Windows 10 Maps leaps ahead on Redstone, new UI, new cosmetics, new layout

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Arguably good timing, given the news about HERE's suite's imminent demise, Windows 10 Maps has been given a boost with a whole new major version now available for anyone on Windows 10 Mobile's Redstone branch (under the Insiders programme, see here for the latest build). This will release officially for regular users when Redstone hits, coinciding with the forced cessation of the HERE Maps/Drive applications on the OS.

Microsoft's teams have shared details of what's new in Maps - you and I can try it for ourselves if we're on the 'Fast' ring in the Insiders programme, of course. I've filtered the post here to only include the stuff that's relevant to the 'mobile' interface, i.e. on the smaller screen:

...we’ve continuously improved the maps experience with frequent updates and new features. Many of these features have been shaped as a direct result of feedback from our users about what is most relevant and meaningful to them. In addition to architectural improvements that enable faster innovation and enhanced performance, today we’re bringing the next set of innovative features to Windows Insiders....

...Wayfinding and usability is serious business for our Maps team and with this build many of the menu locations have been enhanced with this in mind. For instance, navigation is now positioned at the top on desktop (instead of the side) and at the bottom on phone (instead of the top) as a direct result of how people use the Maps app differently on different types of devices. For the phone, this directly improves the experience when using your device with one hand, especially when getting directions or opening your favorites with a single tap. Moving navigation to the bottom of the phone is just one of the great ways Insider feedback is helping us improve the experience for all Windows 10 Map app users.

New Maps app for Windows 10 in the latest Insider Build

One handed reach (marked in green) on mobile: Before (left) vs Current Build (right)

Other improvements driven primarily by our users include:

  • We’ve added labels for your search results directly on the map instead of referencing numbers on the search list. You can now see the name of each place directly on the map.
  • For those markets that offer nearby search results, we’ve made improvements to our algorithms that result in closer and better search results.
  • You can now minimize search results, directions, and location info to enjoy more of the map, while keeping them in easy reach.
  • We added search to 3D cities so you no longer have to scroll to find the city you’re looking for.
  • Your favorites are now available offline so you can truly enjoy your offline maps and take advantage of all the places you have saved. You can also add notes to your favorites to keep track of things you want to remember about that place.
  • When Cortana is enabled, you will receive turn-by-turn directions in Cortana’s voice, currently supported for English (United States), English (United Kingdom), Simplified Chinese (China), French (France), Italian (Italy), German (Germany) and Spanish (Spain).
  • We’ve made it easier for you to follow your public transit route and know when it’s time to get off the bus with updated turn-by-turn instructions.
New Maps app for Windows 10 in current Windows Insider Build

Improved transit directions

  • And finally, based on the greatest amount of user feedback we’ve made improvements to the UI of turn-by-turn instructions to improve glanceability and the layout in landscape mode.
New Maps app for Windows 10 in current Windows Insider Build

Note that in order to try this version of Maps, your phone has to be on the Windows 10 Mobile 14xxx (Redstone) branch and Maps has to be updated in the Store in the usual way - this should happen automatically, but you can accelerate things by 'checking for updates' in the Store client.

There's much above that will help a lot - the cosmetics will make the most difference, based on all the feedback I've had from friends about poor choice of fonts, backgrounds, and layout. The new interface is a revelation by comparison and should help allay the fears of anyone fearing that they'll miss HERE Maps/Drive through 2016 and beyond.

I'm going to be road testing this next-gen Maps and navigation client over the next few weeks. Watch this space!

Source / Credit: Microsoft