Rakesh Joshi, a senior marketing executive at a multinational company, lives a busy life. Be it in his hometown Delhi or any other state or country he is visiting for work, he often travels to unknown locations. Earlier, he used to complain about wasting a lot of time searching for locations. But his life has changed ever since he started using an Android smartphone. Now, as soon as he gets behind the wheels he turns on Google Maps on his smartphone, keys in the destination and hits the navigation button. The app not only guides him to the destination but also shows the shortest and fastest route he should opt for. Similarly, when travelling in a taxi, the driver isn't able to cheat him anymore as he keeps an eye on the route he is opting for. That's the comfort of using maps on your mobile.
Most smartphones come pre-loaded with local maps. But they need not be the best. You have plenty of options - free and paid - to choose from.
Here are the few best ones available on your smartphone's app store.
These mapping apps can track the location real time, guide you to destinations, show nearby points of interest and, in some cities, even update you about traffic. Even paid mapping apps will cost you just a fraction of what a decent navigator comes for.
- GOOGLE MAPS: Free It comes pre-installed on all Android smartphones and is also available for download for iPhone users. Honestly, Google Maps is the best free mapping software available in the market, better than the one that comes pre-installed on the iPhone. This is the world's fastest and easier way to reach your destinations. The Google Maps cover 220 countries and territories and requires data connectivity to work. It offers voice-guided GPS navigation for driving, biking, and even for those who walk. It also offers transit directions and maps for over 15,000 towns and cities. Live traffic is the most popular feature of Google Maps. In certain countries it even offers incident reports, and automatic re-routing to find the best route, and Street View and indoor imagery for restaurants, museums, and more.
- SYGIC: This is one mapping software that works purely on GPS signals, without any Internet connectivity. While offering turn-by-turn voice navigation, it shows three alternative routes to your destination. It has features such as house number search, places of Interest, sign post information, city guide, location sharing and geo-tagging images. It also gives speed limit audio warnings. The biggest problem with the Sygic app is that after downloading the app, you need to install the individual map for the location you wish to use, which can be time consuming. To use Sygic, you should install it much before you want to use it.
- HERE MAPS: Loaded on Windows Phone by default, this is one mapping software that you can trust completely. Its biggest plus point is that it works even without a data connection. It finds the quickest way around a city with walking, driving, and public transit directions to the places you want to go. You can set your location manually for fast and accurate navigation. There is a private collection, too, where one can save the favourite places, add personal notes and sync later. There are various map view modes, similar to Google Maps, such as satellite, public transit, local traffic, street level or regular street map. It even offers live traffic information and 3D view for a few cities and countries.
- NAVIMAPS: This is a partially free software. Available for download for free, it includes lifetime free services including three alternate routes to your destination, route sharing via Facebook, and Live Traffic with detailed MapmyIndia maps for India. This app offers in-app purchase to full-featured pro-guidance for lifetime for Rs 599. This includes maps for neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and turn-by-turn voice guidance in English and 10 regional languages.
- WAZE: This is the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app that fetches information from existing Waze users who share real-time traffic and road information. Users can report accidents, police traps and other hazards they see on the road. You can add friends, send locations or keep others posted on your arrival time too. It even offers turn-byturn voice guided navigation and automatic re-routing as conditions change on the road.
We often ignore the potential of services that are free to use. One such example is mapping software apps that are available for free. Google Maps, Waze, Sygic, NaviMaps are some of the solutions that not just offer turnby-turn voice navigation but also provide additional information such as access to maps in offline mode, live traffic update, points of interest and businesses information, etc.
- Turn-by-Turn Voice-Guided Navigation: Gone are the days when you had to roll down your car's window to ask for directions. Most maps these days offer voice navigation. The best among these apps is the accurate Google Maps. It also supports voice prompt that eliminates the need to look at the phone's screen again and again. Just key in the destination name in the search bar at the top and then tap on the blue car icon that will appear at the bottom. While turn-byturn navigation is turned on by default, users have an option to mute the guidance too. There is Hindi navigation support too, for which you will have to select Hindi as the default language from settings. On the other hand, NaviMaps offers real-time turn-by-turn voice guidance in 10 regional languages apart from English - although this is a paid feature.
- Live Traffic update: Whenever I start from my house, the first thing I do is check the traffic movement. This feature works well on Google Maps. Traffic movement is indicated using colours - Green means no traffic delays, Orange means medium traffic, and Red means traffic delays. This feature is available in 20 cities at the moment. Google tracks this data using smartphones that use Google Maps for mobile and have turned on GPS and My Location feature. Even NaviMaps offers live traffic update. Here Maps and Here Drive+, which are pre-loaded on Windows Phone smartphones, offer real time traffic information for a few cities. Waze offers traffic updates powered by other Waze users on the road.
- Offline Maps: While millions of people around the world use Google Maps to navigate and even explore new places, it requires data connectivity to work. You could save a particular area of the map to be used in the offline mode but that is not very handy. Sygic and NaviMaps work brilliantly in the offline mode. But the process of installing these apps is long and tiring. First, you need to install the basic app and then download maps for offline use. The basic Sygic app is only 43.14MB file and NaviNaps is around 22MB. However, in Sygic, the India map is a space guzzler at 668.72MB. MapmyIndia has divided India's map into four parts - north, west/central, east and south - for a total of almost 700 MB. Offline maps also provide turn-by-turn voice guidance. But in case of NaviMaps, you will have to shell out Rs 620 for voice navigation.
- Alternate Route: All these maps are good with routing. These apps calculate the shortest and quickest route. But that doesn't mean it is the only route that you need to follow. What if you are stuck in a traffic jam and want to take a different road? The Alternate Route feature comes handy in such situations. This works best when used with live traffic update as it shows how much time you will take to reach the destination using the alternate route as well. With Google Maps, the alternate route is also highlighted. NaviMaps claims to offer three alternate routes (in offline maps) but it doesn't show the alternate routes all the time.
- Explore Local Businesses: Maps aren't just meant for directions. There is a search feature, too, that comes handy. In case you are looking for something specific, say coffee, just type it in the search bar. All the nearby coffee houses will be highlighted in almost all the maps. There are millions of points of interest that are categorized, such as hospitals, restaurants, petrol pumps, etc. NaviMaps even offers local house address for a few cities.
- Save Favourite Place: If there is a place you visit often, you can add it to favourites or save the location. The next time you plan to visit it again, you can simply select it from your saved places.
- Share location: Gone are the days when one used to share the address. Today, the new way of sharing an address is to pin the location on the map. This is pretty simple. With Google Maps, you can simply touch and hold the location to drop a pin and then share it over Whatsapp, Facebook, email, etc.
Undoubtedly, the best mapping solution is Google Maps, which not only offers turn-by-turn voice navigation but its traffic information too is accurate. Most importantly, it is free. But it works only when you have an Internet connection. The paid apps also have some advantages such as the offline mode and regional voice guidance but the user base isn't as big as Google Maps. These paid maps are good, too. Most paid maps are installed in personal navigation devices and the in-dash GPS navigation systems in car. For instance, Garmin PNDs available in India has got maps from MapMyIndia.
- No point spending money on paid mapping software when you get the best ones for free.
- When travelling to remote locations, accessing data can be an issue. Use maps that can be used in the offline mode.
- GPS and navigation drain battery quickly. Either use these wisely or carry a battery pack.
- Turn off location services and GPS when not in use.
- Always check Live Traffic before starting your journey. It will guide you the best route and save your time.