Better Late Than Never: Live Activities in Google Maps Could Be Coming Soon

Using Google Maps in a Car Credit: Den Photos / Shutterstock
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It was late 2022 when Apple introduced Live Activities — a feature promised during the June unveiling of iOS 16 that went live in iOS 16.1. Apple’s first-party apps quickly embraced the feature, as did many third-party developers … with one notable exception.

Everything from sports apps to Uber have been on board for nearly a year now, making use of the dynamically updating Lock Screen notifications and Dynamic Island status indicators to help you keep track of your favorite team’s scores, when your ride share or food delivery is arriving, when your flight is landing, and more.

Apple Maps naturally supported Live Activities from the beginning, allowing you to get up-to-date navigation information in the Dynamic Island, although it was arguably less necessary for the Lock Screen, where Apple has always allowed its navigation display to take over the entire screen.

While that’s a home-field advantage Apple reserves for Apple Maps, Live Activities would have at least allowed Google Maps to close the gap a bit by providing turn-by-turn directions and a live-updating ETA on the lock screen — except, it seems Google doesn’t really care that much.

We’re on the cusp of seeing iOS 17.3, and Live Activities remains conspicuously missing in Google Maps. That’s not to say that the company isn’t working on it, but it’s clear that it isn’t a huge priority.

To be fair, Google has always lagged well behind most other major developers when it comes to embracing new iOS features. It took nearly a year after iOS 13 was released before dark mode came to Gmail, and dark mode didn’t arrive in Google Maps until shortly before iOS 15 was released.

Things have been even stranger on the iPad and Apple Watch front. It took over five years for split view in Gmail and picture-in-picture in YouTube to arrive — both capabilities that Apple added in iOS 9 that didn’t show up in the respective Google apps until iOS/iPadOS 14. Similarly, Google Maps vanished from the Apple Watch in 2017, presumably as a prelude to a redesigned native watchOS app that took until 2020 to arrive.

So, it should really surprise no one that Google has been similarly slow to embrace Live Activities in Google Maps.

That’s not for a complete lack of intent on Google’s part. Last February, the company announced that new “glanceable directions” coming to Google Maps would also usher in support for Live Activities:

These glanceable directions start rolling out globally on Android and iOS in the coming months, and will also be compatible with Live Activities on iOS 16.1.

However, this support has yet to materialize. In August, the folks at MacRumors found evidence that Google was working on the feature, speculating that it might have been planning to roll it out in time for the iPhone 15 lineup, which brought the Dynamic Island to the standard iPhone models.

That obviously didn’t happen, but Google is apparently still working on it. MacRumors shared this week that new assets have been found in the latest version of Google Maps that suggest the feature could be switched on any day now.

Whether that will come in a new version of the Google Maps app on the App Store or simply appear one day as a result of a change on Google’s servers is hard to say. However, the search giant typically opts for the latter approach — and often performs a gradual rollout where not everybody may have the feature appear at the same time.

That can get annoying when your friends have a capability that you don’t — with Gmail’s dark mode, it got downright crazy since Google paused the rollout, leaving some users without dark mode on their Gmail accounts months after others had already received the feature. Hopefully Live Activities in Google Maps doesn’t follow a similar pattern, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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