Google Maps (Finally) Gets Dark Mode on the iPhone, a New Widget, and More

Google Maps Dark Mode Credit: Google
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Google already holds the prize as the slowest major developer when it comes to adopting new iOS features, so it’s probably no surprise that it’s taken two years, but at least fans of Google Maps can rejoice that Dark Mode is finally coming to the iPhone app.

It may sound patently absurd, considering that Apple introduced Dark Mode in iOS 13, and we’re now on the cusp of seeing iOS 15 released next month, but clearly Google has decided that it’s better late than never.

To be fair, Google only brought a dark theme to Google Maps on Android this past February, so it’s not like iPhone users have been left out of the party for an unusually long time. Google really is just that slow when it comes to embracing its dark side.

It also doesn’t help that Google drives all of these updates from its back-end servers, rather than the actual iOS apps. While Google was seemingly quick to add Dark Mode to Gmail shortly after iOS 13 was released nearly two years ago, it actually took nearly eight months before every Gmail user actually had it enabled.

The rollout of the dark theme in Google Maps is expected to follow the same pattern, although hopefully, it won’t take quite this long before everybody sees it. According to Google, it will start “rolling out in the coming weeks,” at which point you’ll be able to turn it on from Settings in the Google Maps app.

Beyond the Dark Side

In addition to the dark theme, Google has announced two other big features coming to Google Maps:

  1. Live Location Sharing via iMessage. Although Google Maps has offered some location and ETA sharing features for a while, these could be cumbersome unless all of your contacts lived in the Google ecosystem. Now, however, you’ll be able to share your live location with anybody via iMessage. The user will get a link to open your details in Google Maps — without the need to be signed in to a Google account. By default, your location will be shared for an hour, but you can extend that for up to three days. Best of all, this works as a Messages app, so you can pull it up right from within iMessage without the need to open the Google Maps app first.
  2. New Traffic Widget. Google has been a bit quicker when it comes to embracing Apple’s new iOS 14 widgets, and Google Maps fans now have two new options to drop on their Home Screen. Firstly, there’s a search widget that lets you quickly find your favourite spots or navigate to frequent destinations, which roughly mirrors the same widget that’s offered by Apple Maps. However, Google’s new Nearby Traffic widget could be a lot handier for commuters, allowing you to get quick information at a glance at what you’ll be facing before you head out the door.

Both of the new widgets are available now in the latest Google Maps app update that arrived last week. The Messages integration is expected to come in a future app update later this month, while the dark theme will likely be rolling out more gradually “in the coming weeks.” Learn more about Dark Mode here.

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