While Google Maps has had several UI changes on the web and mobile over the past few years, the actual map layer has remained the same. Starting today, however, Google is making a few visual changes and additions to Maps on desktop, Android, and iOS that will help with navigation.
First off, the map on all platforms is getting a cleaner look that removes inessential elements (like road outlines). There is new typography for street names, points of interest, transit stops, and other places to help distinguish more important points from other things on the map. The result is a cleaner look that makes it easier to see actionable information like transit and traffic without other distractions.
As a result of the cleaner map, Google will begin shading areas of interest that have a lot to do in orange. Zooming in on a shaded area will allow users to see more details about each venue and tap for more info. Areas of interest are determined algorithmically and highlight places with a high concentration of restaurants and shops. For especially high-density areas (like New York City), some human curation is involved.
The red Google Maps pin has become quite synonymous with points and locations. A new color coding system helps distinguish what type of place a location is. Colors range from beige for man-made freeways and highways to green and blue for parks, water, and other natural features. It might take a while to memorize, but it should be useful to just glance at search results on a map and find out what things are immediately.
These changes should be live now on the web, Android, and iOS.