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Practical Techie: Google, Apple Maps take you where you need to go and more

Savvy netizens hardly ever get lost nowadays during travel or when driving around. This with the help of an artificial constellation of satellites, geo-positioning technology, and Google, Apple Maps, and Waze or many other site location applications that guide the traveler around efficiently.

APPLE MAPS — This web mapping service is developed mainly for iOS devices but can be minimally used in Android smartphones and tablets. It provides directions and estimated times of arrival for driving, walking, cycling, and public transportation navigation. When driving, Apple Maps can tell you which lane you should be in by using a Lane Guidance feature. Apple Maps cannot be used offline, so one needs to use a different app for navigation if you don’t have a connection. Alternatively, you can use offline navigation apps like HereWeGo or MapsMe.

You can also download maps for offline use using Google Maps. If the travel is outside the Apple ecosystem, it can use go to DuckDuckGo search engine to reach Apple Maps in Chrome, Edge, or any other non-Apple browser. So, is Apple Maps better than Google maps? Read on.

GOOGLE MAPS — Google Maps is the clear winner for location data available to travelers. It sources its vast information collection from businesses, websites, users, and more. All 3D landmarks are super accurate. Google Maps is powerful in providing help to discover natural wonders and step inside museums, restaurants, and famous sights around the world. Apple Maps has a lot of data too. Still, even if it uses crowdsourced data like Google such as historical facts and real-time transit data, it isn’t sourcing from as many locations, making Google more powerful. The good news is that both Apple and Google Maps are free. Of course, Apple comes preloaded on all iPhones and iPads, while you can download Google Maps from the App Store om any device.

HIDDEN — Google Maps has some not-so-well-known features. It can tell a driver where to park in a congested area or how to find a lost parked vehicle easily. Also, the Timeline feature tracks your every movement, but a person can navigate in incognito mode. Or blur your house location. Additionally, the app has a built-in Ride feature that lets you find a nearby taxi with Uber or Lyft. Google and Apple Maps now have voice command features for safer driving, and their Street View features are great. Instructions here.

WAZE — This one, like Google Maps, offers real-time GPS navigation, traffic, and transit data. It is a simple but powerful navigation tool that selects the quickest and most efficient route, collects data from a bunch of different users in real time, and leverages that data to tailor a trip experience. It provides the most efficient path free of obstacles and other nuisances. Besides Waze, they are other less known platforms for geolocation. We can mention MapQuest and Maps.Me, Scout GPS, InRoute Route Planner, and MapFactor Navigator. All offer the best direction-finding services, although devoid of the rich location datasets of the well-known apps.

ALTERNATES — Besides the best-known of these three geolocation platforms, other top alternative applications include GasBuddy, Roadtrippers, PackPoint, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Vrbo, Hotel Tonight, and GlobeTips. All are free and available for iOS and Android. This one, WiFi Map, helps the traveler find hotspots to avoid data roaming charges. Of course, Google Translate assists with the language barriers. AccuWeather keeps the voyager aware of climate issues, and SitOrSquat is when one needs to go to the bathroom in a strange location. It helps find public restrooms near or where one is planning to travel, even select countries outside of the US continent. 

CITY — Citymapper offers travel data on all major cities, including public transport and private modes such as cabs, scooters, cycles, mopeds, and car share. It prides itself in analyzing even the most complex transit cities all over the globe. This one, Detour, claims to have audio tours of 180 spots worldwide, but its most useful travel feature is that it categorizes the city’s tours by themes such as parks, rivers walks, food styles, museums, shops, and residential areas. Inherently, many of the audio tours are narrated by famous folks in US popular culture themselves. House of famous, and so on. It’s not a free app that essentially substitutes real-life tour operators.

In summary, if you get lost a lot, the “Look Around” option on Apple Maps will be helpful. If you use NAV to follow your next cycling trip, Google Maps is your best choice. But, if you need to get to your destination in the quickest time, then Waze or any other is the choice.                

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.

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