Google is adding more content, filters and personalization to the “Explore” feature in Google Maps for Android in the US and UK. In several markets to start (SF, NYC and London), Google says you’ll get new “curated recommendations” about nearby dining options:
Once you pick the category that suits your craving, you can see in-depth details about each location. Swipe through photos, get details (family-friendly? quick bite?), and check out ratings and reviews from Google and other diners. And for select spots, you also discover why it may be particularly relevant to you. For example, Google Maps may recommend a place that’s popular with other diners who visited a place you’ve been to in the past.
Explore translates what would otherwise be a more conventional and somewhat cumbersome query in a box experience (“sushi, San Francisco”) into a more mobile-friendly discovery capability tapping into high-intent local browsing. Google previously said that searches using the keywords “nearby” or “near me” have grown 34X since 2011. Explore partly responds to those trends.
Explore recommendations will reportedly change based on location and time of day, among other variables. However, users can also adjust filters to generate different results. These improvements are meaningful but incremental. Google told me in email that the changes add a great deal more “depth” to Explore.
These new capabilities and features elevate both the utility and visibility of Explore. Explore until now has been a little buried in Google Maps, and this starts to bring it out more. Yet in some ways, it would be better if Google were building this into Google Now, which offers some nearby information, but in a much more limited way.
Google could successfully deploy the Explore feature equally in Now, and in some ways, it would be easier to access and use.