9 Google Maps Features You Didn't Know About

Google has rolled a new feature into its mapping software that makes it possible for mobile users to share their location with others in real time. 

Both iOS and Android users will have access to the feature when updating their software. Whether you’re backpacking through the countryside for a week or just going on a grocery run, your friends and family can follow along with where in the world you are, on their own mobile devices. Beyond the immediate value of being able to broadcast, “Hey, here I am!” you’ll also be able to share your navigated route in progress, letting your contacts see how far away you are from your destination and when you’ll arrive.

To share your location this way, tap the blue dot that represents your physical location on the map. Tap “Share location,” select who to share with and for how long, and you’re done. You can even send a link to your live location through a messaging service; if your recipients don’t have an Android or iOS device, they can click the link and track you in a Web browser.

We think Google Maps is one of the best online mapping services there is, and the addition of real-time location sharing only makes it more appealing. In case you didn’t know all the other features wrapped inside this robust cartographic solution, we thought we’d remind you of them.

GPS directions automatically reroute you around traffic.
Google owns Waze, a peer-driven traffic monitoring network that lets drivers report road conditions, speed traps, and accidents. Using this valuable, dynamic data, Google’s navigation system will adapt to reflect a better route when conditions should change.

Store your maps offline as you travel without WiFi.
Whether you’re going off the grid or just want to save on monthly bandwidth, Google Maps lets you download custom maps to your specification. With the map data already downloaded, you can zoom in and out on details as your heart desires, without needing any internet connection. To download an area for offline browsing, search for the location and select the "download" tab to the right of the share button. You can also use the left-hand drop-down menu by search to select “offline areas” and add a location.

Plan a ski vacation.
Google Maps isn’t just about driving directions; it also includes bike and ski trails. Search for a resort (like Breckenridge in Colorado), then zoom in to see trail details. You’ll likely want to pair this trick with Google’s offline map functionality — mountains aren’t known for being great cellular hotspots.

Get oriented quickly.
How’s your sense of direction? Google wants to help. If you don’t know which direction you’re facing, just tap the compass in the top right corner of your screen, and the map will adjust to match your real-world direction and perspective.

Always take the easiest bike route.
Putting elevation information at your fingertips, Google Maps will quickly let you know if your bike ride home will be a killer climb or a leisurely ride. The pros and racers will want to find the sickest hills to train on, while the rest of us will simply look for the flattest route home.

Save commonly used addresses for quicker navigation.
Stop typing out addresses for work and home when you could just be typing “work” and “home.” In the side menu of the Google Maps mobile app, tap "Your places," then enter your commonly searched addresses, saving each one with an identifying name.

Use Lists to manage your vacation and sightseeing.
Google quietly launched a new feature in February that lets you create, update, and share lists of places you want to visit. When you locate a place in Google Maps, add it to a list by tapping on the place name, tapping “Save,” then adding it to your list of choice.

Identify the best time to go grocery shopping or get a good seat at the bar.
Google Maps will tell you how busy you can expect a given location to be before you arrive. With a business or other location selected, the mobile app will give you an hourly breakdown by day, pointing to how much foot traffic you can expect to encounter while you're out and about.