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Poll: Is Google Maps the best navigation application?

Google is working hard to make Google Maps indispensable, so how are they doing?

I don't use mapping and navigation applications much since I am not required to travel for business, so my experience with these kinds of apps is limited. But I know that many TechRepublic members rely on mapping and navigation systems like Google Maps when traveling. So the question I'd like to consider is which navigation system do you consider to be the best, right now?

Better, best

When I say "best" I am thinking of criteria like accuracy, ease of use, and coverage? It is that last characteristic that Google has recently addressed by adding navigation and mapping for places like India and New Zealand. Google is basically trying to map the Earth in more ways than one; trying to make Google Maps the app of choice for this genre.

Have they done it?

Credit: Motor Trend

For example, my 2012 Kia Optima has a built-in navigation system that seems to be fairly accurate for the Louisville, KY area. But the interface for the car's system is a bit clunky. I think I would prefer to use my Galaxy S smartphone and its Google Maps app to get directions. Is that a common feeling among travelers these days?

Do you find yourself using Google Maps most often when you need mapping and navigation? If not, what application do you use and why?

Also read:

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

41 comments
gevander
gevander

If you want to survey [i]your own community[/i] to determine if they think Google is "best in class, you should also be providing them some valuable information when they are done. Ask "[i]What mapping tool do you use most often?[/i]" and follow up with "WHY?" Only Google should be asking the yes/no question you asked since they are hoping to be able to say "[b]most[/b] users..." or "75% of users surveyed...". If you ask it and the dominant answer is "No," the only thing the Goolge users get out of the survey is that most people prefer something else - they don't get to know [i]what the prefered solution is[/i]. [i]Your [b]readers[/b][/i] want to know what everyone else is using so they can see what others think is the "best in class".

Koko Bill
Koko Bill

Bing maps are much better than Google....

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

I use Google Maps on my Evo Shift quite often for everything map and/or navigation related and it has never let me down. In fact, it's accuracy and consistency has even surprised me on occasion. I've also used some of Garmin's best standalone GPS units and Google Maps/Navigation is just as good if not better.

Peteash
Peteash

I have the HTC One S with google maps on it, and whilst i like the maps, i don't like having to be online all the time to navigate. My old phone was the Nokia N8, and this with Nokia maps was unbeatable, could download whole countries, i used it a lot in France and Germany and the BENELUX countries, with no worry about data charges. It is very accurate and updated regularly. I don't believe there is any competition between online and offline maps, offline wins easily.

blavelle62
blavelle62

Google Maps is good for pre planning in conjunction with Google Earth. But in car use it is expensive as a Internet data user ( for most of us outside the USA) . Should you run into bad weather signal reception is weaker then GPS. Hence Stand alone Garmin or I now use Sygic on my Galaxy 7" Tab with onboard (TomTom) maps, small cost to purchase by Region. I have used Sygic in all weather conditions, great product and you don't have to buy a stand alone GPS Unit.

joy64
joy64

I read many recommendations for Bing maps here so I just downloaded it to my phone and tried it. Asked for Starbucks. It directed me to the farthest Starbucks from my home. Then tried Google to see where it would send me. Google brought up the closest Starbucks from my home. Then tried the Navigation app that came on my Samsung SIII. It brought up a list of all the Starbucks available, listing the closest first. So, Google came in second to the installed Navigation and Bing came in third.

Joey Indolos
Joey Indolos

It might be outclassed by Bing in Central Florida, but it's the best option in most other places. No software is perfect, and it's no exception (there were times it would choose a path that would require me to swim), but generally it was easy to evaluate the viable paths. When in doubt, I just fire up my browser (my mobile device is an iPad) and compare the available maps from competing sites.

ndveitch
ndveitch

For the last year or two, any time i need to go anywhere I am not sure of, I first check Google maps and get the directions, then print them out, and the best thing is to date I have not gotten lost after using Google Maps for directions. I did try the map option on my BlackBerry bold as well as my iPhone, and guess what, yep I got lost. The best part of it is, I am in South Africa. I am still to this day so amazed at how accurate Google Maps is, especially seeing as the government here is hell bent on changing all the main road names, yet Google Maps is fairly up to date with all the new road names. One thing though, I do see that some of the pictures havent been updated since 2009. My car can still be seen at my old company and in my old parking bay from 2009. Oh well, besides that the actual street directions are perfect for here.

