Google now appears to be rolling out an update to Maps that reminds users to wear a mask, according to recent reports. More directly, the company has added a new banner above results on the Explore page. That's the dedicated hub in Maps for exploring nearby restaurants and retail locations as well as services. So putting the reminder there ensures frequent Maps users can see the message before they head out the door.
That banner reads "Wear a Mask. Save Lives." And it's accompanied by a link to Google's COVID-19 safety page. It's also accompanied by a nifty animation, showcasing the proper way to wear a mask in order to ensure it's effective. The animation shows a woman placing the mask over both her mouth and nose.
Masks are typically intended not to protect the wearer — since they're much less effective at that — albeit not entirely ineffective. Instead, they keep germ-filled droplets and airflow contained to a certain extent.
The Maps mask reminder is only appearing on Google's own OS
Strangely, for now, Google appears to be limiting the visibility of the mask reminder to Android. Despite that Maps is an immensely popular navigation app on multiple platforms, it reportedly isn't appearing anywhere else. It's unclear why that's the case, but it does mean that iOS users and others aren't likely to see the reminder.
There's no update required for this and that's with good reason
Now, this change appears to be shipped out via a server-side update. That means the Maps mask reminder appears with a change in the company's web-based code and not with an update to the Google Maps app. And that's not without reason. While information about the ongoing pandemic is important right now, it won't necessarily always be. If the disease becomes better managed or a vaccine is discovered, a server-side change will be easier to swap back out.
Perhaps more importantly, it allows Google to more easily target the rollout. As of this writing, the change only appears to be showing up in the US. Since that's an area where concerns are still among the most prominent, it makes sense for that to be the case.