Google Maps is the clear leader when it comes to mapping services, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option out there.
In February 2023, Google unveiled its latest features for Maps, revolutionizing the way travelers navigate their way around cities. The Immersive View feature, currently available in select cities including London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, promises to provide an intuitive and seamless navigation experience for users. Additionally, electric vehicle (EV) drivers can now easily find charging stations thanks to Google Maps’ suggestions based on traffic conditions, battery levels and energy consumption.
Moreover, Google Maps’ new “glanceable directions” feature allows users to monitor their progress without ever unlocking their devices. Powered by AI-driven 3D processing and mapping technology, Google Maps offers users an unprecedented level of accuracy and detail about their destination.
While Google Maps’ technological prowess is unmatched, there are a number of other leading map services that offer similar or even better features and functions. Here are some of the most popular alternatives to Google Maps:
Google Maps alternatives
Image courtesy of Flickr
Waze, the Israeli navigation app acquired by Google in 2013, has become the go-to choice for drivers looking to navigate their way through cities and avoid traffic. The app relies on real-time data from its users to suggest the quickest routes, factoring in accidents, traffic jams, speed traps, construction and other potential delays. While it focuses primarily on driving, it also provides recommendations for local points of interest and current events.
One of Waze’s standout features is its social network aspect, allowing users to keep in touch with friends and track each other’s journeys while on the road. However, the use of the Waze app may significantly drain your battery and consume a large amount of mobile data. The app can be downloaded for free from the Apple Store and Google Play, with advertising as the main source of monetization.
Image courtesy of Apple Maps
Apple Maps, available exclusively on Apple devices, may not be as widely used as Google Maps, but it has some impressive features that make it worth considering. 2021 saw the introduction of a unique navigation feature that uses traffic signals and stop signs to provide more intuitive and detailed guidance for drivers. For example, instead of simply indicating a turn in a certain number of kilometers, Apple Maps now specifies the next traffic light or stop sign where the turn should be made.
In addition to this, Apple Maps boasts a minimally designed user interface and a dark mode, making it ideal for nighttime driving. Although it may show less information than Google when zoomed out, all the essential details remain visible no matter how far you zoom in or out.
Image courtesy of Here Technologies
HERE WeGo, formerly Nokia Maps, has been making waves in the navigation app space. With a clean and intuitive user interface, the app puts the map at the center of the driving experience. Its clean and straightforward user interface is designed to prioritize the driving experience. This interface enables users to make real-time adjustments, including changing layer view, toggling the traffic info on and off and enabling or disabling routing via toll roads or freeways.
One of its standout features is the provision of two route settings: shortest travel time or shortest travel distance. However, it lacks a preview option to assess both time and distance before selecting a setting.
HERE WeGo also supports selecting fuel types for vehicles, suggesting the most appropriate gas stations based on your car. Speed limit warnings, rest areas on highways, satellite maps and voice guidance are among its fundamental navigation features.
HERE WeGo differentiates itself from Google Maps by allowing users to download offline maps for entire countries or continents, unlike Google Maps, which only permits map downloads for a limited area. Overall, HERE WeGo takes the driving experience to the next level with its comprehensive navigation tools.
Image courtesy of Bing blog
Bing Maps is Microsoft’s map service and offers features such as bird’s eye view, street-level imagery and 3D maps. It also integrates with other Microsoft products such as Outlook and Office, which can be useful for business users. For instance, users can add a map to their email signature in Outlook or use Bing Maps to visualize data in Excel.
Additionally, developers can take advantage of the Bing Maps developer application programming interface (API) to create custom maps and applications. This API offers various features, such as geocoding, routing and traffic information, which can be used to build location-based applications.
Image courtesy of MapQuest
Established in 1996, MapQuest was one of the first digital map providers and pioneered online mapping and turn-by-turn directions a decade before Google Maps came along. Despite being overshadowed by its competitors, MapQuest still has a dedicated following due to its comprehensive driving directions, traffic updates, and detailed points of interest data.
One standout feature of MapQuest is the ability to create and save custom maps, which can come in handy for planning road trips or exploring unfamiliar areas. Additionally, MapQuest’s one-button tool enables users to quickly locate nearby gas stations, grocery stores, shopping areas, restaurants and hotels. However, compared to Google Maps, MapQuest may not be as intuitive to use and may not integrate as seamlessly with other apps and services.
Image courtesy of OneStreetMap Wiki
OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free, community-driven map service that relies on user contributions to build and update its maps. It is a great alternative for those who value open-source software and want to contribute to a collaborative project.
OSM offers features such as turn-by-turn navigation, street-level imagery and the ability to download maps for offline use. It also has a wide range of plugins and tools for developers to create custom maps and applications.
In conclusion, while Google Maps may be the most popular navigation app, there are plenty of alternatives available that offer unique features and benefits. Each of the map services on this list has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Whether you’re looking for driving directions, traffic updates, or custom map creation, there’s a navigation app out there that can help you get to your destination.
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Header image courtesy of Pixabay