Google Maps is about to get a big privacy boost, but fans of Timeline may lose their data

One of Google Maps most popular features, Timeline, is about to become a lot more secure. To give you a quick refresher, Timeline acts as a diary of sorts that keeps track of all the past routes and trips you’ve taken. It’s a fun way to relive memories. 

Utilizing this tool requires people to upload their data to company servers for storage. That will change later this year though, as according to a recent email obtained by Android Police, Google will soon be keeping Timeline data on your smartphone.

Migrating Maps data over to localized device storage would greatly improve security as you won’t be forced to upload sensitive information to public servers anymore. However, due to the upcoming change, Google has decided to kill off Timeline for Web. Users have until December 1, 2024, to move everything from the online resource to their phone’s storage drive. Failure to take any action could result in losing valuable data, like moments from your timeline. 

“Google will try moving up to 90 days of Timeline data to the first signed-in device” after the cutoff date. However, anything older than 90 days will be deleted and it's important to take note of the wording. They’ll “try” to save as much as they can, meaning there is no guarantee Google will successfully migrate everything over if you miss the deadline. It’s unknown why this is the case, although we did ask.

Configuring Timeline

The company is asking people to review their Google Maps settings and choose which device will house their “saved visits and routes.” Their email offers a link to the app’s settings menu, but if you didn’t get the message you can navigate to Google Maps on your mobile device to make the changes there. It’s how we did it.

First, update Google Maps if you haven’t done so already, and then go to the Timeline section, where you’ll be greeted with a notification informing you of forthcoming changes. 

Then, click the Next button, and a new window will appear asking you how long you would like to keep your data. You can select to store the information until you get rid of it or set up an auto-delete function. Users can have Google Maps trash their Timeline after three, 18, or 36 months have passed.

Google Maps' new Timeline menu

(Image credit: Future)

Additionally, you can choose to back them up to Google servers. Android Police explains that this revamped system curates Maps Timelines for each device “independently.” So, if you buy a new smartphone and want to restore your data, using the backup tool is the best way.

What’s interesting is that the Timeline transfer is a one-way street. Google states in a Maps Help page that after the data is moved to your smartphone, you cannot revert back to the previous method. We experienced this firsthand because we couldn’t find a way to upload data to company servers outside of the backup function after localizing storage.

Don’t worry if you haven’t received the email or the Google Map patch as of yet. Android Police says the company is slowly rolling out the changes. Be sure to keep an eye out for either one.

While we have you check out TechRadar's list of the best Android phones for 2024.

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Google Maps is getting a new update that’ll help you discover hidden gems in your area thanks to AI – and I can’t wait to try it out

It looks like Google Maps is getting a cool new feature that’ll make use of generative AI to help you explore your town – grouping different locations to make it easier to find restaurants, specific shops, and cafes. In other words, no more sitting around and mulling over where you want to go today!

Android Authority did an APK teardown (which basically means decompiling binary code within a program into a programming language that can be read normally) which hints at some new features on the horizon. The code within the Google Maps beta included mention of generative AI, which led Android Authority to Google Labs. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Labs, it’s a platform where users can experiment with Google’s current in-development tools and AI projects, like Gemini Chrome extensions and music ‘Time Travel’. 

So, what exactly is this new feature that has me so excited? Say you’re really craving a sweet treat. Instead of going back to your regular stop or simply Googling ‘sweet treats near me’, you’ll be able to ask Google Maps for exactly what you’re looking for and the app will give you suggestions for nearby places that offer it. Naturally, it will also provide you with pictures, ratings, and reviews from other users that you can use to make a decision.

Sweet treat treasure hunter 

I absolutely love the idea and I really hope we get to see the feature come to life as someone who has a habit of going to the same places over and over again because I either don’t know any alternatives or just haven’t discovered other parts of my city. The new feature has the potential to offer a serious upgrade to Google Maps’ more specific location search abilities, beyond simply typing in the name of the shop you want or selecting a vague group like ‘Restaurants’ as you can currently. 

