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Google unveils upgraded Maps app

Google is unveiling a new version of its popular Maps app, available now for Android phones and tablets and "coming soon" to iPhones and iPads. It'll be the first time iPad users get a dedicated Google Maps app.

The app's design has been significantly streamlined to declutter the screen and get rid of a series of menus that confused some users, said Daniel Graf, senior product manager of Google Maps.

"It was 'interesting,'" Graf said diplomatically in describing how he assessed the previous interface, which had become bloated and overly complicated after years of incremental updates.

"You know what it was, it was seven years of (development), it started very simple and you add one option after another and that's how you end up (with a cluttered interface)," he said.

"And now we just basically started over from scratch."

Some iPhone users have already tried the new interface, which was released to that device a few months ago. But they will still want to download the update to access some new features.

For navigation, the app can now automatically reroute around accidents, traffic jams and other issues that suddenly emerge.

Users can also save map data to their device for use without a data connection, which is particularly handy while travelling.

Typing "ok maps" in the search bar will save the map area on the device's screen to be used later. Saving offline maps was already available to Android users but is new to the iPhone.

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