Google Maps

Majority of people are extremely familiar with the name Google and this company’s dominance of the search market.  It’s possible you might not have heard of Google Maps, however, as while they are definitely the biggest and most popular GPS mapping tools available for free, they are but one of many navigation apps available to smartphone consumers.

What is Google Maps?

Simply put Google Maps adds real-time mapping and navigation functionality to your smartphone.  A free tool, it offers turn by turn walking, bicycling and driving guidance in addition to its integration with public transit information.

Summary

Our rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

👍🏻 The good
  • Free
  • No ads
  • Offline maps
  • Real-time traffic updates
  • Public transport
👎🏻 The bad
  • Privacy

One thing that needs to be said is that when Apple Maps was initially released it was bad.  Very, very bad and aside from the street names being wrong, the navigation problems were even worse with users being urged to drive across airfields to reach their destination! The savior at the time for Apple was Google Maps which replaced its own mapping software until they could work out all of the bugs.

Since that time, Google Maps has only gone from strength to strength and while its initial offerings were simply focused on the navigation, enhancements to the product provide information about places, real time traffic conditions with automatic re-routing and even the ability to make a reservation on the fly!

Compatibility

Google Maps is available on both of the major smartphone platforms (Android and iOS) and directly on the web at the links provided below but is not currently available on Windows mobile.  There are some third party add-ons that provide similar functionality but if you want all the latest and greatest that Google has to offer on your smartphone, you will need to go the Android or iOS route.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Street view and satellite view offer a real world look and feel that is distinctive and particularly useful when you are walking down the cobbled streets.
  • Has the ability to download an offline copy of your map so that you are not depending on your Internet connection.
  • Real time redirection based on traffic conditions can save you hours in your commute and even more for longer road trips.
  • Ability to save your parking spot is a life saver by itself!
  • Integrates with Android Auto and other peripherals and wearables.
  • Provides information on points of interest (parking lots, shopping, fuel stops).
  • Public transit information is often easier to understand and read than the transit company’s own website!

Cons:

  • Google Maps with Android Auto does not save or keep preferences with regards to toll roads so you need to select this manually each time you plan your route.  This was a problem on the smartphone app itself till quite recently so hopefully a future update will resolve this problem.
  • While redirection is provided based on traffic conditions, construction is not accounted for in route planning.
  • The standard concern with all of Google and its apps in regards to personal information applies here too unfortunately as using Maps simply gives Google even more information about you.  It is a price to pay for a free app that is better than many paid ones, and while you might not be concerned about it, you should not ignore it.

Features

Google Maps is the go to mapping application for millions of users around the world.  With excellent turn by turn navigation and real time traffic alerts, it is one of the best apps on the market in this niche.  Its focus is on getting you from point A to point B in the quickest and timeliest manner possible and at this task, it succeeds admirably.  The integration of public transit and pedestrian/cyclist information simply makes this awesome app even better!

Some Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure that you save your home and work information.  It will make navigation significantly easier and allow you to select them from the main screen instead of having to type in the address each time.  In fact, more often than not, Google will prompt you based on the time of day and what it’s learned about your habits.  (note: if you are afraid of losing your phone and someone getting your address from Maps, simply put in another home close to you, the navigation will work until that point and you’re not risking someone knocking on your door!)
  • Utilize the taxi and ridesharing options built into the App to let others do the driving for you!  Prices are provided up front and getting a car is simply a click away!
  • Save your parking location by pressing and holding the blue dot when you have stopped.  A temporary placemark will be created so that you don’t have to search for your car!
  • Download places of interest and maps to your smartphone in advance so that you don’t have to worry about your Internet connection or usage caps and roaming.
  • If you are extremely worried and paranoid about the privacy implications, you are able to delete your map searches and also your navigation history from your activity.

Summary

Google Maps is hard to beat, its free features match or trump most paid GPS units and while privacy is an issue with most Google products, it’s a cost that millions seem to think worthwhile for the convenience Google and Google Maps provide.  It’s very hard to beat this app and next to impossible at its price.  Simply put, this is the current king of the hill and anyone wanting to beat it, has a hill that’s only getting larger ahead of them!