You’ll be able to see your results into categories, and if you want more in-depth recommendations you can ask follow-up questions to narrow down your search – much in the same way that AI assistants like Microsoft Copilot can ‘remember’ your previous chat history to provide more context-sensitive results. I often find myself craving a little cake or a delicious cookie, so if I want that specific treat I can specify to the app what I’m craving and get a personalized list of reviewed recommendations. 

We’re yet to find out when exactly to expect this new feature, and without an official announcement, we can’t be 100% certain that it will ever make a public release. However, I’m sure it would be a very popular addition to Google Maps, and I can’t wait to discover new places in my town with the help of an AI navigator.

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Pixel’s new satellite feature could show people where you are on Google Maps

Recent leaks claim Google is working on further integrating satellite connectivity to their Pixel phones and could introduce support for the tech in Google Maps. This information comes from two industry insiders: AssembleDebug who shared his findings with PiunikaWeb and Nail Sadykov over on Telegram. Beginning with the former, users will apparently be able to share their location with others via satellite connection.

Hints of the location-sharing tool were found in the strings of code on the latest Google Maps beta. It’s unknown exactly how it’ll work. The report doesn’t go into detail. They do, however, say people “will be able to update their location” in the app every 15 minutes to maintain accuracy. But there’s a catch – you can only refresh your whereabouts “up to five times a day.” It makes sense why Google would implement some sort of restrictions. 

This is supposed to be an emergency, potentially life-saving feature akin to Emergency SOS on the iPhone and Google may not want people messing around with it.

Setting up a satellite connection

As for the other update, Nail Sadykov states he found evidence of something called the Android Satellite Pointing UI.

It appears to be a help guide for Pixel that’ll teach people how to connect their smartphone to an orbiting satellite. A video posted to the unofficial Google News channel on Telegram shows how the process could work. 

Users will have to hold their phone in front of them and physically move it around to find a satellite. Once found, you’ll need to keep moving the device until a blue satellite icon reaches the middle of an on-screen circle and stays there for several seconds. Holding the icon in place allows the device to establish connection. If you don’t connect, you’ll receive an on-screen message telling you the session failed. 

Pixel's new satellite connectivity guide

(Image credit: Nail Sadykov)

Sadykov goes on to say the guide will be a part of the Pixel’s “Adaptive Connectivity Service (ACS) app”. It’s unclear if he meant the currently available feature or if there will be a new app solely for ACS. 

He says it’ll be possible to minimize the window into a floating widget on the home page so you can continue texting while trying to establish a connection. When it’s all done, Pixel owners can see Satellite SOS running by swiping down on Quick Settings. You’ll also receive a short message in the menu telling you to avoid buildings, trees, and mountains to ensure a clear view of the sky and not interrupt service.

Potential arrival date

An arrival date for everything you see here is unknown, although both sources believe their respective features will launch on the Pixel 9. The two groups mention a third leak from April 15 about the Pixel 9 series possibly receiving the Samsung Modem 5400 to enable satellite connectivity. The same satellite icon (albeit red) and guide animations from Sadykov’s post were found in the earlier report. PiunikaWeb also mentions seeing the same symbol.

So what we’re seeing today could be the fruits of this new labor – at least potentially. Things could always change at the last minute. Be sure to take all this info with a grain of salt.

While we have you, check out TechRadar's roundup of the best Pixel phones for 2024.

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Google Maps AI upgrades could solve your EV charging headaches

It’s a big day for Google Maps. First, the 3D buildings layer is rolling out to all Android users after months of waiting. And now we’re learning the app is expanding its eco-friendly features by introducing new ways to find EV charging stations and “lower-carbon travel alternatives”. The former, according to the announcement, aims to help electric vehicle owners map out those long road trips for the summer.

First, text summaries will appear in Google Maps describing the exact location of a nearby charging station. The tool utilizes artificial intelligence to take “helpful information from user reviews” to build directions below the name of a charger. As the company explains, you'll see step-by-step instructions telling you to drive down into an underground parking lot, follow the signs, and turn right just before you exit to find a station. 