bernardmorey
bernardmorey

I'm astonished a majority of voters think Google Maps is the best navigation option. You'd only vote that if you've no experience of smartphone navigation or stand-alone GPS. Actually, Google Maps is basic. Better than nothing but that's it. I've used several different GPS systems over the years including 2 current ones of my iPhone with a third built into my late model car. Google Maps is a distant fourth choice -- any of the other three is far superior.

lhallett51
lhallett51

I travel a lot, Asia, Africa, Europe and as far as a mobile map / positioning platform goes in my opinion there is none better than Nokia. If you have not downloaded the map you "know" you are going to use the Google Maps will put a dent in your wallet with roaming charges, the Nokia maps are accurate, have more features and the turn by turn nav is top notch...I would strongly suggest anyone not using ..should try...(I have two mobiles the other a desire and has Google maps)

etittle
etittle

We were around Mount Rushmore area & it was wanting us to go through a road that led to a mountain. Sometimes it was right on the spot.

markpenny
markpenny

As a free service that also includes navigation if you are using Android devices it is very good. Yes, there are better. In the UK, Bing OS gives has the cartographic detail in what are probably the best maps anywhere however this is not necessarily universally available. Google Maps provide a gppd, clear interface with reliable seach results. If you put in a place name that occurs in more than one county you are prompted. It is not the fault of the application if the user selects the wrong one. If you need a high degree of accuracy then search on a Postcode. As with all search tools the user has to take responsibility for the search terms as there is only so much refining possible using algorithms.

Mr Orez
Mr Orez

I don't know what happened in the last few months but I find I have to zoom in almost to street level before I can see the actual street outlines, the names are visible at a lower zoom level; and who decided yellow streets were appropriate on a white background?

kenncote
kenncote

Although I like Google Navigation it is not the best for me. I bought a Lenovo tablet to use as a GPS and for other tasks and the Google Navigation software needs a constant connection to either wifi or cell service. I purchased the Lenovo A-1 tablet as it had a stand alone GPS chip therfore negating the need to have a constant wireless connection. I like the traffic feature of the Google app so will use it to review the route for my daily commute from my home wifi but I use NavFree USA for my general purpose GPS needs. The interface is good and the routing is decent (I rarely find a GPS that has perfect routing.) If I try to use the Google app with a wireless connection it will not adjust the routing as it should and may not have downloaded the maps for the area if I stray far enough from the initial route. NavFree USA is quick to recalculate, a definite plus for me when attempting to route around traffic or accidents. I have tried several "free" versions and would have been willing to purchase a good GPS app but unfortunately there were none that staisfied my needs and expectations. NavFree while not quite perfect comes close for my vote and is the best in regards that it does not require a constant data connection.

princepratik32
princepratik32

I was Google Maps fan before I purchased E71, 2 years ago. I find some rural places in Nokia that I didn't in Google Maps, It's such a charm even in old device, I mean if I move half a meter on my feet, I can see it in my Nokia Phone. And now all Windows Phone devices will have Nokia maps instead of Bing(Which was again, supported by NAVTEQ, company owned by Nokia) and even Android powered Amazon Kindle rumored to have Nokia Maps.

JCAlford
JCAlford

I use Google Maps, but only because I don't think there is a better one. Often it is VERY far off (even to the wrong city), but I haven't found one that is more accurate. None that I have used stay very accurate, either (There are streets in my city that have been in existence for 3+ years, yet still aren't on most sites.)

