Google Maps connects contacts and categorizes businesses
The popular Google Maps app has released an update today which allows you to search your Google Contacts. Users will sign in, and then be able to search for friends and family, bring up someone's address by name, and get directions to them. Note that this update isn't tied to your phone's Contacts, but your Google Contacts. That means that, in order to take advantage of this feature, you have to create a Google account if you haven't already. Google Contacts are tied to both Gmail and Google+.
The udpate also allows users to search for local businesses by category, much like Yelp. Businesses who have a Google+ Local profile and who have selected an appropriate category will now come up when someone wants to see what's around them.
When you first open the app, tap the small person icon in the upper right to login and connect your Google account. You will also be prompted to fill in your Home and Word addresses if Google doesn't already know them. You can then go back to map view which wil show your current location. Tap the bottom right-hand coner to change the view, or tap the Search bar to type in a search. Below the search you'll now find categories for destinations by icon, like food, coffee, fuel and so on.
All of the new available categories are: restaurants, coffee, bars, gas stations, post offices, hotels, grocery stores, pharmacies, movie theatres, malls, hospitals, atms and attractions.
Businesses who fall into one of those categories need to check their Google+ Local profile immediately and make sure that it's there and it's accurate. This is now an essential part of the Social-Local-Mobile (SoLoMo) state of Internet marketing for businesses.
Google previously had a separate app that provided this information, Local. It's likely that support for that app will soon stop now that the same information can be accessed throgh Google Maps.
Google Maps is the app that Google created last year when Apple stopped incorporating Google Map data into the default iOS map app. Some have criticized Apple for that decision and questioned the quality of Apple's map app, but clearly that decision was the action needed to improve a stagnating service. We now have a choice when it comes to map apps, and our map apps now include voice turn-by-turn navigation and regular updates and new features.
What do you think of Google Maps? Do you still use the default Apple Maps app? Have you gotten your business set up on Google+ Local yet?