July 17, 2013 — -- You're not the only one who's preparing for some summer travels. In the past few weeks, Google has updated its Google Maps apps with new features, including live incident reports on road closures and new ways to find places to eat and visit.
The features are now available for Android phones and tablets, the iPhone and the iPad.
All the apps offer the usual reliable maps and navigation with a common design and experience, but also now include more traffic data. Incident warnings will appear on the map where there is traffic, road closures and construction. It will also alert you if there immediately becomes a better route to avoid traffic.
Google bought Waze, a popular social traffic app, in June. Google did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for clarification on whether Waze's traffic data is incorporated yet into this version of the Google Maps app.
In addition to avoiding traffic, the new app also lets people avoid bad places to eat or stay. A new Explore feature displays eat, drink, sleep and shop cards. Tap on those and Google will return some of the best locations to do those respective things. There is also a new five-star rating system that shows you how your friends have rated those spots. Offers and coupons are also integrated into the app now.
Google updated its Android phone apps with these features and released a new dedicated Android tablet app last week. On Tuesday night it released those features for the iPhone app, as well as a dedicated iPad app.
The Android tablet and iPad versions don't just expand the phone apps. Instead, they have tailored layouts for the bigger screen and offer a more immersive Street View perspective.
Google has maintained a strong mapping lead over competitors like Apple and Microsoft in the past few years, partly because of its cross-platform support. While Apple has improved its native map app, which was released last year with the iPhone 5, and plans to bring it to the Mac later this year, Google has maintained a strong alternative on Apple products. It has also worked to improve and update all its apps, including the Web version, at the same time.
"They're in a favorable position because they were an early free option on Android, which, of course, became very popular, and was the default mapping option on iPhone for many years," Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, told ABC News. "It has remained popular on iOS not only because of Apple's mapping missteps but because it is tied into other Google services on the desktop, just like Chrome on iOS that competes with the competent Safari."
Apple, however, isn't sitting still. Its forthcoming iOS 7 software for the iPhone and iPad will have an improved Maps app that integrates with Siri and with some cars.
But for the summer, Google's got a clear lead. The updated Google Maps apps are available now as updates in the Google Play Store for Android phones and in Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPad.