At Google’s press event today, the company announced a number of new products and updates, including two new Nexus smartphones, two Chromecast devices, a new Android tablet and more, but one thing it kept under wraps was news of a notable new application arriving on the iOS platform: Google Maps now works on Apple Watch.
Through an update to the Google Maps iOS app on the iTunes App Store, Google has quietly rolled out an Apple Watch version of its popular (and, even among Apple fans, often preferred) mapping application.
The new Watch app offers a simpler version of Google Maps compared to what’s available on smartphones, as it’s designed to work more as a companion app to the richer, more feature-rich smartphone counterpart.
On the Watch app, you can tap buttons to quickly get routes to saved locations, like “Home” or “Work.” In addition, when you pull up directions on your iPhone, these are immediately synced to Apple Watch so that they’re accessible when you launch the app on your smartwatch.
The app supports all the modes of transportation you can view on your phone, including driving directions, walking, biking and transit.
And the app will store a list of your most recent routes which you can tap on from beneath the “Home” and “Work” buttons. (This is the one feature you can use without having to pull out your phone.)
However, unlike Apple’s included Maps application, Google’s app is limited to offering directions – there’s not an actual, full-color map included in the new app, which is disappointing. Instead, a blue directional arrow shows you which way to turn while offering guidance, including the distance to the next turn, in English.
This is still a notable launch, however, not only because it brings Google’s detailed and accurate mapping resource to Apple Watch wearers, but also because it’s Google’s only second-ever app designed for the competing smartwatch platform.
The first, “Google News & Weather,” was a fairly bare-bones application that felt more like Google was experimenting with building for Apple Watch and its related feature sets rather than a real attempt at developing something useful for Apple Watch owners. Google Maps, while still feeling a little underdeveloped, is definitely more appealing.
With the launch of Google Maps for Apple Watch, the indication is that Google is now taking Apple’s platform more seriously. That could also mean that we may see other Google apps in the future coming to Apple Watch, including (hopefully) top apps like Gmail or Hangouts, for example.
The updated version of Google Maps for iOS is live here on iTunes.
In addition to the Apple Watch support, the smartphone app also now offers the ability to compare ETAs by mode of transportation, a way to call businesses and get directions from a list of places, a nearby transit widget for the iOS Notification Center, and more.