Google is bringing a bunch of updates to Maps this holiday season today, making the app more useful for getting around while you're gift- or grocery shopping. Most of the new features were either already announced or available in limited regions, like grocery shopping integration in select Fred Meyers stores in Oregon. Now, after that pilot test, Pickup with Google Maps is available in over 2,000 stores in the US from the Kroger Family organization, including Kroger, Fry's, Ralphs and Marianos.
This means that when you shop at a participating outlet via its website, you'll be able to track your order status in Maps, share your ETA with the store and let them know when you've arrived. According to Google, people who use pickup with Maps "typically wait less than five minutes for their groceries."
The company is also adding Area Busyness to Maps, which is similar to the existing graph you'll see in Google Search results for restaurants, businesses and popular attractions. It's also reminiscent of the feature that launched earlier this year, which let Maps users see how crowded specific trains or buses are in real time. With Area Busyness, you can check out how many people are in a specific neighborhood, as well as the individual "restaurants, shops and recreational places (like a museum) within it," Google said. It'll be available globally on Android and iOS.
In the US, Google wants to help budget-conscious diners hone in on restaurant search results by offering price ranges based on contributions from other Maps users. You'll see how much a meal at each establishment typically costs, like $10 to $20 for example, and the number of people that estimate is based on. You can also tap into the details to see how many people submitted a price range, just like you'd see the number of reviewers who rated a product one, two, three, four or five stars on most shopping sites.
You can add your own feedback about how much you paid at each place, and Google is also making it easier to add info like whether there's outdoor seating, curbside pickup and delivery options in your reviews.
Finally, the company is bringing the Directory tab to Android and iOS for all airports, malls and transit stations around the world. In the past, this was selectively available under the more information section of specific malls or businesses. Now, "when we have this data available," Google said, you'll be able to get detailed information about the types of stores in a building, like parking lots, airline lounges, toy stores or clothing outlets, and see a list of shops in each category. It'll also show opening hours, store ratings and the floor they're on.