Google's Maps iOS app gains more search tools in update

Version 1.1 includes new functions for searching for both places and people

Google on Tuesday pushed out an update for its Maps iPhone app designed to make it easier for users to search for local businesses and contacts in their address book.

The new version features several new search functions. With people, for example, the app now lets users search for individuals by name to see where they are located, provided that the addresses for users' Google Contacts on file are up-to-date.

The app also includes a way to search for local places by category such as restaurants, bars, cafés and gas stations. After a user taps the search box, a horizontal menu appears that the user can expand to display nearby places of the category they choose.

After a business is selected, a tab at the bottom of the screen displays Zagat ratings and Google user reviews, which can be expanded to provide more information including driving directions, photos and street-view images.

Visually, the new nearby search's interface bears some resemblance to Facebook's mobile Nearby search tool, which displays local businesses to users based on friends' interaction with those places.

Google Maps users can also now choose between kilometers and miles for their preferred distance units.

The update adds further polish to an app that many iPhone users have already gravitated toward after Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to apologize for glitches seen in Apple's native Maps app that began shipping with iOS 6 last September.

Google's mapping application was dropped with that version of iOS, but it was made available again in Apple's App Store in December following Apple's stumbles with its own application.

The free update is available now in Apple's iTunes store in 29 languages including English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German and Hebrew.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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