Proper Google Maps app appears on Android Wear via latest phone app update

After updating to Google Maps version 9.9 on your phone — which brings a neat new transparent status bar and some navigation features — you may notice that there's an actual Google Maps app on your connected Android Wear watch as well. The launcher icon for Maps showed up on our LG Watch Urbane (which of course has the latest version of Android Wear) after simply re-syncing apps after the latest phone app install, and though it appeared to be broken at first, a couple of reboots later and we had a surprisingly full-featured Maps app ... on our watch.

The app can be launched from the app launcher or by voice with an "open Maps" command, and when opened you get a full screen top-down map experience. You can scroll around, pinch-to-zoom (barely) and even switch between true North and device direction views. Zoom in/out buttons appear on the top of the screen when you tap it, which is much better than pinching, and you also get a small pin button that lets you quickly scroll through nearby places and navigate to them — though when you fire up navigation from the Maps app on the watch it still corresponds with launching Maps on your phone.

There's even a neat feature that gives you a simple black and white outline map when the watch doesn't receive interaction for while, just like the ambient watch faces do.

Aside from the handful of reboots of our phone and watch that were necessary just to get it to run, the app still seems rather unstable. Several times in just a few minutes of playing with the app it has failed to respond or open up navigation properly — we have a feeling that this isn't quite ready without a new version of Google Play Services or potentially a new version of Android Wear on the watch. The only way to exit the Maps app is to press the side hardware button as well, which would cause troubles for other devices out there that don't have the physical button. We'll have to see how that's handled when it arrives on other devices.

But even when it is working, a bigger question can be raised about how useful a dedicated Google Maps app on Android Wear really is. While it's neat to see so much functionality jammed into a tiny screen on your wrist, it's pretty difficult to use and rather limited when compared to Google Maps on a phone.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • I really dig the idea but that's a tiny screen to be reading a map with. Andriod All Day Everyday!
  • Looks to be "inspired" by the Apple Watch. That said, the fact that it's got an ambient mode is an advantage, but there's no way to zoom in and out easily, like with the digital crown. Not a big issue though, since I wouldn't use this much anyway. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It supports pinch to zoom and the zoom in/out buttons up top. Both methods work great and are considered easy.
  • Pinch to zoom works just fine. Why Apple people can't handle such a simple maneuver is beyond me...
  • I'd rather ask a person where something is before fiddling with such a small device to use Google Maps on.
  • Not everybody likes to talk to other people. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I guess it's cool but dam for us older folks that would be a pain in the ass to look at that small screen. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Exactly Andriod All Day Everyday!
  • Ok. Oh and dinner at 3? Posted via the Android Central App
  • So bring it closer to your face.
  • Great news for cyclists using navigation! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Could be useful for bicyclists if you need to quickly browse around a map, but you could always do just navigation on the watch if you had your phone with you.
  • Yeh, that's what I do currently but have to atop every now and then for a proper map. This solves that potentially.
  • Great way to run into a tree or light post! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Looking at a tiny screen on your wrist sounds like a great idea when cycling. /sarcasm If you need maps while cycling then you'd probably be better off with a phone mount on your handlebars. Much easier to read at a glance. I would think this would be more useful for walking, where you'll probably have your phone in your pocket. Posted via Android Central App
  • really it's terrific for biking. The turn by turn cards of yore were near useless because sometimes they were wrong or unclear, but a map doesn't lie. It is much easier and quicker to look at the map than to try to interpret a turn card while negotiating lane changes and unmarked streets.
  • GwR !!! Common google Posted via My G2
  • I have it on the GWR. Here's the update zip for wear 5.1.1, sideload it if you're impatient like I was.
    And here's the apk for new google maps.
  • How much of a battery hog would this be, even with the ambient feature?
  • Yeah, I had to block Map notifications to my 360. When I use Google Maps for navigation on my phone it would kill the watch battery. Posted from my XT1080M
  • Grabbed a Maps 9.9 apk and tried it out, no go though with my Moto 360 at the moment, Probably needs that 5.1 update first.
  • Yep. On my 360 it says its coming soon when you try to launch the new Maps .apk. Hopefully 5.1 wear will be out soon. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Too bad it's phone dependent for gps Posted via the Android Central App
  • Useful for people like me. Who travel often and don't want to keep a phone out all the time while getting directions.
  • I think its great to have a nearly fully featured Maps app on the phone, but I don't want them to try and make everything about the watch fully functioning like a phone. I don't think they should ever replace phones.
  • Other than just the changes to the watch, there also seems to be significant changes to public transit navigation. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I actually just got it and I can say that it is very useful. The device direction map rotation works flawlessly on my GWR. so does the moving map. both are very responsive and seeing exactly where you are in relation to a turn is terrific. I just used it to explore some unlit bike trails in a park i'd never been to before and it was so up to speed that i could use it to explore with only the aid of a puny light intended for only being seen, not for seeing. It's actually very useful. And fast. there was no more waiting than I would expect on the phone, and in fact the phone to watch latency appears to be about nil. Good work.
  • On the G Watch, there is an extra button on the bottom of the screen so you can exit the app.
  • This has to be the stupidest thing I've seen lately. Who wants this? If it worked without the phone, maybe, but this is just so stupid. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is a must have feature for me.
  • Must be convenient. Still, the screen is really too small
  • Does the map rotate when you take a turn or always facing north?
  • From the article "...and even switch between true North and device direction views."