Google’s ever-evolving Maps app has steadily grown into an essential life companion. More than just a way to of getting from A to B, it can guide you to the nearest toilet, map out the inside of a mazey shopping mall, and point you to the best places in your local area, such as eateries, lounges, or laundries. With Google’s tendency to regularly update Maps with new features and hip redesigns, it can be hard to keep up with, so here are seven tips and tricks to get you up to speed.
1. Add Multiple Stops to Your Route
The feature that’s been a mainstay of the desktop version of Google Maps has finally made it to smartphones. Here’s how to set up multiple stops (or “via” points) on your route:
- On the main screen tap the blue directions icon at the bottom right, then enter your starting point and destination.
- Tap the three dots at the top right, “Add stop”, then enter the location you want to go through. Reorder the locations by using the small hamburger icons to the left of the location names and dragging them up or down.
2. Download Maps for Offline Use
The offline aspect of Google Maps has always been a bit of an enigma to use, never feeling quite as easy to enable as it should. Thankfully, a few updates ago Google overhauled this feature to make it simpler.
- From the main Maps screen type the name of the area you want to save offline, press the so-called hamburger menu icon (three horizontal lines) at the top left, tap “Offline areas,” then the “+” icon. Select the area you want to access offline, then tap “Download.”
- Downloaded maps can take up a lot of space, so you might want to save them to your SD card. To do this, go to “Offline areas” in the hamburger menu, tap the cog icon at the top right, then change your download location under “Storage preferences.”
3. Send Directions from Your PC to Your Phone
Using Google Maps on a computer is naturally easier than on a phone – touchscreens are slick and wonderful, but for raw functionality keyboard and mouse are still king. If you look up a location on Google Maps on your PC, you’ll see an option on its card to “Send to device.” Click this, and you’ll get a notification on your phone with the directions to that place (you need to be signed into your Google account on your PC for this to work).
4. Nifty Google Now Commands
The library of Google Now Commands is ever expanding and includes a whole bunch of orders you can bark at Google Maps. Here are the latest ones, along with some others you might not have known about (remember to say “OK, Google” before saying them):
- “Avoid tolls”
- “Avoid ferries”
- “Avoid highways”
- “Allow” any of the above
- “Find gas stations”
- “Show alternative routes”
5. How to Access Street View
Street View is a longstanding feature of Google Maps, but on Android it continues to be a bit elusive, as unlike the desktop version it doesn’t give you a little orange man to drag and drop onto places you want see.
To use Street View on Android, tap and hold on the location you want to see in Street View, tap the card that appears at the bottom of the screen, then tap the photo of the location on the new screen. You’re now in Street View, and can explore the area like you would in the desktop version.
6. Make Google Track (or Stop Tracking) Your Visited Locations
Remember that old Maps feature called Location History? You may think it’s disappeared, but it’s actually been renamed to Your Timeline, which tracks you location almost constantly, letting you go into it to reminisce about places you’ve visited. To access the timeline, drag your finger from the left edge of the screen in Maps to bring up the hamburger menu, then tap ‘Your timeline.’
It’s a “love it or hate it” feature, with some appreciating its function as a kind of diary (it even tracks where you took photos and displays them in your timeline at the location you took them), while others don’t like the privacy implications of Google knowing your every move.
- If you want Google to stop tracking your location, go to ‘Your timeline,’ the Settings icon at the top right, then “Timeline settings.”
- Here you’ll be able to switch off and delete your Location History.
7. An Alternative Way to Zoom
This is a small but extremely useful trick, particularly if you’re holding your phone in one hand and don’t have two fingers to spare to do the classic pinch zoom. Double-tap and hold your finger on the place you want to zoom, then simply drag your finger up and down to zoom in and out respectively.
Google Maps can be tough to keep up with because it’s one of Google’s frontline Android apps that’s subject to so many updates that many of them fly under the radar. These tips are among the most recent ones at the time of writing, but if you’ve spotted anything new, then let us know in the comments!