The company explains that since it sources from the community, generated summaries are “accurate and up-to-date”. To continue feeding the feature, reviews for charging stations will ask for extra details from the type of plug you used to how long you spent waiting.

New Google Maps features

(Image credit: Google)

While driving in your EV, Google Maps will highlight nearby chargers on your car's dashboard display. Indicators provide the name of the station, how many ports are open at a given time, and the ports' charging speeds.

Lastly, Google Maps will recommend the best charging locations for people taking multi-stop trips. The suggestions it makes depend on your EV’s battery level. For example, if the car is fully charged, the app will point out stations nearer your destination rather than the ones closer to you. 

Everything you see here is scheduled to roll out within the coming months, but their availability differs. Review summaries will be available on the mobile app while the charging station indicators and suggestions will be exclusive to vehicles with built-in Google software.

Charging stations appearing on Google Maps trip

(Image credit: Google)

Google Search's travel update

The other half of the patch will see Google Maps make “public transit or walking suggestions” below driving routes  – so long as travel times are “practical.” It won’t recommend you hop on a bus if it takes longer to go from point A to point B. This feature is receiving a limited rollout as it’s only being released for around 15 cities around the world including London, Paris, and Sydney.

Google Maps new public transit recommendations

(Image credit: Google)

Google Search is also getting a travel-centric update. The search engine began adding information for long-distance train routes into results back in 2022. Moving forward, these details will include schedules and ticket prices with a purchase link on the side. What’s more, long-distance bus routes are going to be present too. 

The new train data on Search is now available across 38 countries such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Spain. The bus route info, on the other hand, is seeing a more limited release as it'll only show up in 15 global regions, including the United States, France, and Germany.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do if you want to learn about all the neat tricks.

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Waze could tempt you from Google Maps with these super-useful driving alerts

Waze will receive a nice quality-of-life update that’ll help you drive around more safely as well as let you know of any recent changes to the road.

The patch is slated to be released on Android and iOS devices across the globe, but the rollout won’t happen all at once. Instead, the six features will come out in pieces throughout the coming months. It’s a little complicated, but once you break the announcement down, it all makes sense.

When it comes to safety, the app will notify you in advance of any emergency vehicles on your route. That way you’ll know when to shift lanes or take a detour. This tool is currently making its way to users living in the US, Canada, Mexico, and France, with, Waze promises, more countries coming soon.

Waze's new speed limit and emergency vehicle alerts

(Image credit: Waze/Google)

Our favorite update out of the bunch has to be Waze deciding it'll shout out upcoming changes to speed limits in case they’re about to suddenly decrease. It's a pretty helpful tool whenever you want to avoid getting caught in a speed trap. Third, the developers are expanding hazard detection to include speed bumps, sharp turns, and toll booths. The speed limit warnings as well as the hazard detection upgrade are currently rolling out to all users. 

This next set of features is scheduled to launch down the line.

Normally, whenever someone opens a navigation app, it’s because they want to get to their destination ASAP. Well, later this month, you’ll be given the option to take more scenic routes. They may not be the fastest way to get home, but at least, you'll have the opportunity to take your favored path instead.

Most drivers can agree that finding a place to park in a city can be an utter nightmare. To make finding the sweet spot less stressful, Waze is teaming up with software company Flash to provide information on parking garages. The app will tell you how much it costs to park at a location, whether it’s covered or open to the elements, if there’s a valet, and more. 

The announcement states the new data feed is seeing a limited release. It will provide info on a select group of 30,000 parking garages across major cities in the United States and Canada.

Waze's new parking garage feed and alternative routes tool

(Image credit: Google/Waze)

The last feature will teach people how to navigate a roundabout. Waze states they’ll point out when to enter, when to switch lanes, and “where to exit”. Android users will receive the roundabout tool later this month, however, iPhone owners will have to wait until later in the year to get the same upgrade.

We reached out to Google, which is Waze’s parent company, asking if there are plans for future expansions and if it’s going to add the same features to the app’s web page. This story will be updated at a later time.

