Google Maps Android update the “Place” to be

by Tim McLain

The latest update to Google Maps (4.4) separates the popular “Places” feature from the main “Maps” app on your DROID, making it easy to quickly find nearby places, view business hours and place details, then navigate to each location via 3D maps, turn-by-turn voice directions, compass arrows, and even view live traffic details to avoid travel delays.

But is it a Yelp killer?

First, some truth-telling: Google Maps is the killer app on the Android platform. In one free app, you can see your current location via numerous overlays (satellite, roads, traffic, street view), then enter a destination address, and click “Navigate.” Your phone is instantly transformed into an Internet-linked GPS navigation system, complete with voice guidance and turn-by-turn directions. Mount your DROID on your dashboard and you have the best GPS receiver on the market at your disposal. (Add a hands-free, Bluetooth microphone to the mix, and you can talk on the phone and navigate simultaneously without missing a beat.)

After downloading the latest Google Maps update from the Market, you’ll notice a new icon nestled in your app listings – “Places.”

The new app is tightly integrated into Google Maps, so resist the urge to be confused. (Many early reviewers were thrown for a loop with this change.)

Opening “Places,” you’ll immediately get the gist of what it offers. First, it locks your exact position using GPS. Next, it offers you seven large icons: “Restaurants,” “Coffee,” “Bars,” “Hotels,” “Attractions,” “ATMs,” and “Gas Stations.” Clicking “Add” allows you to customize this home screen to add additional destination types; a search bar at the top invites you to “Find Places.”

Selecting any of these options gives you instant results on what’s nearby. Easily see each destination on a map, place a call to the location, get detailed directions, and see the business via “Street View.” In one fell swoop, Places takes its place as the most robust, detail-rich app for learning all you ever wanted to know about local destinations near your exact location. So the next time you’re heading out the door for a business trip or a night on the town with your friends or significant other, you’ll never be without something to do or a place to go.

Thanks, Google. Places is a welcome addition to the insanely great Google Maps family of functionality.

And yes, folks, it’s a Yelp killer. For me, anyway.