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

Google Nav needs just a few tweaks to make it a killer of a system. I want it to have auto-reroute when it knows of major delays. I want its algorithm to take a few more criteria into account when routing. And I want it to incorporate traffic view into the turn-by-turn display, not just the "Traffic View" route overview. But overall, it works a treat and it doesn't cost any extra, so yes, best nav application.

karl11
karl11

I've played with Waze which has good navigation plus crowed sourced input but, because Google Maps is on all my devices, it's usually my go-to mapping tool.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Tried Bing, google, mapquest and my GPS, asked it for a route to my grandparents house. Every one of them made a path down the worst and slowest back roads, instead of choosing the highway right next to it. Google even admits if you drag the route to the proper highway, that the time and distance go down. Mapquest was kind of neat, after adjusting the route once, the route became a suggested option.

Caladan607
Caladan607

Google maps are great for seeing the area and getting directions to within a few hundred feet of your destination, but they lack granular accuracy. ait10101 is correct in that Google will misdirect you at the granular level. But it does give good general directions to within a block of your destination. Plus the satellite and street views are very useful to me for helping me recognize the building I am headed for and where to park. It also has good info on businesses like restaurant menus and reviews. Some day I'll try a Tom-tom or similar nav device, but for now, Google works for me just fine on my PC and Android phone.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I always plan a trip with at least 3 mapping tools. My typical set includes Google Maps, MapQuest, and Rand-McNally. I often find two of them give me the same route (and not always the same two) while the other provides an interesting alternative. On another note, I always tell people NOT to use a mapping program/GPS when going to a job interview or any other really important event. Find the place first. About half of the job applicants I see that try this end up out in the boonies. They usually call in a panic trying to find us. It is caused by some weirdness in our mailing address. (Thank you USPS.) Not the mapping program's fault, but it's one of those things we need to keep in mind when using them.

ait10101
ait10101

Google maps directs me to drive up a 10 foot cliff from my house, a mile in the wrong direction, then two miles past my work and then to the (closed) back gate. In Warsaw recently it directed me five miles out of my way to get from my hotel to the Copernicus Science Centre, which was directly down the hill from me. I would not trust it for anything.

inspire_it_ireland
inspire_it_ireland

I have used google maps for many other purposes than navigation (like plotting positions, overlaying custom maps, etc) and it is fantastic for those things, and imho leads the competition in that respect.

NadeemRauf
NadeemRauf

I believe Google Maps are very good, however until recently they were without voice navigation, and also they only work with a high speed data connection. My preferred choice for offline navigation has been Sygic Navigation app on my Android.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

for ad-hoc use , (where am I and how do I get to....) Google maps on my smartphone is VERY convenient.

rengek
rengek

Taking everything into consideration I would have to say yes but only because there are many players out there with better features in one or two aspects but not overall. As a mapping navigation tool its fine but for example my car has a better navigation. It gives me more info and better graphical displays of the exits/on ramps. However it is not easy to find restaurants, places of interest and live traffic. Google navigation however, is not so great without a data connection. Its about on par with my car's nav. But when google maps is not connected, it cannot reroute and is mostly silent. Google maps with all of its other features, nearby restaurants, public transportation, live traffic and free etc and integrated between my phone, tablet, desktop and laptops. It makes it an all encompassing top notch product. With all that, nobody really comes close.

JWP2011
JWP2011

I'm a US Cellular customer who doesn't use navigation much. I have to say that between Google Nav and US Cellular's built in "My Navigator" Android app, My Navigator has just a little smoother interface and seems to work better in the areas where I live (Iowa). If I had to just use Google Navigation, I wouldn't have any real issues.

mdbizzarri
mdbizzarri

I think that Google maps is about the only real player in the market. It comes free on the Droid, and I think it does on the Apple. MapQuest use to be the standard, but was so inacurate. It is now the AOL of computer aided navigation, IMHO. I have a GPS, but have not touched it in over a year since I got my Droid. And the best part is that it is free. Google works hard to update their maps, and you can report issues. If I know the area, then the suggested route may not always be the best, but it has always gotten me from A to B, 100% of the time. I have not tried Bing maps, but I don't have to because Google Maps does everything that I need and more.