Waze's latest patch looks like it'll keep a lot of people safe, but accidents happen all the time. To keep your insurance rates from skyrocketing, check out TechRadar's list of the best dash cams for 2024. You never know when you'll need one.

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Feeling lost in the concrete jungles of the world? Fear not, Google Maps introduces a new feature to help you find entrances and exits

Picture this: you’re using Google Maps to navigate to a place you’ve never been and time is pressing, but you’ve made it! You’ve found the location, but there’s a problem: you don’t know how to get into whatever building you’re trying to access, and panic sets in. Maybe that’s just me, but if you can relate it looks like we’re getting some good news – Google Maps is testing a feature that shows you exactly where you can enter buildings.

According to Android Police, Google Maps is working on a feature showing users entrance indicator icons for selected buildings. I can immediately see how this could make it easier to find your way in and out of a location. Loading markers like this would require a lot of internet data if done for every suitable building in a given area, especially metropolitan and densely packed areas, but it seems Google has accounted for this; the entrance icons will only become visible when you select a precise location and zoom in closely. 

Google Maps is an immensely popular app for navigation as well as looking up recommendations for various activities, like finding attractions or places to eat. If you’ve ever actually done this in practice, you’ve possibly had a situation like I’ve described above, especially if you’re trying to find your way around a larger attraction or building. Trying to find the correct entrance to an expo center or sports stadium can be a nightmare. Places like these will often have multiple entrances with different accessibility options – such as underground train stations that stretch across several streets.

Google's experimentation should help users manage those parts of their journeys better, starting with only certain users and certain buildings for now, displaying icons that indicate both where you can enter a place and exit it (if there are exit/entrance-only doors, for example). This feature follows the introduction of Google Maps’ recent addition of indicators of the best station exits and entrances for users of public transport.

Google Maps being used to travel across New York

(Image credit: Shutterstock / TY Lim)

The present state of the new feature

Android Police tested the new feature on Google Maps version 11.17.0101 on a Google Pixel 7a. As Google seemingly intended, Google Maps showed entrances for a place only when it was selected and while the user zoomed in on it, showing a white circle with a symbol indicating ‘entry’ on it. That said, Android Police wasn’t able to use the feature on other devices running the latest version of Google Maps for different regions, which indicates that Google Maps is rolling this feature out gradually following limited and measured testing. 

While using the Google Pixel 7a, Android Police tested various types of buildings including hotels, doctors’ offices, supermarkets, hardware stores, cafes, and restaurants in cities that include New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Berlin. Some places had these new entrance and exit markers and some didn’t, which probably means that Google is still in the process of gathering accurate and up-to-date information on these places, most likely via its StreetView tool. Another issue that came up was that some of the indicated entrances were not in the right place, but teething issues are inevitable and this problem seemed more common for smaller buildings where it’s actually easier to find the entrance once you’re there in person.

The entrances were sometimes marked by a green arrow instead of a white circle, and it’s not clear at this point exactly what it means when a green arrow or a white circle is used. Google Maps has a reputation as a very helpful, functional, and often dependable app, so whatever new features are rolled out, Google probably wants to make sure they’re up to a certain standard. I hope they complete the necessary stages of experimenting and implementing this new feature, and I look forward to using it as soon as I can.


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Google Maps is getting an AI-boosted upgrade to be an even better navigation assistant and your personal tour guide

It looks like Google is going all-in on artificial intelligence (AI), and following the rebranding of its generative AI chatbot from Bard to Gemini, it’s now bringing generative AI recommendations to Google Maps.

The AI-aided recommendations will help Google Maps perform even better searches for a variety of destinations, and the feature is also supposedly able to function as an advisor that can offer insights and tips about things like location, budgets, and the weather. Once the feature is enabled, it can be accessed through the search function, much like existing Google Maps features. Currently, it’s only available for US users, but hopefully, it will roll out worldwide very soon. 

