Google Maps ditches automatic calorie estimates after users say it's not helpful and even potentially harmful

Catherine Shu

Google Maps will remove a widely criticized experimental iOS feature that estimated how many calories its users could potentially burn by walking a route. A Google rep told TechCrunch that the decision was "based on strong user feedback" and the calorie estimator will no longer appear in Google Maps for iOS starting this evening.

The feature, which began rolling out to some users about a week ago, not only displayed the amount of calories users could burn by walking when they looked up a route, but also how many “mini cupcakes” those calories are worth. As Google Maps’ explainer put it, "the average person burns 90 calories by walking 1 mile. To help put that into perspective, we’ve estimated how many desserts your walk would burn. One mini cupcake is around 110 calories."

While some welcomed this as an incentive to exercise instead of calling an Uber, other people were annoyed by the unsolicited health advice since the calorie estimates suddenly appeared with no explanation about how to disable the feature. Furthermore, calorie estimates for "average" people is so vague that the information isn't very helpful without more context about how it was calculated.

Critics also noted that an excessive preoccupation with calorie tracking is a hallmark of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, so seeing calorie estimates every time they look up directions can have a very negative impact on sufferers.

 

For people who welcomed the calorie estimates and now need to find an alternative, CityMapper provides a similar feature for walking and cycling. MapMyFitness (which is owned by Under Armour) has offered a feature called “Route Genius” since 2014, creates maps for walking and running based on users’ fitness goals.