These days many smartphone owners use Google Maps for navigation and directions on a daily basis, simply because it’s the best tool and map available for Android or iOS users. Google Maps is always improving, and many users don’t know that there are tons of advanced features or tricks for Google Maps. Here we’ll go over 12 tips and tricks to help users get the most from Google Maps on a smartphone.
Just this week Google announced Maps will now know if a location a user searches for, or gets directions to is closed, and warn you that the location will not be open when you arrive. It also lets you star home and work for easy to and from navigation and traffic updates with Google Now, save maps for offline use when you don’t have cell service while traveling, and much much more.
Google Maps is one of the best apps Google has to offer, something that hundreds of millions of users rely on each and every single day. If you find yourself using Google Maps often, check out our 12 tips below to make getting directions, sharing them, navigating and more all extremely easy.
Some of these tips will simply make using Google Maps easier on your daily routine or while sharing directions with friends, some are huge time savers, and others are just choosing to use the full power of Google Maps to your advantage. Everything from changing the view to pinning anywhere, even a street corner, and getting directions to it. Lets get started. We’re using Android here, but many of these features may be available on iOS.
Set Home & Work Locations
First off users will want to set their home and work location. If you have location services enabled most likely Google’s already learned where your home is, and where you work. Which is scary, but also makes using Maps very easy.
With Google Maps open swipe from left to right, or tap the three lines near the top left and head into the options menu, scroll down and select “settings” and click “edit home or work”. This will allow you to set each location, and Google Maps will instantly remember it.
Now using the voice controls we’ll mention below you can simply say, “Ok Google, navigate home” or say “take me home” from the voice search option and it instantly will start getting directions to your house. Not to mention those who use Google Now will get automatic traffic updates on their way to work, popular places traveled if you head to the gym three days a week, or other frequently visited locations.
It’s very helpful to set both home and work locations, so start with that, then enjoy everything else below.
Save Maps for Offline Use
Our favorite feature that not too many users know about is saving maps for offline use. This is essential for those traveling across state lines, or driving where you may not have cell service to get directions, navigation instructions, or have a strong enough connection to even pull up Google Maps if you’re lost.
This feature was introduced a few years back, and is extremely helpful. All you’ll need to do is make sure the area you want to save is on your screen, and tap the microphone for voice controls and say, “Ok Maps” and it will instantly save the location, you can also type in “ok maps” to save a location. This will temporarily save a large surface area of Google Maps to your device storage. Or tap the microphone and then scroll to the bottom of the popup and there’s an actual “save offline” button.
Above is a video from a a few years back, but the same steps and general instructions apply, but it’s been refined and is even more useful today than it was in 2013. You can save a larger surface area now, save more than one, and even name them to easily find and use offline maps at a later date. Map and save an entire route if you’d like. It’s that simple.
They’ll be saved for 30 days, and you can pan and zoom but won’t be able to search for additional directions, as you don’t have a connection when you’re offline.
This one should be a given, but you’d be surprised by how many users don’t enjoy this feature. While using Google Maps for navigation users will get multiple different navigation routes to choose from, avoid freeways, take different surface streets and more.
Instead of using navigation to find, select a start and end point, and choose everything, while in Google Maps type in a location (like Caesars Palace) and it will get your initial directions. Then simply tap the blue circle icon to instantly go from maps into navigation. It will choose the fastest route for you based on your exact location, rather than letting you choose, but it’s the quickest way to instantly get directions and fire up Google navigation.
Drop A Pin for Directions
Typically when you’re getting directions or looking up a location it’s something specific, or an actual place. Like a store, gas station, a friends house, etc. However, you can actually drop a pin anywhere on the Map to get more information, directions, navigation instructions and more.
Whether this be a trail head at a nearby National Park, a street corner, or even somewhere up in the mountains, simply long-press anywhere on the map to drop a pin and get directions, or save the location by starring it, which we’ll mention more about below. This lets you use Maps for any location, not just a specific place or store.
Similar to setting your home and work locations as we mentioned above, it’s a good idea to also star certain locations. This will allow you to instantly access locations, popular stops, or places you’d like to often travel to with ease. You can also star a restaurant a friend recommended, a park you frequent to walk the dog or play some Volleyball, or even mark a specific spot on a hiking trail you’d like to remember.
Users can pull of a specific point of interest by searching, or even tap anywhere (like on a trailhead or a certain hike) to drop a pin and get directions. The location will instantly be added to “Your places” found in Google Maps, and from the web version of Maps. Starred locations will show up as suggestions when searching in Maps, be used by Google Now if it recognizes you travel to that place often, and will also show on the map when browsing that region, allowing users to quickly tap it. This is convenient, saves time, and is extremely helpful. I have about 20 starred places on Google Maps.
