Google Maps on Android is getting an upgrade today that will make the app, often used for getting directions or accessing business information, a better guide to local restaurants, too – at least in select cities. With an expanded feature set that focuses on offering recommendations, along with ways to filter listings by time of day, vibe (like “family-friendly” or “quick bite”) and more, Maps will go up against other notable competitors in the local reviews space, including apps like Foursquare and Yelp, for example.
Via an updated “Explore” feature, Google Maps users will now be able to access a new set of curated recommendations that help them find nearby places to eat or drink. The recommendations are rolling out first in New York, San Francisco and London on the Android version of the Google Maps mobile app.
Users in supported cities will be able to filter through restaurant listings by location, time of day, and what sort of “vibe” they’re looking for. That means you may be able to drill down to see something like places to “escape the pre-theater crowds” while having dinner around the NYC theater district, or you could pull up a list of “cheap” lunch places in the Mission District.
Google tells us it’s determining these classifications by using a range of content, including web content, location information, user reviews and more, as well as data from its Zagat service. In addition, while the vast majority of the places are selected for inclusion on the lists based on the algorithm, Google notes that, in specific neighborhoods, editorial insights are also presented to “highlight the local flavor.”
As you browse through the category recommendations, the app will also display ratings, reviews, and other details about the location. In addition, in some cases, the app will get even more personal – it may recommend a place that’s relevant to you because it’s popular with other diners who visited a place you’ve also been to in the past, says Google.
The changes involve Google doing what it does best – leveraging its ability to parse through large data sets, then add structure to that information in order to make that data more easily searchable and filterable by end users. In this case, it’s doing it with restaurant listings.
While before, Google Maps’ Explore feature let you filter listings by how close they were to you and time of day, among other things, these newer recommendations add even more ways to narrow your searches.
But if you don’t find a listing you like in the current category, you’ll also be able to tap to view other places in various categories like “make it fast,” “where the locals go,” “best dinners” and more.
The update is rolling out now in the U.S. and U.K., and comes at a time when Google has been increasing its focus on augmenting Maps with more details about local restaurants. As you may recall, late last month, the company began testing a new feature that collected users’ “foodie” photos to include in Google Maps listings. These photos are also now appearing for the location the user is viewing in the updated “Explore” feature.
Google has not yet said when its recommendations would reach other markets, but notes that it hopes to roll this feature out to other places around the world in the “coming months.”