technomom_z
technomom_z

It gets me where I'm going and shows me a picture of the place when I get there. Google Navigation has been my free navigation on my phone since 2010. It also does very good walking/bicycling/transit directions. I see very few competitors who can do all of these well.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We moved into a new subdivision several years ago, so new it didn't appear on any of the map tools. MapQuest was the first one to show it, after about eight months. The Google Earth photo of my neighborhood is more recent than those of MapQuest or Bing (about eight months old), but I use maps more than satellite photos when I need directions. Unlike some of the other respondents, my choice is based on the tool I use on a full sized monitor via a web browser, not on usage on a smart phone or dedicated web app. I usually print copies of maps before I leave the house. I find those easier to follow than relying on voice directions, since I can study the whole route in advance. Often there's enough detail to find ways around unexpected obstacles.

gadgets
gadgets

Living in Central Florida, I'm finding Bing Maps to be more accurate and overall, a better mapping app. We've had some major road construction in recent years and I find Bing Maps usually has more updated maps and routing before Google. For instance, when I need to go somewhere, I'll often map it in both Bing and Google and probably 98% of the time, Bing will have either the better or more accurate route. I think a lot of it has to do with Microsoft's partnership with Nokia, since Bing Maps now uses a lot of Nokia's superior mapping technology and more international countries. I also use Bing Maps on my mobile device and it works great! PS - I've used it when traveling and had the local natives comment on how accurate it is and how it often chooses the same routes they themselves have discovered from living there for a long time. That says a lot to me!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you find yourself using Google Maps most often when you need mapping and navigation? If not, what application do you use and why?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I am just one lowly editor. The various responses leads me to believe you are correct - there is some more research to be done here.

markbeckstrom
markbeckstrom

Yes there are some strange address types out there. It is not the Post Office that determines addresses, but local government units. I have helped many businesses "fix" their address in Goggle Maps. Using the Google Map Maker tool can pinpoint addresses for Google Maps and Navigation to accurately find any location. Also please remember that mailing addresses and actual location addresses are not the same thing. One is used to get your mail to you, the other to give a physical location. Most often they are the same but not always.

K_Green
K_Green

Google Maps allows for offline navigation. The user is able to cache sections of the overall map to the local device. Depending on the amount of map detail in a given region of the map, the cache area map be quite large or pretty small. Multiple cache sections are supported. I recently made a driving trip to Dallas. I had my entire route cached, including all the detailed areas of Dallas that I would be going to. This was on my wi-fi only Android tablet. With GPS location enabled, I tracked my entire trip in realtime. Even used it to re-route on the fly around some traffic snarls. I have not tried Sygic, nor Bing etc. I see no reason to.

rhonin
rhonin

Wait till you get Google Now up and running. Using it on my Nexus devices (ATT) and it is spooky cool. Conference last week, based on my meeting end time (GCalendar) it brought up a recommended route, current traffic and drive time based on route and traffic. All on a nifty card with a map open option without me having to ask. The initial link was in Notifications. This is the future.

maj37
maj37

I agree with you on the mobile apps stuff vs. desktop. I just recently got an iPhone at work and the maps app is not very good in my opinion, I much prefer my Garmin GPS.

rhonin
rhonin

After trying a number of options, for Los Angeles, Philly and NYC, Google is far and away better. I also suspect it is based on user needs. The combination of traffic, alternate routes, public, bike, etc; I have yet to find an alternate that puts it together in a single package. Others may be a bit better in some aspects, but overall? No. Now add in Google Now. Spooky cool.

maj37
maj37

I use Bing maps much more than Google maps, I like the interface for selecting where I go better in addition to thinking the routes are better. The biggest thing in selecting points is that Bing maps remembers where I have gone to and from before while Google does that dumb "show me everywhere that has a 1234 house number then everywhere that has a Central Ave, then etc." I also like the print functionality and how the print looks better and what it says better. All that being said my Garmin is still better than either and way better than the maps app on my iPhone.

rhonin
rhonin

On what are you using maps? PC, phone, tablet? I ask as when I am out and about, my Android phone has replaced all including my Garmin for map / direction use. At home, when I pull something up on my pc, I tend to use Google. In my location, Bing is lacking some area detail.