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Google Maps is so ubiquitous that you probably don’t even worry about finding directions anymore. All you need is an address to get yourself anywhere in the world.
But as Google Maps has grown over the years, so have its features. There are some tricks hiding under the surface that’ll change the way you navigate.
Let’s look at both basic and advanced tricks to getting more from Google Maps navigation with your Android phone. Many of these work on iPhone, too.
Basic Google Maps Tips and Tricks for Android
We begin with some basic tips you might not be familiar with if you’re new to Google Maps. They’re easy to integrate into your regular use.
1. See Your Speed, Speed Limits, and Speed Traps
Google Maps has a handful of features to help you avoid getting pulled over for speeding. While in navigation mode, the app will tell you both your vehicle’s speed and the road’s speed limit. All you need to do is begin driving and Google Maps will add little information bubbles on the left side to keep you informed.
Plus, in select areas, Google Maps can warn you about speed traps and cameras reported by other users. When you’re browsing directions, you should see icons that indicate a speed trap. The feature works verbally as well. So when you’re closing in on a trap, the app will warn you.
These tools are enabled by default. But if you don’t see them, try manually turning them on from Settings > Navigation Settings > Driving options.
2. Add a Pit Stop and Check Gas Prices
Once you’ve started navigating somewhere, you can tap the Search button (the magnifying glass) to look for another location and add it as a pit stop. Or if you know you’ll need to stop somewhere in the middle of your trip before you leave, tap the three-dot icon in the upper-right and choose Add stop.
Even more useful, if you search for gas stations, it’ll show you the gas prices at different locations so that you can save a few bucks on your next fill-up.
3. Plan Trips Ahead of Time
Ever wondered how quick public transportation will be at a certain time in the future when planning out a journey? Google Maps can tell you.
Start by pulling up directions from one location to another as normal. Tap on the public transportation tab (which looks like a bus), then hit the Depart At button. It will automatically jump to the current time, but you can change it to another time, set Arrive By, or even choose to take the last available transit.
These estimates are usually pretty close, since public transportation runs on a schedule. Unfortunately, for estimating car trips ahead of time, you’ll still need to use Google Maps on the web.
4. Plan Trips and Manage Your Favorite Locations With Lists
Google Maps offers great options for bookmarking locations. This is thanks to the lists feature, which gives you the option to favorite places and separate all of them into different groups. So for instance, you can build one for all the restaurants you’d like to try, and another for a trip you plan to take soon.
There are two methods to build a list. You can either go to Left Navigation Drawer > Your Places, or tap the Save button in a particular location’s information card.
In addition, Google Maps has a dedicated tool for collaborating on lists with your friends called Shortlists. To start a new one, simply share a place with another Google Maps user.
The Shortlists interface will appear as a floating icon, and you can tap it to view the list or include more before sharing. Members can share their thoughts on a location by hitting the upvote or downvote icons, then preview all of them on the map by tapping the little map icon situated at the top.
5. Send Directions to Your Phone
Ever look up directions using Google Maps on your computer, only to realize that you actually need them on your phone to navigate?
If you’re signed in to the same Google account on both your computer and phone, you can just choose Send directions to your phone. You’ll get a notification that takes you right to navigation in Google Maps on your device.
6. Navigate Inside Malls
Google Maps isn’t only for roads; in fact, it works for some malls. If you’re near a major mall, zoom in to see the layout of that mall. You can find specifics stores, locate the restrooms, and even navigate through separate floors.
7. See Where You’ve Been
Want to step into the past? Open the three-bar Menu in the upper-left of the screen and choose Your timeline. Here, you can navigate to any day in the past and see exactly where you went.
If you find this too creepy, you can always delete your Maps location history (or disable the feature entirely). You can also add notes to certain days to remember what you did.
This isn’t perfect, though. Mine seems to think I went biking to the grocery store a few days ago, even though I don’t own a bike.
8. Double-Tap to Zoom
This is a simple one, but it’s a game-changer for one-handed usage. Next time you want to zoom in, just double-tap the screen quickly. Hold your finger on the screen after the second tap, then drag it down. To zoom out, do the same procedure, but drag up.
If you’ve ever fumbled with your phone attempting to do a one-handed pinch-to-zoom, this should help you in the future.
9. Control Your Music Without Leaving Google Maps
Switching apps or pulling down the notification shade to control music playback while driving can be risky. Luckily, Google Maps lets you access your music inside its app. You can view your queue and play/pause music from Apple Music, Google Play Music, or Spotify right in Google Maps.
To enable this function, head over to Settings > Navigation Settings and switch on Show Media Playback Controls. Now on an active navigation screen, you will have a music icon. Tap it to reveal the controls and hit Browse in the prompt to view tracks from your library.
10. Follow Walking Directions in Augmented Reality
Google Maps' AR mode is truly the most futuristic feature I've tried in the last year. And it can even detect tilts. So you can quickly go back and forth between the AR and regular view. pic.twitter.com/TSdd112MHI
— Shubham Agarwal (@phonesoldier) July 12, 2019
Google’s walking directions can often make you scratch your head when you’re trying to figure out which of the many turns you need to take. A better and more natural alternative is Google Maps’ Augmented Reality mode.
The feature superimposes the next instruction onto the real world so that you know exactly where to go. To use it, tap the Start AR button when you’re viewing walking directions.
