Google Maps is one of those apps that pretty much everyone uses regularly, and yet it still hides a ton of awesome functionality that you’ve probably never come across. It makes sense, of course, since it’s an app that most people don’t spend a lot of time poking around in. You open it, you search for your destination, you navigate there, and then you close the app once you arrive. If you do start poking around in Google Maps though, you’ll find that it’s a terrific app for so much more than just navigation. There’s a treasure trove of functionality hiding in Google Maps, with features that can potentially make your life so much easier. Of course, these great features obviously can only make your life easier if you know they exist — and that’s why we try to share new features as they’re added to Google Maps, as well as some existing features that you might not know about.
We recently rounded up five lesser-known Google Maps features that make holiday travel much easier. After we ran that article, we received a ton of feedback from readers who said that our post helped them and taught them about new Google Maps functionality they now plan to use regularly. With that in mind, we hope to make this a regular occurrence, and we’ve got another great roundup of hidden Google Maps features for you to check out today.
If you’re an iPhone user with Google Maps installed on your phone, you’re probably well aware that Google’s wildly popular mapping app is still better than Apple’s built-in Maps app in so many ways. What you might not be aware of, however, is that there are some excellent Google Maps features you can access on your iPhone without even opening the app.
So many iPhone users forget all about the widget page on their devices. Truth be told, however, it can be incredibly useful. All you need to do to access it is swipe right while on your home screen, lock screen, or notifications screen. You’ll find a series of widgets on that page that provide shortcuts as well as zero-touch access to real-time information. And if you have Google Maps installed on your iPhone, you can scroll to the bottom, tap the “Edit” button, and you’ll see this in your list of available widgets:
The five widgets at the top of that list are all available to you automatically when you install Google Maps, and you probably didn’t even know they were there. What’s more, they offer quick access to some terrific functionality that can potentially make your life so much easier.
The first widget on the list is the Google Directions widget, and it’s also the most basic widget available. That said, it’s the one Google Maps widget that I personally use more than any others. Instead of opening the Google Maps app to the default screen and fumbling around to start your journey, tap the Google Directions widget to go directly to the navigation screen with your current location already set as the start point. Just type in your destination and you’re done.
Google Local Guides
Next on the list of Google Maps iOS widgets is the Google Local Guides widget. It’ll show the address of your current location along with a thumbnail taken from Google Street View, and you can tap it to open your location in Google Maps. If you tap the little arrow in the top-right corner, however, the widget will expand to reveal your reviewer account along with nearby places you can review. You love tapping on a restaurant or another type of business and seeing helpful reviews, so why not help other people by reviewing establishments that you’ve visited?
After the Google Directions widget, this is my second-favorite iPhone widget that Google Maps offers. A quick glance shows you your current location on a small map with the famous green, yellow, and red lines indicating traffic in the surrounding area. You’ll also see a brief description of the nearby traffic conditions — something like “moderate traffic in your area” — and you can tap the widget to open the Google Maps app.
Google Transit Departures
If you commute to and from work or school, the Google Transit Departures widget is going to be your new best friend. With a quick glance, you can see the next three buses due to arrive at a nearby stop, and there’s a second tab that shows the three next trains due to arrive. You’ll also see a note next to each bus or train that shows you exactly how many minutes it will be before it arrives.
Google Travel Times
Last but certainly not least, the Google Travel Times widget is another widget with the potential to be a commuter’s best friend. A quick glance will show you exactly how long it’ll take to get from your current location to home and to work, and you can add or remove any other destinations you want. For example, I can see that it would take me nearly an hour and a half to get to BGR’s New York offices right now in traffic, so clearly I made the right decision to work from home today.