5 Must-Have Features for Any Google Maps Killer

Finding a worthy alternative to Google Maps is much harder than you think, and it's all because Google's navigation software has almost everything you'd ever need behind the wheel.
Google Maps navigation 7 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
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The Mountain View-based search giant has managed to build an amazing product that helps drivers find faster and more convenient routes to their destinations.

Furthermore, everything is available completely free of charge, so you won't have to pay a single cent to use Google Maps.

Obviously, plenty of Google Maps alternatives are out there, and the most famous is Waze. Thanks to traffic reports, Waze is incredibly accurate, especially when it comes to finding a faster route to the destination. On the other hand, Waze lacks essential features, such as offline support, so it always requires an Internet connection to do its magic.

Offline maps

I don't know about you, but support for offline maps is mandatory for an application that provides route guidance in my car.

Finding the right path in areas with spotty cellular reception or tunnels is incredibly helpful, especially when driving in regions you've never been before.

Google Maps is one of the few applications currently offering such capabilities, as both Waze and Apple Maps work only when an Internet connection is available.

Navigation software from TomTom and Sygic integrates offline maps, but on the other hand, they can be used only by paying a fee.

Google Maps satellite mode navigation
Photo: autoevolution

Satellite maps

While the default map layer does its job very well, satellite maps are particularly useful when trying to figure out where you need to go.

The next-turn information can be much more straightforward when satellite maps are available, and needless to say, Google Maps is one of the few apps offering such capabilities.

Both Waze and Apple Maps lack this feature, so you can only navigate using the default map layer. Satellite maps are available in other applications, including Sygic's software, but just like before, they can't be accessed without a subscription.

Traffic reports

The traffic report integration in Google Maps is still very limited, as it is currently available only in specific regions. Furthermore, you can only send a bunch of traffic reports, as Google clearly doesn’t want Google Maps to cannibalize Waze.

While the traffic report support in Google Maps feels half-baked, a fully featured alternative must sport such capabilities if its purpose is offering an all-in-one package.

Waze is the king of traffic reports right now, and despite attempts at copying this implementation, nobody can dethrone it. Apple, for instance, has tried to turn Apple Maps into a Waze alternative, but just like in Google Maps, the current support for incident reports is basic, to say the least.

Google Maps satellite mode navigation
Photo: autoevolution

3D navigation

Google Maps is generally referred to as the best mobile navigation app, but on the other hand, Apple Maps comes with a feature that you can't find elsewhere.

The 3D navigation that debuted not long ago is incredibly helpful, as it clearly highlights the route you must use to reach the destination.

In addition, Apple has also created 3D models of buildings and landmarks, so the integration is not only unique but also very advanced.

An almighty Google Maps alternatives must feature 3D navigation as well, though Google itself is trying to push this concept a step further by developing the so-called immersive view.

Android Auto and CarPlay support

Needless to say, any app that dreams of becoming a fully featured Google Maps alternative must be able to run on Android Auto and CarPlay.

Vehicle integration is a must-have right now, and mobile screen projection allows users to benefit from their navigation features on the screen in the dashboard.

Google Maps has always been among the first apps to support certain capabilities, such as the CarPlay Dashboard. At the same time, it also runs on Android Auto, supporting the Coolwalk screen to run in the dedicated navigation card on the multi-view interface.

Most navigation apps already support Android Auto and CarPlay, though in some cases, the integration leaves a lot to be desired. Apple Maps, however, is only available on iPhone and CarPlay, so while it's supposed to be a fully featured Google Maps rival, using it with an Android device is currently impossible.

The next destination for navigation apps appears to be Android Automotive. The fully featured operating system is making its debut in a growing number of vehicles, and as such, navigation software must expand to the platform as well. Apple is also getting ready to introduce a new-generation CarPlay experience, but it's currently unclear if navigation apps require special updates to fully use all capabilities. The new CarPlay will run on all displays in the car, so most likely, full integration will be required for navigation apps running on Apple's platform to expand beyond the main screen. The new CarPlay is projected to see daylight later this year, most likely alongside the 2023 iPhone lineup.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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