Google Maps 'Beam' Lights the Way

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Google Maps for Android has replaced the traditional direction arrow with a shining blue beam.

"Think of it as a flashlight guiding your travels," product manager Raja Ayyagari wrote in a blog post.

The beacon, meant to make orienting yourself in the digital map easier, also tells you how accurate your phone's direction is. A wide ray of light suggests your phone's compass is temporarily uncalibrated, meaning its sensors aren't working correctly. This, Ayyagari said, can be the result of something as simple as charging your phone or walking near a metal pole. To fix the calibration, move your phone in a figure-8 motion a few times to correct its course.

Last month, Android users got a boost when Google added the ability to use Maps entirely offline. When traveling in a place with expensive data or spotty cell service, just toggle to "Wi-Fi only."

And if you're planning to snag a ride from Uber, Lyft, or Gett, compare fare estimates and pickup times right from Google Maps. You will, however, need to have the corresponding service's app installed to book a ride.

These changes come after Google recently launched multi-stop directions for Maps on Android, which lets users enter numerous destinations for just one trip.

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