Google Maps acquires Android voice search, transit

A new version of its Google Maps for Android phones brings with it several new features, including voice search, walking directions, and a transit trip planner.

Google Maps update for Android (Credit: Google)

This past weekend, Google introduced a new version of its glossy Maps application for Android phones. Version 3.1.0 brings with it several new features, including voice search to go with its text search field and transit and walking directions to go with step-by-step driving directions.

In tests, Google's voice search on Android was fairly consistent with other voice search apps we've tested. That is to say, a skosh inconsistent. Most searches for banal items of daily life like "shoe repair shop" and "coffee" plotted the sought-for neighborhood responses on the map. Once or twice, even in a quiet house at a quiet hour, did a phrase like "sushi" yield "nc," with the map racing off to North Carolina.

The trip planner in particular worked extremely well for San Francisco. As with the online version, Google's Transit works in 250 cities. Indeed, Google Maps quickly and accurately planned and timed my commute, providing options for other routes in the near past and future. To get directions with public transit, tap "Directions'" from the menu, select the middle icon, of a bus, and enter the end point, which can be an address or a business name. You're also able to set a specific departure time or arrival time and day. For city-dwellers, accurate walking and transportation directions are a necessity.

Rolled into the release is an experimental feature. Updates, which is connected to Google Latitude, lets you actively change your Latitude status for friends to see--so long as they're also using the latest version of Maps.

The erasure of Street View as its own map mode is another change you'll see. Instead, it has been integrated into any search result where the view is applicable. Pressing a point on the map will also bring up a Street View thumbnail if there's an available image.

For a change, Google Maps 3.1.0 isn't being automatically pushed to new users. To get it, download it fresh through the Android Market on your phone. The application is compatible with Android platform 1.0 and 1.5, so G1 and HTC Magic users can fire it up alike.

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