The New Google Maps Traffic Widget on Android: What, When, Why

As a fully-featured mapping service, Google Maps can be used in so many ways, including not only on mobile but also on the desktop and even on smartwatches.
Google Maps getting new feature on iPhone 12 photos
Photo: Google
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Needless to say, the Mountain View-based search giant is always working non-stop on refining the experience with Google Maps everywhere, and in some cases, you don’t even have to launch the app to get access to its capabilities.

On Android, for instance, one of the most helpful features is the support for widgets, which essentially gives users the opportunity of creating shortcuts for the places they often visit to quickly start the navigation.

As said, however, Google is continuously working on refining Google Maps on multiple fronts at the same time, and the support for Android widgets is one of the company’s latest focuses.

Earlier this week, the search giant announced a new widget for Android devices in order to show the nearby traffic right on the home screen.

New Google Maps feature on Android
Photo: Google
Basically, the purpose of the new widget for Android devices is as simple as it could be: it shows the nearby traffic for your current location, therefore letting you see the current conditions at any given time without the need for launching the main Google Maps application.

This feature comes in handy in several ways, but the most obvious is when planning to go home from the office and want to see the current traffic conditions around your location. The Google Maps square widget uses its already-famous traffic lines to show the conditions, so if everything around you is green, you’re good to go. On the other hand, if what you see are only red lines, then the traffic in your region is a nightmare.

The widget is updated when you load it, so there’s no need to refresh it manually. When the widget is in focus, you should see up-to-date traffic information, all without any input on your side.

Thanks to the support for tappable widgets, Android also allows users to enjoy another benefit of this new Google Maps feature. The recently-announced widget supports zooming and out with just a tap, so you can further explore the traffic conditions to get a much clearer picture of the local traffic.

New Google Maps feature on Android
Photo: Google
Once again, launching Google Maps isn’t by any means required, though you may want to do this anyway for more traffic details.

At this point, the new traffic widget doesn’t have a specific release date, but Google says it’ll be launching in the coming weeks. Needless to say, the company hasn’t shared the full specifics, so it’s hard to say precisely what versions of Android are going to be supported.

On the other hand, I expect Android 11 and newer to support the widgets, so if your device is already on Android 12, you should be good to go. This is just a guess at this point though, so the full information will be provided when the widget is ready to launch.

The current home screen Google Maps widget on Android lets you quickly search the application and find a new address in a more straightforward way. At the same time, it also includes shortcuts to the most common locations, including home, restaurants, groceries, and bakeries.

In some ways, the new traffic widget will be a lot more useful, though its targets are clearly drivers who use Google Maps for their daily commutes.

Similar capabilities are already available on the iPhone, where the “Know before you go” widget of Google Maps makes it possible to see the latest traffic conditions, location details, store opening times, and so much more straight from the widget on the home screen. This feature is available on all iPhones running at least iOS 13.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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