Google has made a number of UI changes to the desktop and mobile application over the years, and a few months ago made some rare changes to the actual map layer, including new typography to help differentiate points of interest.
The new updates take advantage of mobile’s strengths and the consumer training that’s already engrained to deliver a better experience. Users expect things like touch-based navigation to be a baseline product feature.
Those companies that wait to jump into mobile will find that consumer expectations scale with the capabilities of the technology. Most users are less willing to put up with a clunky UI if they’re aware that cleaner options are available.
As Maps gets a mobile update, Google is also preparing for inevitable competition from smaller companies like Uber that have historically relied on its mapping data for their service, but are in the process of building their own mapping tool.
Apple Maps, while still somewhat recovering from the bad press it got with its debut, has become a solid competitor to Google as well, after devoting more manpower to its mapping app.