This upgrade of Google Maps is the latest move in Google’s ramped-up AI push, which has seen developments like AI functionality integrated into Google Workspace apps. We’ve also had hints before that AI features and functions were coming to Google Maps – such as an improved Local Guides feature. Local Guides is intended to synthesize local knowledge and experiences and share them with users to help them discover new places.

What we know about how this feature works

Android Police got a first look at how users were introduced to the new AI-powered recommendations feature. A reader got in touch with the website and explained how they were given an option to Search with generative AI in their Google Maps search bar. When selected, it opened up a page that detailed how the new feature makes use of generative AI to provide you with recommendations in a short onboarding exercise. Tapping Continue opens up the next page that provides users with a list of suggested queries like nearby attractions they can go to kill time or good local restaurants.

Similarly to ChatGPT, Google Maps apparently also includes tips toward the bottom of that page to help you improve your search results. Users can add more details to finetune their search like their budget, a place or area they might have in mind, and what the weather looks like when they’re planning to go somewhere. If you select one of these suggested queries, Google Maps will then explain how it would go through the process of selecting specific businesses and locations to recommend.

When the user doesn’t specify an area or region, Google Maps resorts to using the user’s current location. However, if you’d like to localize your results to an area (whether you’re there or not), you’ll have to mention that in your search.

After users try the feature for the first time and go through the short onboarding in Maps, they can access it instantly through the search menu. According to Android Police, Search with generative AI will appear below the horizontal menu that lists your saved location such as Home, Work, and so on.

A promising feature with plenty of potential

Again, this feature is currently restricted to people in the US, but we hope it’ll open up to users in other regions very soon. Along with AI recommendations, Google Maps is also getting a user interface redesign aimed at upgrading the user experience.

While I get that some users might be getting annoyed or overwhelmed with generative AI being injected into every part of our digital lives, this is one app I'd like to try when equipped with AI. Also, Google is very savvy when it comes to improving the user experience of its apps, and I’m keen to see how this feature’s introduction plays out.

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Google Maps could become smarter than ever thanks to generative AI

Google Maps is getting a dose of generative AI to let users search and find places in a more conversational manner, and serve up useful and interesting suggestions. 

This smart AI tech comes in the form of an “Ask about” user interface where people can ask Google Maps questions like where to find “places with a vintage vibe” in San Francisco. That will prompt AI to analyze information, like photos, ratings and reviews, about nearby businesses and places to serve up suggestions related to the question being asked.  

From this example, Google said the AI tech served up vinyl record stores, clothing stores, and flea markets in its suggestions. These included the location along with its rating, reviews, number of times rated, and distance by car. The AI then provides review summaries that highlight why a place might be of interest. 

You can then ask follow-up questions that remember your previous query, using that for context on your next search. For example, when asked, “How about lunch?” the AI will take into account the “vintage vibe” comment from the previous prompt and use that to offer an old-school diner nearby.

Screengrabs of the new generative AI features on Google Maps showing searches and suggestions

(Image credit: Google)

You can save the suggestions or share them, helping you coordinate with friends who might all have different preferences like being vegan, checking if a venue is dog friendly, making sure it is indoors, and so on.

By tapping into the search giant’s large-language models, Google Maps can analyze detailed information using data from more than 250 million locations, and photos, ratings and reviews from its community of over 300 million contributors to provide “trustworthy” suggestions. 

The experimental feature is launching this week but is only coming to “select Local Guides” in the US. It will use these members' insights and feedback to develop and test the feature before what’s likely to be its eventual full rollout, which Google has not provided a date for.

 Does anyone want this?  

Users on the Android subreddit were very critical of the feature with some referring to AI as a buzzword that big companies are chasing for clout, user lohet stated: “Generative AI doesn't have any place in a basic database search. There's nothing to generate. It's either there or it's not.”

Many said they would rather see Google improve offline Maps and its location-sharing features. User, chronocapybara summarized the feelings of others in the forum by saying:  “If it helps find me things I'm searching for, I'm all for it. If it offloads work to the cloud, making search slower, just to give me more promoted places that are basically ads, then no.” 

