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Google Maps just got a big upgrade on your phone — here's how to use it

Google Maps on iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Update: Google Maps will now let you drive around in a virtual Street View car — here's how

Believe it or not, Google Street View is now 15 years old. The service now encompasses 220 billion images over 100 countries and territories. To commemorate this, Google has announced a big change (opens in new tab) is coming — bringing the best hidden desktop feature to mobile.

Waze users on iPhone will also be happy to hear that the navigation app just got Apple Music support as well.

One of the coolest things about Street View is that Google keeps all the images it’s taken over the years — letting you go back and see how things used to be. This feature has been exclusive to desktops since 2014, but now it’s coming to Android and iOS.

According to Google the feature has started rolling out today, though it’s not appeared on my phone — which is running the Google Maps beta. 

But you can check pretty easily. Simply load up a Street view location, any location, and tap the photo. If you’re running the new version of Google Maps, this will bring up some information about the spot, along with a See More Dates option. 

Tapping that lets you travel back to previous versions of Street View all the way back to when the feature launched in 2007. 

google street view time travel feature on android

(Image credit: Google)

 How to use Street View's time travel on desktop 

how to use google maps

(Image credit: Future)

On the desktop version of Street view, things work a little differently. To get time travel going you will need to do the following:

  1. Open up Google Maps, and drag the yellow figure from the bottom right corner to your desired location. 
  2. In the top left you’ll see a box with location details and the date the photo was taken. Click it
  3. A pop-up menu will appear, with a drag bar at the bottom.  
  4. Drag the dot to your chosen year, and press the magnifying glass in the bottom right. This will launch a full-screen version of that period in time. 

 A new Street View camera is also coming 

upgraded google street view camera

(Image credit: Google)

We’ve all heard about the Street View cars, driving around snapping pictures and prompting some people to do a pose and be (almost) immortalized on the platform. But Google does have ways of snapping images where cars can’t go, and the new Street View camera will make that even easier.

Google claims that this new camera is the size of a house cat, but retains all the same power, resolution and processing capabilities as the ones you’d find on Street View cars. This new camera weighs less than 15 pounds, making it easy to lug around, and simple enough that it can be attached to any car roof rack and controlled from a mobile device.

This way Google won’t need purpose-built cars and bulky camera-equipped backpacks to document the world.

The camera also offers more modular customization, letting Google add new components to better map the streets. The example it used was a LiDAR sensor for detecting lane markings and potholes.

To help you get the most out of Google Maps, check out our 22 Google Maps tips and tricks guide (opens in new tab)

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.