Fun fact: Google Maps is 17 years old! Were it a person, it could have its driver’s license by now. And it’s still growing up: A recent round of updates have added to its utility.
I use Google Maps routinely because I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag. Here are some of my favorite time-saving features.
SHARE YOUR ETA
My wife, bless her heart, likes to know that I’ve arrived at a destination safely. The location doesn’t matter: grocery store, school pickup, to the pub and back.
The problem is that I’m absent-minded and routinely forget to text her once I’ve made it. On the plus side, ironically, I can’t find where I’m going without using Google Maps, so its location-sharing function is a great way to find where I’m going and update my wife at the same time.
Simply tap on your face inside the app and choose the “Location sharing” option. From there, you can choose how long to share your location and with whom to share it.
As a bonus, if I absent-mindedly forget to share my location, my wife can ask for my location by opening her own Google Maps app, tapping her photo, then “Location sharing” and requesting my location from me.
QUICKLY FIND A RESTAURANT YOU’LL ACTUALLY LIKE
I use Google Maps to search for places to eat all the time, but I admit that I’ve never actually noticed this feature until recently.
When you search for nearby restaurants—simply type “restaurants near me” into the Google Maps search bar— each result will feature a percentage match to the right of the rating, directly underneath the restaurant name. Google leverages past visits to similar restaurants, personalized search info, and other data to serve of a rating of how much it thinks you might like a particular place.
What’s more, you can tap “Edit food & drink preferences” to ensure that future searches will be even more accurate. It’s made finding a great place to eat much, much faster.
TELL YOUR WATCH TO TAKE YOU HOME
I get lost a lot, and let me tell you: there’s nothing pleasant about realizing you have no idea where you are and realizing you need to pull your phone out of your pocket, unlock it, and open Google Maps, to navigate your way home.
The good news is that you can avoid all this if you have a smartwatch. If (like me) you have a watch that uses Google’s Wear OS, you can hold down the power button to bring up the Google Assistant. Then simply say, “Navigate home,” which will open Google Maps on the watch and provide turn-by-turn directions.
Apple Watch userscan add the new Take Me Home complication to your watch face. Give it a quick tap and you’ll be on your way. Note that this feature might not be live yet for some users, but Google says it’ll be available “in a few weeks,” so keep an eye out for it.
CHEAPER GAS, FASTER
Gas prices are getting crazy, but there are still some deals to be had out there. To see the gas prices for nearby stations, search for “gas” and you’ll see all the nearby stations and their prices.
I also find it helpful to tap the “View list” icon in the lower-right corner of the map to see a list of nearby gas stations by distance and price. It makes it easier to quickly scan for the best prices.
GET COVID-19 NUMBERS QUICKLY
If you’d like to double-check the COVID-19 numbers to make sure your destination is reasonably safe, Google Maps has a handy COVID-19 info layer you can use.
From your destination’s search results, click the Layers button—it looks like two isometrically-stacked squares in the upper-right corner of the map – —choose “COVID-19 Info” in the “Map details” section.
You can then see seven-day trends and averages by county. Zoom out on the map to see nearby counties and how they’re doing as well. It’s a good way to quickly check the data before you travel to a new place.
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