However, AI integration in our everyday apps is here to stay and its inclusion in Google Maps could lead to users being able to discover brand-new places easily and helping smaller businesses gain attention and find an audience.

Until the features roll out, you can make the most of Google Maps with our 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do

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Don’t panic, iPhone users – Google Maps is still bringing Live Activities to your lock screen

Google announced around this time last year that it was working on the addition of Live Activities support to the Google Maps app for iPhone and iPads, and slated it for release later in 2023, but so far it still hasn’t been released. However, new assets found in the latest version in the app indicate that Google is still working on this feature, and the wait may soon be over.

The feature will display turn-by-turn directions on the Lock Screen and in the Dynamic Island of iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 series handsets, providing users with real-time ETAs, directions for driving, biking, walking, public transit, and more kinds of navigation. Users can look forward to all of that in easy-to-read live notifications without having to unlock their phones and opening the app. 

I wonder if this feature will also be present on iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro models’ Dynamic Islands, and would assume this would become standard for future iPhone models. It would also be nice to see a similar feature for Android devices (Dynamic Islands is a feature that’s exclusive to modern iPhones). 

Young woman using smartphone in Sydney

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A sign to keep your hopes up

A contributor at MacRumors, Aaron Perris, looked into the app’s assets after its most recent update, and found signs that users can remain hopeful that Google hasn’t given up adding these features to Google Maps on iPhone, despite the delay. 

This is reassuring, as while the new features were still in development as of August of last year, after that there were no strong indications that Google was pushing forward with it until now. MacRumours says that this recent discovery suggests that we might see the new feature soon. 

Apple has also opened up the Live Activities API for third-party iPhone app developers in iOS 16.1’s release. Developers have since made some handy apps and added some useful support features to existing apps, like DoorDash and United Airlines, thanks to the Live Activities API.

As an Android device user, I’m pretty jealous – this sounds like an awesome feature that makes it easier to get up and go, and stay on the move. It will make commuting with the help of your iPhone safer and more convenient, as well. I understand why iPhone users might be getting antsy after such a long delay and limited communication from Google, but it’s worth it for the Google Maps team to get it right.


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Google Maps update to let you wipe out past searches and photos in one swoop

Google Maps is getting a privacy update that gives users new ways to control their information on the platform. 

First, the app will begin collecting your recent activity into one central location where you can view places you’ve been to in the past, the date you went there, and the amount of time you spent visiting. You’ll be even able to “delete your searches, directions… and shares” in the same hub.

Looking at Google’s announcement, it appears you can delete each entry one by one or the whole thing altogether. A window will pop up on the screen letting you know what’s going to be thrown out. The data packet will include photos, reviews, feedback reports, saved lists, and more you’ve made about a location.

Tapping the blue dot on Google Maps will now bring up a settings menu for the Timeline and Location History features where you can see if either tool has been turned on as well as if the app has access to your device’s location. Timeline, if you’re not super familiar with it, uses data obtained from Location History to keep a record of all the places you’ve been to.

The deletion tool and the blue dot menu will start rolling out to Android and iOS phones over the coming weeks.

Saving the timeline

There is another update; however, it won’t come out until sometime next year. The upcoming feature allows people to save their Timeline recording directly onto their device instead of leaving it up on Google’s cloud. You are, of course, able to delete a part or all of your information at once, if you don’t want to leave a trace behind. Conversely, users can back up their data to the company servers at any time. Everything is encrypted, so no one, not even Google, can take a peek.

Location History is getting a small tweak. Its auto-delete function “will be set to three months by default” rather than 18 months as is currently the case. After that time passes, all saved information will be deleted. If you want to go back to the longer period, you can adjust at any time. 

It’s unknown exactly when the Timeline changes will roll out to Android or iOS in 2024, although Google states you will receive an account notification when it eventually arrives.

Google Maps is full of neat little tricks that most people are unaware of. If you want to know what they are, check out TechRadar's list of the 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do.

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