The new Google Maps is here, and it could kill off the competition

New Google Maps
Can anyone catch Google Maps?

Google showed off a new version of Google Maps at its annual IO conference earlier this month and is now offering the new system to a limited number of users as a preview.

TechRadar has gained access to the new Google Maps and has taken a brief trip around the world to look at the features it has to offer.

We're aware that this is not the final product and we're sure Google will be doing more work on the new version of Maps over the coming months, but here's what we think so far.

Eyes down

The first thing you'll notice when you fire up the new Google Maps is that everything looks a bit, well, Apple Maps.

Now before you start to question the reason to live as you fear Google is going the way of the Cupertino-based firm's mapping solution we're here to reassure you.

Cosmetically the search giant has given Maps a bit of a spring clean, but it's mapping nous still underlies the service to give you the quality you're familiar with.

New Google Maps

New Google Maps (left) vs old Google Maps (right)

One to the big design tweaks has been to the colour of the roads, with the blues and greens replaced with varying shades of orange, with the more minor routes finished in white or grey.

This gives the maps a much cleaner appearance, and comparing it to the old version of Google Maps it looks a lot less cluttered.

Not the (Google) Earth you're looking for

Satellite view has been replaced with "Earth" - which shows the clear tie-in with the firm's other planet viewing platform - and this icon is now located in the bottom left of the screen.

Give it a click and the map fades to the new view, with the zoom controls and compass located at the bottom of the screen, over in the right corner.

New Google Maps

Oddly you can't zoom in as far on the Earth view as you can in Satellite view, meaning if you fancy you won't be able to count the number of chimney pots on your neighbours rooftops quite so easily.

Zoom all the way out and you'll get a lovely overview of planet earth which you can spin on its axis - which is all very nice.

Where's pegman?

Street View is still baked into the new Google Maps, although our little friend the pegman is nowhere to be seen on the new layout.

Google has done away with the golden figurine, and instead has delivered a more intuitive system.

New Google Maps

Just click on any road on the map and a card will pop up below the search bar on the left of the screen with the address, the option to get directions to the point and a thumbnail of the Street View for that location which you can click to enter the mode.

Once in Street View things are pretty much the same, you can click along roads to move down them and zoom it at any point if you fancy checking out someone's front door.

Entering the third dimension

While Earth and Street View are nothing new, Google has implemented a new visual feature which it claims will let you "see the world".

In certain cities round the world (at the moment the preview is restricted to a handful of US cities) buildings have been modelled in 3D, allowing you to get a new perspective on the area you're viewing.

New Google Maps

Now if this all sounds rather familiar, that's because it is. The feature is almost identical to Apple's "Flyover" function in its own mapping service. Is that a lawsuit we smell?

We spent some time flying around the Boston and New York skylines with this new feature and while it's quite fun, it is lacking the layer of polish to make it truly impressive.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.