11. Receive Your Commute’s Traffic Info Before You Leave
Google Maps can also keep you informed about your daily commute’s traffic conditions before you need to leave. On top of that, it can even read your calendar and adjust the notifications based on, for instance, a meeting you’ve scheduled.
Before you can take advantage of these features, you need to define your commute times and locations. You will find those options under Settings > Commute Settings. Once you’ve configured the prerequisites, head over to Settings > Notifications > Commute.
Advanced Google Maps for Android Tricks
Want to dive deeper? Check out some of these more advanced tricks you can try in Google Maps.
Pair them with other lesser-known features in Google Maps for Android and the app will become more useful than you ever thought possible.
12. Use Voice Control With Saved Places
One of the benefits of applying labels to your frequently visited locations is that it makes voice-controlled navigation much easier.
On Android, Google Maps supports powerful Google Assistant voice commands. You can ask Assistant to navigate to any place by speaking commands like “Navigate to the nearest coffee store.” If you have set up your Work and Home locations, you can also say more natural phrases such as “Take me to work.”
What’s more, the Google Maps app comes built-in with Google Assistant. So even if you’re on iOS, you can talk to the Google Assistant during an active navigation. Invoke it with the “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google” launch phrases.
13. Save Faster Routes Google Doesn’t Know
Through the experience of living in a specific area, you may already know that around a specific time every day the traffic backs up at a particular stoplight. Because of this, you avoid taking a certain main road to work when traffic is bad.
However, when Google Maps creates a route for you, it usually tries to stick to main roads or highways. It will revert to smaller roads to bypass a highway with high rush hour traffic, but it’ll rarely take you across neighborhoods or smaller roads.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to plot out your own routes on your phone, but there’s a workaround. Using Google Maps on your PC, you can plan out your entire route by adding in several destinations, one after the other. Make each destination another turn in your entire route.
Once you’re done creating your turn-by-turn route, just click on Send directions to your phone at the bottom of the route, as mentioned earlier.
This will send a link to your route which you can save to a note-taking app. Then the route will always be available on your phone with a single tap. Hitting it will open Google Maps with the entire route ready to navigate.
14. Save Places to Your Calendar
When you have a trip or event to get to, you definitely don’t want to waste time sitting in your driveway trying to find the correct address.
To save time, when you’re planning for an event, open Google Maps on your phone and pull up the event’s address. This is most convenient when you first get an invite from a friend or you’re buying tickets and already on the website that has the address. Once the map is up:
- Tap the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner, then select Share directions from the menu.
- This will call up a list of apps; select Copy to clipboard.
- Open Calendar, create an event on the day you’re going, and paste the share link into the Add location field inside Google Calendar.
- This will embed the entire set of directions in text format, turn-by-turn. It also includes a link to open the route directly in Google Maps.
Now, when it’s time to leave for the event, all you need to do is open your calendar reminder, select the route link in the location field, and you’re on your way.
It’s one of the many ways in which Google Maps integrates with other Google tools.
15. Add Reviews and Photos to Visited Locations
If you like contributing to the experience other people will have at restaurants and other businesses you’ve visited, Google Maps makes this easy. All you have to do is visit Your contributions in the Google Maps menu.
As mentioned previously, Google keeps an entire timeline of the locations you’ve visited. So in this section, Google provides a convenient page you can scroll through and quickly rate the businesses you’ve been to. This is much more convenient than trying to search for the business to provide a review.
In addition to leaving reviews, the Photos section gives you the opportunity to add your photos to Maps. These come from your Google Photos account (synced with your phone), with the location identified based on where you were when you took the photos. In this section, you can select them and tap the Post button to publicly add them to Google Maps for the world to see.
16. Let Your Family Track Your Travels
One of the hardest parts of traveling, whether you’re on a college road trip or traveling for business, is being away from the ones you love. But thanks to Google Maps location sharing, you can let your family and friends keep tabs on where you are during your entire trip.
To enable this:
- Open the Google Maps menu and select Location sharing.
- Choose Get Started.
- Pick whether you want to share for a set amount of time, or indefinitely until you turn location sharing off.
- Select people from your contacts whom you want to share your location with, or copy the link to your clipboard. You can also select any app, like Twitter or Facebook, to share the link publicly.
You’ll find a lot of fun uses for this feature. It’s perfect if you’re a traveling writer and want to let your fans follow your path in real-time. It’s also great if you want your family to always feel like they’re only a click away from you while you’re traveling.
17. Download Maps to Navigate Offline
Hitting a “dead spot” without cellular service is miserable when you’re using Google Maps. This is common when traveling in remote locations, like when you’re on a camping trip.
The solution to this is downloading an offline map of the area before you head there. You can do this on your phone by following these steps:
- When you’re on Wi-Fi, open the map of the location you’re going to visit.
- From the Google Maps menu, select Offline maps.
- Choose Select Your Own Map.
- Drag the resulting map to show the area you want to save, then hit the Download button.
- Rename the map so it’s easy to find in the list.
Now when you’re on your trip and visit the area, you can use Google Maps without any cellular data service. Keep in mind that the downloaded map will require at least 10MB of space on your phone, and larger areas can require much more than this.
What’s Your Favorite Google Maps Trick?
These are some of our favorite tricks, but even this isn’t an exhaustive list. Google regularly adds more great features to Maps.
If you often travel internationally too, take a look at the best apps to download for trips to other countries.