program to do so. This is enabled by default, so hop into the Navigation section to turn it off if you don’t want it.
Another helpful feature is the ability to find gas stations, restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores along your route. This was previously only available during Drive Mode if you were, well, driving. But now it works for navigation if you choose Google’s walking or bicycle directions.
In fact you’re probably more likely to use it in those circumstances, as you shouldn’t stare at the screen to find a coffee shop while in the middle of traffic.
There are a few more code strings buried in the APK that hint at some upcoming features. A new feature called Discover indicates it would function much the way Google Now offers you suggestions for places to check out when you go away from home.
If you’re traveling through places with limited connection quality, Maps may automatically download details along those routes so you don’t end up lost. This could be very helpful for long trips that go through remote areas, as you won’t need to spend time beforehand downloading an entire map of a state to your phone.
Finally, there’s some type of message that celebrates how far you’ve traveled in Street View. It’s unclear if these will come to a final build, as Google often adds in and removes code while trying things out. The new features can be found in version 9.26.1 of Google Maps, which is rolling out in the Play Store and is available now on APK Mirror.
The impact on you: This is a nice update for discovering new things out there, which is increasingly what Google Maps is about instead of just solely serving as a directional aide. Google also isn’t terribly informative when it comes to offering a changelog, so you may have to dig around for other discoveries.