Google Maps is getting some massive improvements on iPhone, Apple Watch

Google Maps
Google Maps (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Google Maps is getting a ton of new improvements, some specific to Apple.
  • Apple Watch users will soon be able to start navigation from their wrists.
  • New directional mapping improvements are coming to CarPlay and more.

Google has announced a slew of new updates and improvements that are set to make its Maps app a much better experience on iPhone and Apple Watch.

The new improvements were all laid bare in a blog post by Google Maps product manager Rubén Lozano-Aguilera. At the top of the list is new support for showing toll prices at almost 2,000 toll roads in the United States, India, Japan, and Indonesia. More countries will get the same support in due course, the announcement says.

Next up is improved navigation mapping that will soon show things like traffic lights and stop signs. These improvements will also come to the Google Maps CarPlay interface, making it a much better option for those driving around.

Driving on unfamiliar roads can be stressful — especially when you're driving at night or with a car full of people. We're adding rich new details to Google Maps' navigation experience so you can explore with confidence. You'll soon see traffic lights and stop signs along your route, along with enhanced details like building outlines and areas of interest. And, in select cities, you'll see even more detailed information, like the shape and width of a road, including medians and islands–you can better understand where you are, and help decrease the odds of making last-minute lane changes or missing a turn.

Beyond that, we have three more features that are all going to make Google Maps a better experience across Apple's devices — including support for starting navigation from an Apple Watch for the first time.

Navigate from your Apple Watch: If you have an Apple Watch and constantly find yourself away from home — and away from your phone — you'll soon be able to get directions on Google Maps directly from your Watch. Starting in a few weeks, you'll no longer need to begin navigation from your iPhone. Simply tap on the Google Maps shortcut in your Apple Watch app, and the navigation will start automatically on your Apple Watch. You can also add the "Take me home" complication to your watch and tap it to start the navigation home on Google Maps.

Google Maps is also gaining support for Spotlight, Siri, and Shortcuts to allow people to ask Siri for directions within the app for the first time.

Search and get directions with Siri and Spotlight: Google Maps is integrating directly into Spotlight, Siri, and the Shortcuts app on iOS. Once you've set up the shortcuts, just say "Hey Siri, get directions" or "Hey Siri, search in Google Maps" to access Google Maps' helpful information instantly. You'll start seeing this feature in the coming months, with enhanced Siri search functionality coming later this summer.

Finally, we have new widgets that will make it easier to access pinned trips without having to first open the Google Maps app.

Google Maps Pinned Trips

Google Maps Pinned Trips (Image credit: Google)

Access Google Maps from your home screen with new widgets: Our new pinned trip widget lets you access trips you've pinned in your Go Tab right from your iOS home screen — making it even easier to get directions. You can see your arrival time, the next departure for your transit trip, and even a suggested route if you're driving. And because good things come in small packages, we're also making the existing Google Maps search widget smaller so you can search for your favorite places or navigate to frequent destinations with one tiny tap. Make sure you have the latest version of the Google Maps app downloaded to see these widgets in the coming weeks.

All of this will move Google Maps closer to being the best iPhone app for finding your way around, whether it's on public transport, on foot, or by car. All of these updates are rolling out over the next few weeks so keep your eye on the App Store for updates.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.