Google Maps just got this popular feature back — what you need to know

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After a two-year absence, Google has brought the in-map compass back to Google Maps on Android thanks, it says, to continued user pressure for a return of the feature.

“You wanted it and we heard you,” a support post on Google Maps help begins. “We’re excited to announce the return of the compass on Maps for Android. “The compass was removed from Maps for Android in early 2019 in an effort to clean up the Navigation screen but due to overwhelming support it’s back!” 

While it’s easy to be cynical about companies insisting that something returning is due to popular demand, it's pretty clear that people really did miss the compass. You don’t have to look far to find plenty of examples on Google’s own support pages

The compass appears as a widget on the right-hand side of the map screen, with a red arrow determinedly pointing north on the map as you rotate your phone. It’s a handy extra bit of info as you navigate unknown places, and given the small footprint it takes up, it’s hard to believe Google ever thought it was worth removing.

Indeed, Google’s explanation that it was removed to clean up the navigation screen is a little hard to stomach when the change only ever happened on the Android version of the app. The iOS edition has kept the compass for the past two years, and Google says that iPhone owners won’t ever have to experience this time in the wilderness: “For Google Maps users on iOS the compass was not removed and will continue to be available,” the support post confirms.

We already knew that Google Maps would be getting a bunch of upgrades, including Indoor Live View, integrated weather and air quality, and eco-friendly driving options, but the return of the compass was something that Google kept quiet until release.

You can see all these features in the latest version of Google Maps. If it doesn’t automatically update, you’re looking for version 10.62 on the Google Play Store. Just remember that phone compasses aren’t always completely reliable, even after calibration, so don’t let Google Maps overrule your own senses when out exploring the world. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.