Google Maps in India is getting Plus codes and other new features in order to make address search simpler across the country. Google Maps will also support voice navigation search in six additional Indian languages — Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam — on the Android app.
While Plus codes feature has been rolled for Android version of Google Maps, the iOS version of the app will get the feature later. The Plus codes feature — also known as the Open Location code, which has been live since 2014 — is open-source and available to third-party apps and services to use as well. Maps in India has supported Plus codes for some months now, and these will now be reflected in addresses for homes and businesses.
Google Maps and Plus codes: What is this new feature?
Google Plus codes are based on the concept that the world can be divided into small grids, each of which gets assigned a unique code to ensure a more consistent address system. On Google Maps, Plus codes assign six characters to a location plus the city name. Each Plus code represents a unique geographical location, says Google.
“In our user studies we realised that people are not always looking for pinpoint precision. Approximate information is also what is needed. So we played around with the length of the code. One does not need all of the ten characters in the code, some characters represent the city, and we took those out and added it to the end. We believe it is easy for people to use since it works on mobile and offline. We believe the ecosystem is ready now, given location-based services are being used so readily,” explains Suren Ruhela, Director for Google Maps Next Billion users in an interaction with indianexpress.com.
Google says Plus codes are supposed to simplify address search in India, where the address system is more complicated and longer than say, countries in the West and often not so precise. For example, users often mention landmarks, etc in the address, which can make it harder for Google Maps to locate the exact address, especially if it is not already pinned on the map.
Google Maps will automatically generate the code for a particular address and add the city. So if your house is given the code 22WM+PW, New Delhi, then you can just enter this on Maps or Google search to find the address. Google says the feature will work offline as well, and the Plus code can be shared with other users.
Searching for Plus code straight on the Google app will also show the exact location on Maps as the top result. “Even if you do not have internet connectivity, you can drop a pin on Google Maps and the Plus code is still generated for that particular location. This code can then be shared over a call or text message,” he added.
When it comes to Plus codes being used by businesses like say food delivery services or cab aggregators, Ruhela says Google hopes consumers will adopt it first, and businesses will follow suite on using this feature. “With Plus codes we are not saying that people are going to stop using their address over night. With Plus codes, there are wider user cases. So how does someone explain an address, which is not there on Google Maps? It may not be about the home or work, but there are lots of other situations where these could be useful,” he said.
What is Google Smart Address Search?
Google is also adding a new ‘Smart Address Search’ feature to Maps in India. Now, Google maps will try and understand the landmarks in an address as well. Instead of showing no results in some cases, it will display these landmarks when a long address search is typed. This will show the user a location closer to the address, even if Google Maps cannot pinpoint the actual address.
“So if you enter a long address and we do not understand exactly where it is, we will try and understand some of the pieces of this address. Based on those pieces, we give a best estimate on where the address will be located, rather than not showing any information at all. This is a lot better than failing, and saying sorry we have no clue about the address,” Ruhela said.
Google is also highlighting a new feature called “Add an Address” to encourage users to pinpoint their home or business address on Maps. Google says it will encourage users to share only the address, and not their personal information like name, mobile number, etc when adding this information to Maps.