If you’re not using voice controls or commands, you’re doing it wrong. Recently Google enabled the option to use your voice for everything inside of Google Maps. Well, for just about everyone on Android smartphones. So, rather than search the entire map, typing in a location, or any of that non-sense, just hit the microphone and say what you want.
You can use the microphone and voice controls to say “Navigate to the nearest Best Buy”, or while actually in navigation things like “how’s traffic ahead”, “what’s my next turn?”, “when will I get there”, “show route overview” and more. This keeps your hands free and your eyes on the road. Whether that be in a car, on a bike, or walking.
Pinch-to-zoom is extremely helpful for zooming in on streets, or panning out to get an overview of the route ahead, but sometimes you don’t have both hands free to do such a task. Thankfully the old-fashioned double-tap to zoom still works in Google Maps.
Double Tap a location to instantly zoom closer to that specific spot. You can even double tap but hold down your finger on the second tap, then slide up or down to zoom in or out with one hand. This makes zooming in and out extremely easy with one hand, a situation you’ll often be in while driving, or riding a bike. Try it yourself, it works wonderfully.
Rather than just pinch to zoom and seeing a top-down view of where you’re going, Google’s recently integrated 3D maps and Google Earth to Google Maps. By default you’ll see from the top down, but swipe up with two fingers to instantly see a flat view with 3D effects, as long as you zoom in enough.
This helps you see around buildings to get a better perspective of directions, and is just generally helpful and something many don’t remember is offered with Google Maps. Users can also twist two fingers in a circle motion to change the direction the map is looking, vs always aiming to the North.
Tap the Compass
Speaking of always looking north in Maps, did you know you can tap the compass to get an actual accurate view of the direction you and your device are going, rather than just looking North?
While in Maps tap the compass-looking button once to instantly go back to your location, and if you tap it one more time Google Maps will “release” from looking north, and instead move with the device as you move it. Essentially looking wherever your phone or tablet is aiming. This helps you feel more comfortable that you’re actually going the right direction, vs following an upside down map.
You can easily share a Map or directions to friends, family, or even email them to yourself using the Google Maps “share” function and Android’s built-in share tools.
When you’ve used your voice or entered in specific locations and have directions showing on the screen simply tap the three dots at the top right of the screen. This menu lets you control the map showing traffic, satellite views, terrain, and also sharing directions. This is extremely helpful and another way to share directions with a friend, or email them to yourself to print later before taking a vacation.
Public Transit Times
Those who live in a big city or frequently travel to one, they’re probably all too familiar with public transit. Whether you’re a regular, or visiting NYC for the first time, public transit times and information is extremely helpful. It’s been available on Android for years, and Apple Maps actually is finally getting this feature later this year with iOS 9. How it took so long, is anyone’s guess, but here’s how to use them on Google Maps and Android.
Swipe in from the left or tap the three lines and select public transit, and you’ll instantly see all public transit options for your location or city. This is extremely helpful in Chicago, NYC, San Francisco and more. It gives you information about the nearest subway, when the next train is coming, departure and arrival times, cost and more. You can even tap “depart” and get more information and even choose when and where you’d like to depart from. This will be a lifesaver if you’re in NYC for the first time, trust me on that one.
Send Directions from a Computer
Last but certainly not least is sending directions to your smartphone or tablet from a computer. This has been available on Android for a long time, and last week was finally introduced on Google Maps for iPhone users.
For those with Android devices simply go to Google Search on your computer (desktop or Mac) and in the search bar type “send directions”. This will pull up a mini Google Maps pop-up of sorts. Put in your destination and information, select the phone or tablet you’d like to send them to, and at the bottom tap “send directions to my phone” and you’re all done. This will instantly send directions to your device. Great for getting ready inside before heading outside to start driving, navigating, or going on an adventure.
Google Maps will instantly pull up on your device, and the same blue quick navigation button will be ready and waiting for users to instantly tap to start navigation. It’s the last of our many helpful tips and tricks when it comes to using Google Now.
Don’t forget you can reserve a dinner table with Open Table integration by pulling up a restaurant and selecting a time to make a reservation. Or even see popular places with street view and virtually visit landmarks, Football Stadiums or walk through Galapagos Islands, and much more. There are lots of things you can do. Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about Google Maps, a few new tricks, and will save time and energy using all the information we’ve outlined above.