Google Maps users are getting a fantastic free search upgrade

The update affects those using the app on an Android phone

Google Maps Android traffic widget
(Image credit: Google)

If you're looking for some navigation assistance on your Android phone, chances are you're using Google Maps. The app is one of the most popular on the market, coming pre-installed on all Android devices.

Now, it's getting a pretty substantial upgrade. For far too long, the app has used a rather outdated method of voice search. It's called Speech Services, and isn't exactly what you'd consider up-to-date.

That's all changing though. In the latest update, the app will begin to make use of the Google Voice Assistant. That's the same speech recognition engine that powers the "Hey Google" functionality on devices. It's much more accurate, and should provide users with a more seamless hands-free experience.

The update is rolling out to a lot of devices right now, so you may already have the functionality on your device. When you open the app, a large card will pop up saying there are now "faster ways to search."

According to 9to5Google, the whole thing is much snappier now, too. When you ask the app to take you to a certain place, it seems to take less time to work out what you mean and setup your navigation. That should save a lot of time and get you on your way quicker.

It also gives you a visual representation of the recognised speech. That's really handy for quickly knowing that the system has heard you correctly, and isn't going to send you off to a similar sounding – but totally incorrect – location. Speech recognition has become much better of late, but it's still not perfect, so having that should offer some reassurance.

It's a great upgrade for users. It should make it easier than ever to setup navigation without having to manually type and search for your location. The added accuracy and speed of working should provide some users who had previously ignored voice search a reason to use the feature once more.

As mentioned, the update appears to be arriving from the server side. That means you shouldn't have to do anything to get the new functionality – just keep an eye on your Google Maps app next time you use it. 

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.