Google Maps is good. Let’s just get that out of the way first. Google’s ever-updating, ever-improving navigation is popular and robust enough to have more or less brought on the death of the paper map, and it feels like it’s getting more and more accessible by the day.
But there are still reasons why you wouldn’t want to, or can’t, use Google maps. Some countries, like China, run a pretty tight ship when it comes to regulation, making Google Maps over there as good as useless, or maybe you just don’t want Google algorithms profiting off your data. Whatever your reasons, we won’t pry, and instead treat you to the best map apps that aren’t prefaced with “Google.”
1. Bing Maps
Did you know that Bing Maps is just as old as Google? Yep, the Microsoft-owned map service was originally known as MapPoint before taking on its more catchy name. It’s packed with plenty of features, including a traffic overlay and 3D views. For you more traditional mappers out there, or people working in town planning, it has the full ordnance survey map of the UK, too.
Bing tends to pick different routes from Google, and when you compare them, Google usually comes out on top when it comes to journey planning. But if you’re looking for neat extra features like 3D views and OS maps, as well as its own comprehensive answer to Street View, then Bing’s worth a pop.
2. Here WeGo
If a consortium of BMW, Audi and Mercedes were willing to cough up $3 billion to Nokia for this app, there must be something good about it, right? It supports over 200 countries and provides all basic features like navigation, places to visit and detailed routes, as well as giving you up-to-date info and prices on all the public transport links around your area, calculating them for you.
Here WeGo offers current route conditions using different information like police reports, cameras, Twitter feeds, construction sites, speed cameras and other data to keep you informed and provide a faster route if required. Its offline maps support is also amazing with the ability to archive a whole continent and get step-by-step navigation even while offline.
3. BackCountry Navigator
Found yourself in the middle of Lord Knows Where, perhaps on a mountainside or in a dense forest in the Canadian wilderness? Google Maps won’t be much help because it doesn’t detail the topography of the land like BackCountry does.
Designed with hikers and outdoorsy types in mind, this map uses GPS waypoints and allows you to do such manual things like enter the longitude/latitude coordinates of your location.
It’s a crucial companion when you’re out in nature, relying on highly detailed topography maps from various established sources like USTopo, OpenCycleMaps, and even nautical maps from the NOAA RNC (should you get shipwrecked or something).
Waze is a community-driven map service that is fast to navigate and very intuitive. Its highly interactive system, which lets you warn other drivers of changes in traffic, speedcams, hazards and so on on the roads, proved so popular, that Google bought the company in 2013. It’s telling that, four years on, Waze continues to exist as a separate entity from Google Maps.
You can get information about the cheapest gas stations near you, under-constructions sites, accidents, speed cameras, police and other information that is updated by millions of other Waze users. You can even track other Waze users’ and your friends’ locations in real time. Bear in mind that it’s designed more for drivers than pedestrians looking to get around a city.
Navmii is a feature-rich maps and navigation service that is serving over eighty-five countries. It offers all the basic features such as turn-by-turn navigation, bookmarking, nearest locations, and search and satellite views.
It provides alerts like speed limits, traffic, speed cameras, construction sites, slow-downs and much more. All this gets even better with community-driven updates from other Navmii users. Navmii also partners with Foursquare, TripAdvisor and What3Words to provide customized searches.
Its other features include Google Street View, ETA indicator, Automatic rerouting, HD maps, and full offline navigation support, though my favorite has to be the Driver Scoring which rates your driving based on the movement and GPS sensors in your phone! You’re interested now, right?
MapQuest is another great Google Maps alternative, especially if you use public transportation for commuting. It will let you compare local transportation services for your route like Uber or car2go and also book cars right from the app. It also provides quick updates about all local transportation options near you. If you like walking to different places, it will show you how many calories you will burn, too, which is a nice perk!
Its advanced features include automatic re-routing, real-time traffic conditions, ETA, the ability to detect cameras/accidents/construction sites/slow-downs, location-sharing, weather reports and roadside assistance. It also has some basic features of Google Maps like turn-by-turn navigation, bookmarking, best route, satellite view, nearby locations to visit, etc.
Most of the above-mentioned apps focus on providing the most up-to-date information about your local area, perhaps even better than the great G-Maps itself. What do you think? If you’ve tried any of these (and others) and have some experiences to report – good or bad – let us know!
This article was published in Dec 2015 and was updated in Nov 2017.