Google Maps – The world’s best maps for Android, iOS, and the web

The free map and navigation service Google Maps has been with us since 2005. It has become a frequently used, if not indispensable, application for many when it comes to an orientation on unknown terrain. Since Android’s earliest days, the free map app has been part of the essential equipment of almost every smartphone with Google’s mobile OS. We introduce Google Maps.

Google Maps is a browser-based web application and a free app for Android and iOS. The service offers worldwide map material in varying quality. If you search Google Maps, it finds place and street names, POIs (points of interest, i.e., locations relevant for tourists ), or the names of stored restaurants and other stores. Alternatively, Google Maps can determine the user’s position and display a map of the surroundings.

The Google Maps app for Android

The user can scroll and zoom in on the map using finger movements. When zooming in, more details are displayed than in the overview, if available.

Control Google Maps on Android

You can control Google Maps in detail with the following gestures:

Panning: One-finger swipes scroll around the map.

Pinch-to-zoom: Pulling two fingers apart on the screen zooms in on a section of the map; pulling them together zooms out.

Long tap: If you press on the map for a longer time at a certain point, you get context-dependent options and information about the corresponding location.

Two-finger down/up gesture: Swipe with two fingers to tilt the viewing angle. Drag two fingers upwards in parallel, and the curve becomes more acute; you approach the standard top view downwards.

Two-finger rotation: If two fingers, for example, the thumb and index finger, move in opposite directions, the view rotates accordingly. By tapping on the compass rose (compass icon), the view is aligned to the north again.

Doubletap-to-zoom: A practical gesture, especially for devices with large screens. If you double-tap on the map, hold down the second tap, and then move your finger up or down, you can zoom in.

The Google Maps app gets the required data via the (mobile) Internet by default, which can lead to comparatively high data traffic when the satellite view is displayed. However, the pure map data is vector-based and is thus downloaded very quickly. Meanwhile, the Google Maps apps can also download map material in advance to a limited extent, which is available even when no data connection is active. However, Google points out that not all data that can be displayed online is available offline.

In the app, you can scroll around freely with finger swipes. The search field can be used to start search queries or directly display recommended places to eat, drink, store, go out, or other things.

If you select a certain location in the map view or press a certain point on the map for longer, you get more detailed information by swiping the displayed map upwards. In the case of search results, you can also scroll back and forth between individual locations by swiping horizontally.

In some cities, 3D buildings can be seen if you zoom in close enough via pinch-to-zoom. Furthermore, Google Maps can also display indoor maps at locations like large shopping malls or airports. Here, not only are retail stores listed, but individual departments within these stores can also be seen. An additional button allows the user to switch between the separate floors of the respective location.

Google Maps has also integrated a function for rating stores and other locations. You can access your reviews by tapping the “Person” button in the search bar.

Google Maps layer at a glance

Via a button at the lower left edge, the standard map view set by default can be extended by so-called layers; these are additional information layers. Some of the layers can be combined.

Traffic situation: Roads for which information is available are marked green (free), yellow (slow-moving traffic), or red (congested) on the map, depending on the current traffic volume.

Satellite: Depending on the area, more or less high-resolution satellite footage.

Public transport: Shows the routing of buses & trains,

Bicycle: Shows well-passable routes for getting around by bike.

Previously available layers like Local are already integrated centrally into the app. The terrain layer has wholly disappeared, while the once-existing Latitude function for displaying the position of friends, acquaintances, and relatives on the map has now migrated to the Google+ app.

Google Maps Navigation: The Route Planner

If you tap the “Route” button on the home screen, symbolized by a double arrow in the manner of a fork in the road, you can display the route to a destination on the map from your current location or any other location. The app can calculate the most sensible way for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users. Drivers can also specify that they want to avoid toll roads or ferries, for example. Once Google Maps has calculated one or more routes and the user has decided on one, the route is displayed in a step-by-step list or on a quasi-3D map. As with navigation systems, the user is informed about the route via voice output. Since Google receives current traffic information from its users and the Waze community, obstacles, accidents, and traffic jams are also displayed on the map. Sometimes the Google Maps app even suggests alternative routes while driving.

Google Street View: Real photos from your surroundings

If you want to look around the world without taking an expensive trip, you can use the well-known Google Street View on your smartphone. With it, you can view authentic photo material of streets worldwide and even move around more or less freely in them.

Street View is displayed by tapping longer on the corresponding spot on the map, swiping up the map that appears from the bottom of the screen, and then tapping on the Street View preview.

Download Google Maps

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