Google updated its Maps service for desktop browsers adding floor plans for over 10,000 indoor locations, just in time for Black Friday deal hunters and directionally challenged holiday travelers.
The indoor floor plans were available only on Google Maps for Android, but now you can now check indoor maps of airports, shopping malls, conference centers, casinos, train stations and museums from any Web browser.
Google's list of indoor maps - available in eight countries around the world - only mentions some of the 10,000 locations with floor plans. More locations are added every day, says Google. To help fuel mapping of interiors Google now offers a tool for uploading floor plans to Google.
To explore indoor plans on Google Maps, search for the location you want to view and then zoom in. If floor plans exist it will render. This is particularly useful for shopping malls when you want to see where a certain store or the all-important restrooms are located, or finding departure gates at airports.
Desktop versions of indoor maps are not as full-featured as the mobile counterparts. In your browser you can only get the plans for the main floor of buildings, while the Android mobile version Google Maps allows you to view additional level plans as well. This will depend from building to building.
It's no surprising that Google is keeping the more advanced features of indoor maps on mobile. After all, chances are that's the device you will be using when you are going through an airport, rather than a laptop. But the weakness of this solution is that GPS on smartphones is not accurate and often unavailable when indoors, making navigating indoor maps unpractical from your phone. Now with access available via your desktop browser you can view a mall or airport terminal ahead of time.
It's unclear whether the indoor maps feature will make it into the Google Maps app reportedly being prepared for iPhones, as Google might want to keep certain features exclusive to its platform in order to sway users.