Google Maps' navigation experience quietly gets a huge upgrade

Google Maps navigation.
(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google Maps is experimenting with displaying 3D buildings during navigation on both the mobile app and Android Auto.
  • Some users have reported seeing 3D buildings during navigation on Maps for Android and iOS, requiring them to enable the 3D view before starting navigation.
  • A smaller group of users has observed the 3D view feature on Maps through Android Auto, where buildings become transparent when obstructing the route.

Google Maps can now show 3D buildings while you're navigating on the mobile app and Android Auto in what seems like a new experiment by Google.

According to a 9to5Google report, Google Maps appears to be testing displaying 3D buildings while you're getting directions on your phone. Up until now, you could only see this feature when exploring the Maps app, not while in the navigation view.

If you want to give it a shot, just flick on the 3D option from the layers menu on Maps' home screen, then zoom in until the buildings go three-dimensional. It seems like a bunch of users, including yours truly, are already seeing these fancy 3D buildings on the Maps app for Android.

When a 3D building is blocking your route on Android phones, it goes semi-transparent, letting you see through the obstruction. This change appears on Android phones running Android 14, although we can attest that it is also live on devices still stuck on Android 13.

Google Maps has had the 3D buildings feature for over a decade now, and you can turn it on or off with a toggle. This immersive view comes in super handy when you're trying to navigate a new city and find your way around.

But don't mix it up with Immersive View, which is an entirely different Maps feature. Back in February last year, Google introduced Immersive View to spice up the navigation app with a blend of Street View, satellite photos, and some AI stuff. The result is realistic 3D models of streets and even building interiors.

That said, not all iOS and Android phones have scored this feature yet, suggesting that Google might be A/B testing these 3D buildings.

Google Maps on Android Auto showing 3D buildings while navigating

(Image credit: seemebreakthis / Reddit)

Meanwhile, a Reddit user noticed that Maps on Android Auto has also flaunted this 3D view of buildings recently without them even lifting a finger on settings for the past week. But the new 3D buildings on Android Auto aren't showing up for everyone just yet, so we're not sure if this feature is gradually rolling out to the public or just part of a limited test.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.

  • formulawhine
    I don't see this as a 'huge' upgrade. I'd rather see Maps getting more Waze like features or integrate data better with Waze. The speed camera content is massively out of date compared to Waze, and it would be a 'huge' upgrade if they'd partner better with Waze so that user reporting was shared across the platforms.

    I much prefer the look and feel of Google Maps but Waze just has much more usable data on it and is much more accurate when it comes to navigation by car.