The blue dot and direction arrow in Google Maps represent where you are and what direction your device is pointing in. A minor update to the Android app today changes the arrow to a shining blue beam. The beam also conveys how accurate your phone’s direction is and provide an easy way to calibrate it.
Compared to the direction arrow, the blue beam is bigger and much more visible especially in dense, compact areas. Google calls it a “flashlight guiding your travels” and it grows wider and narrower to reflect accuracy. A wide beam means that your device’s compass sensor is temporarily uncalibrated from walking by a metal pole or due to charging your phone.
To remedy, users can move their phones in a figure 8 motion a few times. You can do this calibration at any time and not just when a notification from the app prompts you. This is different from the current motion that has users tilt their phone around.
The beam is live on one of our devices and appears to be rolling out as a server-side update.