Android Google Maps is an important utility that features in numerous apps. The native Android app
helps those of us with oatmeal for brains find our way anywhere, without having to fire any neurons or exercise any synapses. It even helps us find places to pick up tasty cuisine — like, uh, oatmeal (yum!).
Google also offers a native mapping API for Android. The Maps API is suitable for cases where you want to maintain more control over the mapping experience. Things that are possible with the Maps API include:
Programmatically changing the viewpoint of the map.
Adding and customizing markers.
Annotating a map with overlays.
But there's much more to Google Maps than meets the eye — and odds are, you aren't taking advantage of at least a few handy hidden features lurking in the Android app. With word that Google is now apparently testing Waze-like crash and speed test reporting within Maps, I thought it'd be a fine time to think through some of the app's existing advanced options.
Take a few minutes to explore these out-of-the-way possibilities the next time you're using Maps to explore the world.
1. Driving mode
Even if you know where you're going, Google Maps can help you along the way. The app's driving mode shows you traffic for your current route, places of interest along your path and estimated travel times to places Maps thinks you might be likely to go based on your stored locations along with your location history and the current day and time.
It also makes it easy to start navigation, in case you end up needing additional guidance at any point in your adventure.
To fire up Maps' driving mode, open up the app, tap the three-line menu icon in its upper-left corner (or just swipe inward from the left side of the screen), and select "Start driving" from the panel that appears. If you want to take things up a notch, open up the app's settings (from that same side panel), tap "Notifications," and then select "Navigation" and activate the toggle next to "Driving notifications." That'll let Maps tell you how long it'll take to get to your likely destinations as soon as your phone connects to a car's Bluetooth system.
And if you want even easier access to driving mode, long-press on your home screen, select "Widgets," then scroll down to the Maps section and touch and hold the "Driving Mode" widget to place it anywhere you want for one-touch activation.
2. In-app media controls
The Android multimedia framework includes support for playing variety of common media types, so that you can easily integrate audio, video and images into your applications. You can play audio or video from media files stored in your application's resources
(raw resources), from standalone files in the filesystem, or from a data stream arriving over a network connection, all using MediaPlayer APIs.
Google Play Music, Spotify, and Apple Music seem to be the compatible options as of now — with support still lacking for other services, including (rather amusingly) Google's own next-gen YouTube Music service. But hopefully broader app support will show up before long.
3. Location saving
Save locations and interesting points and after time you can navigate back to your saved points (locations) using Google Maps or any other navigation based app or share your saved locations with friends.
Location and maps-based apps
offer a compelling experience on mobile devices. You can build these capabilities into your app using the classes of the android.location package and the Google Maps Android API.
Android gives your applications access to the location services supported by the device through classes in the android.location package. The central component of the location framework is the LocationManager system service, which provides APIs to determine location and bearing of the underlying device (if available).
These days, that app is long-abandoned — but little-known fact: Maps itself can do exactly what it used to do and save any location you want, then help you mosey back to it later.
The next time your noggin needs a memory aide, just open up Maps and tap the blue dot that shows your current location. That'll pull up a big blue-screened menu upon which you'll see the incredibly useful "Save your parking" option.
4. Location sharing
Google Maps comes really handy to share your live location with your friends or family when you are helping them to navigate the route and reach you.
That'll let you give anyone a link to follow your location in real-time on a map for a specific amount of time or until you turn the feature off. As of just a couple weeks ago, you can even share the link to any app or service on your phone (like a messaging app) in order to get it to whomever you need.
In order to access this, you can tap on the "share" button to share your location. You need to be sure that those of you whom you are sharing are connected to Google Maps. If not then they are sent a message with the Maps link. It is only after this can you see the live location. An easier approach would be WhatsApp where you can directly send your live location if a user is on WhatsApp which most of them would be.
5. Locked orientation
The new version of the Android operating system looks gorgeous and packs intuitive improvements, one of which removes the frustration of auto-rotating the screen.
For older versions of Android, all you can do is keep Auto-rotate on or off. When it’s on, put your phone in landscape orientation, and the app will match that mode. Turn it off, and every app stays locked in portrait orientation. Keeping it off is less frustrating than dealing with random screen rotations, but turning it back on when you need landscape mode isn’t a swift action.
Android 9.0 Pie’s new method is much simpler and easier to use. If you have the update, first turn off Auto-rotate. Swipe down to open the notification drawer, find the Auto-rotate quick settings tile, and tap on it to disable it. Now your phone is locked to one orientation.
6. Night mode for navigation
A new night mode is now available for night time navigation, which should make navigation a lot easier on the eyes while inside of a dark vehicle cabin.
For anyone who has tried to use navigation while riding around in the dark, you’ll quickly understand why the presence of a night mode is such a much-needed feature. Instead of having to dim the screen to near unreadable levels, the new night mode will make your iPhone’s screen easier to view during nighttime driving sessions.
The new night mode doesn’t appear as an option inside of Google Maps—you can’t actually enable it or disable it on demand. The night mode also doesn’t trigger by means of the ambient light sensor present on the iPhone.
7. A quieter voice
Voice guidance is enabled by default in Google Maps on your device, but it never hurts to double-check as to whether or not it's set to your liking or functioning properly. In addition to this, you may also want to customize the navigation's volume settings to help ensure you never miss a prompt.
While tweaking the sound settings for Google Maps are similar for both Android phones
and iPhones, there are some small differences with regards to accessing them.
8. Restaurant Recommendations
The new Explorer tab is rolling out to Google Maps on iOS and Android
, but if you don’t see it yet, be patient. It’ll just appear in the app—you don’t need to upgrade.
To get started, tap the Explore tab. Round buttons appear first to help you quickly find Restaurants, Coffee, and Attractions on the map. The More tab holds tons of other categories, from ATMs to hospitals to parks. But this isn’t new, although it has a fresh look.
Instead, scroll down a little to find a side-scrolling grid of photos showing groups of places Google thinks might interest you, based on where you’ve been or what you’ve searched for. Mine included “Where the locals drink,” “Cheap drinks, “Cheap eats,” “Hamburger restaurants,” and “Best coffee,” which... are all very accurate.
9. Use voice search and commands
The new features will make your phone a more helpful assistant during your next trip since you won't have to mess with the screen.
Google announced that it’s enabling a host of new voice commands in Google Maps for Android
that will allow you to search for a locations, get details about your route, or even call your mother without the need to touch your phone.
To make sure you are ready to try these out, first check that you have hands-free voice commands turned on. Head to the Google app and go to Settings > OK Google detection and enable While driving.
Got it? Good. Now, whilst in a navigation, try saying "OK Google" or "Hey Google" to get your phone's attention and then uttering some of these Maps-specific phrases:
"How's traffic ahead?"
"How's traffic home?"
"What's my ETA?"
"What road is this?"
"What's my next turn?"
"Find a gas station."
"Find a restaurant."
"Take me to Best Buy."
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