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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Google Maps for Android updated (9.6) with more control over voice input and enhanced Zagat reviews


Google Maps for Android updated (9.6)
Google Maps for Android has been updated to version 9.6 which brings a few minor changes and improvements. This version slightly improves the visibility of Zagat reviews and adds an option to determine if the voice should play over speakers or Bluetooth during turn-by-navigation.

Google Maps app for Android phones and tablets makes navigating your world faster and easier. It offers features like Voice-guided GPS navigation, transit directions, live traffic updates, offline maps and more.

You can download the latest version directly on your Android device through the Google Play Store or by using the following link:

Download
Download from the Google Play Store
Price Free
Requirements Varies with device

You can also download the official APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

Download official APK
APK Mirror

File Name: com.google.android.apps.maps-9.6.0-906011124-minAPI18.apk
Version: 9.6.0 (906011124)
MD5: d9b85e54eb2d8195fc29325120550388

The only obvious functional change in this release is a new toggle that determines if the turn-by-turn voice instructions should play through a device's speaker or be sent over Bluetooth. It's a simple feature, but there are probably a few users that will see it as long overdue.

Prior to this release, all audio from Google Maps went to the default output, whatever it may be. This usually means sound goes through the headphone jack first, then Bluetooth audio, and finally the built-in speaker. The new toggle gives users the option to keep turn-by-turn instructions off of Bluetooth. This might be handy if you want to have music playing on your Bluetooth stereo for passengers while keeping navigation on your phone's speaker. This still doesn't seem like a perfect solution, because there's no way to have the voice play just through a headphone while also running music through the stereo, but it's progress.

The checkbox to change this setting can be found under Settings > Navigation Settings > Play voice over Bluetooth, and it is enabled by default so nobody will be surprised by a sudden change in behavior.

Most of the remaining changes are visual and only amount to very minor tweaks; except for a bit of a refresh on the Zagat reviews appearing at the bottom of some listings. In previous versions of Google Maps, restaurants with a Zagat rating carried a tiny 'z' logo on their card while in map view, but buried the actual review at the very bottom of the screen with just the heading "Featured by Zagat," followed by a blurb, and then a link to see the full comment. While the content still appears at the bottom, the new version gives a little more depth to the section by adding a logo and a short segment from the review.

The full Zagat review and rating screen has also adopted a little more window dressing. The individual numerical ratings for Food, D├ęcor, and Service are now framed by light gray backgrounds, and there's a helpful note below them to explain that the scale maxes out at 30. The screen is a bit busier and more compact than before, but it looks more organized and less like an advertisement.
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