Best Navigation Apps: Google Maps vs. Apple Maps vs. Waze vs. MapQuest « Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks

Yous don’t have to be a frequent flyer to know how indispensable navigation apps accept become. Many of u.s.a. rely on these apps for traveling from state to state and getting around in foreign cities, but even more than of us count on these apps to vanquish rush hr traffic and find the quickest routes to school or work. And so naturally, nosotros all have our favorite mapping apps, but which one is truly the best?

While there’southward a wide selection of navigation apps for iPhone and Android, many have fallen by the wayside due to the rise of a choice few apps that dominate the scene. Google Maps and Apple Maps are main among these, though at that place are smaller apps — namely Waze and MapQuest — that have managed to agree on and stay relevant. Permit’s see how they compare.

Tabular array of Contents

  • Comparison Chart
  • Chart Key
  • App ane: Google Maps
  • App 2: Apple Maps
  • App 3: Waze
  • App iv: MapQuest
  • Conclusion

Comparison Chart

Image by Amboy Manalo/Gadget Hacks

Key Comparing Points

  • Platform:
    Which of the ii major mobile operating systems (Android, iOS) and two major desktop operating systems (macOS, Windows) the navigation service is bachelor on.
  • Countries & Territories Mapped:
    How many recognized countries and territories are mapped past the app. This just includes
    maps, non satellite imagery, navigation, driving directions, or street view.
  • Countries & Territories with Driving Directions:
    How many total countries and territories have driving directions available in this navigation app. If you travel oft, you’ll desire a maps app that can tell you how to go from Signal A to Point B in equally many countries as possible.
  • Street View:
    While non universal due to the herculean job of having to physically photograph every street, this awesome feature — when available — gives yous a first-person view of locations to give you a clear picture of just what to expect.
  • Overlays:
    Extra data that can be shown over elevation of the default map. These overlays can range from satellite views to terrain views and transit routes. The more data available to yous, the better.
  • 3D View:
    Some apps come with this feature to help y’all get a more natural view of things. In Google Maps, 3D view is express to silhouettes of buildings (you’ll demand Google Globe if you want bodily imagery). In Apple tree Maps, you become fully rendered 3D maps of whole cities, though information technology’s not available everywhere.
  • Live Location Sharing:
    The ability to share your current location with friends and family in existent-time (or view the location of others). This is different than sharing your current location in a one-off state of affairs where you lot hit the share button and copy your accost to transport in another app. Specifically, Google Maps and Apple Maps offering this feature.
  • Location History:
    Whether or not the app tin relieve a log of your history as you travel. Useful for re-tracing the places you visited on a memorable vacation or finding a business you visited in the by.
  • Cultural Hotspot Indicators:
    Every urban center has an interesting locale where people beloved to gather and hang out. For instance, Bailiwick of jersey City has its Downtown commune, while Manhattan has Due east Hamlet and a few others. An app that has these noteworthy areas highlighted can bear witness useful if yous’re interested in really taking in the local civilization of a city you’re visiting. Only Google Maps offers this feature currently, and the cultural hotspots are highlighted in a brownish orangish color.
  • Weather Data:
    This feature takes the guesswork out of current weather atmospheric condition exterior, and tin inform you of precipitation on your trip, temperature, air quality, and more than.
  • Indoor Maps:
    This characteristic gives yous the power to view the layout of airports, shopping centers, and/or other public buildings to ensure y’all never become lost.
  • Offline Maps:
    The ability to download maps, assuasive y’all to view details about an expanse when your phone isn’t connected to the cyberspace. Useful when your data connection is spotty or expensive depending on the country you’re visiting.
  • Traffic Information:
    Traffic is fluid, and tin can change from smooth to incredibly heavy due to a number of factors such as accidents and road work. Some apps tin go even farther than these and provide you with speed traps and traffic camera locations to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.
  • Traffic Data Source:
    This all-important characteristic is vital for whatever navigation app to function: the data that provides yous pertinent traffic data. This can exist sourced from in-house research (preferred), other users of the service, the app’s parent company (like Google with Waze), or from tertiary-party providers like OpenStreetMaps.
  • Loftier Traffic Warnings:
    As bad as blitz 60 minutes is, it gets worse when an accident occurs. As such, good navigation apps volition warn you of unusually heavy traffic well in advance to give y’all time to ready and leave ahead of schedule.
  • Speed Limits:
    Whether or not the app displays speed limits for the roads you travel on while in navigation fashion. This characteristic is not available in all areas, however.
  • Lane Guidance:
    When out for a drive, naught is as annoying as missing your exit due to existence in the wrong lane. This ingenious feature helps keep this headache to a minimum by telling yous which lane you should be in while in navigation style.
  • Add together Tolls & HOV Passes:
    Cost passes like EZ-Pass and HOV lanes defended to transit buses and carpools can brand highway driving faster every bit they avert traditional cost booths and regular lanes that can pile upwardly fast. Some apps have the power to specify that you’d similar to use these lanes while navigating.
  • Avoid Tolls & Highways:
    Finding out y’all’ve taken a route with tolls tin can leave you open to hefty fines if you don’t have whatsoever cash on hand, while directions involving highways tin can sometimes be more of a hindrance to your trip due to congestion. Fortunately, almost navigation apps requite yous the selection to avoid these 2 to reduce the hassle.
  • Choose Unlike Routes:
    Upon starting navigation, a majority of driving apps will give you lot the pick between two or three routes to better reflect your needs. Some apps will even alert you lot if a faster route opens up and present information technology as an option while driving to get to your destination ahead of schedule.
  • Add together Pit Stops:
    Long road trips inevitably lead to unplanned pit stops, be it bathroom breaks, a virtually-empty gas tank, or hunger. Though most navigation apps limit this feature to only one cease per trip, some apps will let y’all input equally many additional stops equally you lot want.
  • Show Gas Prices:
    Gas prices vary from station to station, and this dandy characteristic lets you see their corresponding prices from within the app to ensure you get the most gas for your money.
  • Hands-Free Control In-App:
    Prophylactic is paramount while driving, and manually interacting with your device is inherently dangerous for yous and others on the road. Because of this, many navigation apps can be issued instructions via vocalism commands to maximize safety. Nosotros specified “In-App” here when testing, pregnant we simply counted it as a “Yes” if the app itself recognized phonation commands rather than the phone’due south built-in digital assistant.
  • Directions Using Other Modes of Transportation:
    In that location are plenty of ways to get around besides driving, and nearly navigation apps are able to provide routes for alternate forms of transportation such every bit mass transit, bicycling, taxis, and adept old walking.
  • Re-Center:
    This feature is pretty common among navigation apps, letting you lot instantly change the view dorsum to your current location inside your navigation route to view cantankerous streets and go a ameliorate decision of your bulldoze.
  • Accessible Navigation:
    Many of us accept special needs that have to be taken into account while on a trip, such every bit wheelchair-friendly locations for either united states or someone we love. Some apps can accommodate these needs, others tin can’t.
  • Save Parking Spot:
    Having your navigation app salve the location y’all parked in is very useful when visiting an unfamiliar location, especially if the place is a big, bustling urban expanse.
  • Offline Navigation:
    Different from Offline Maps above, this is the ability to
    with a poor or nonexistent internet connection. Cracking when you’re transitioning betwixt areas of adept and bad cellular service to ensure smooth, trouble-free navigation.
  • Works With Screen Off:
    Having a navigation app that can dictate navigation prompts even with the screen off isn’t only handy while walking around, it can likewise be a lifesaver if your handset is running low on bombardment.
  • Dark Mode:
    Past default, almost navigation apps are set to automatically enter night mode one time day turns to dark to better reflect your environment. Some apps, still, give y’all the power to permanently set them in order to help preserve your bombardment.
  • Ride Share Integration:
    Ride sharing apps similar Uber and Lyft take get a pretty common part of our daily lives, and navigation apps that accept these services integrated do away with the need to open a separate app, making them more user-friendly overall.
  • Movie In Picture:
    Sometimes, yous’ll need to browse while navigating. Maybe you want to read reviews of a restaurant you’re visiting. This is where this feature comes in handy, but regardless of the navigation app, information technology’s currently only available on devices running Android eight.0 or higher.
  • Lock Screen Navigation:
    While walking or taking public transportation, navigating from your device’s lock screen is inherently more secure than getting directions with your telephone unlocked, equally it gives you a layer of protection confronting unwanted access should your phone go lost or stolen.
  • Show Festivals & Protests:
    A cultural festival like Oktoberfest can make your vacation all the more memorable, while events such as the French “Yellow Belong” protests take the potential of ruining them outright. Thankfully, there are apps out there that alert you of these events equally they’re happening so you tin can join in on the fun or avoid them, depending on your preferences.
  • Personalized Recommendations:
    If your smartphone interactions aren’t personal enough, some navigation apps now have a feature that can requite yous recommendations via a personalized feed that’south based off places y’all’ve visited, along with restaurants and stores that you lot follow. This ensures y’all’re ever on summit of locations to visit, no matter where you lot are in the globe.
  • Book Dinner Reservations:
    This feature is incredibly convenient, as information technology allows you lot to instantly reserve a table in a eating house you want to try out. This does away with the headaches of being put on hold when calling ahead, not to mention having to open a split app to book a reservation.
  • Report Traffic Issues:
    Traffic pileups can happen out of nowhere and chop-chop turn a highway into a parking lot. Existence able to study an accident or heavy traffic in existent time can benefit other drivers, and if other drivers tin can do the same, it can benefit yous.
  • Mail Reviews:
    We’ve all grown to rely on user-posted reviews to help us make decisions on what products to buy or services to become with, be they cars, restaurants, toys … the list goes on. To help y’all chime in, some apps requite you the ability to mail service reviews regarding places you’ve visited to give others a meliorate idea of the services they provide so they know what to expect. Fifty-fifty if y’all don’t want to contribute, you can benefit from this characteristic, as other users will review places you might desire to visit.
  • Auto Support:
    Thanks to Android Auto and CarPlay, you’re at present able to use many popular navigation apps directly from your auto’south nuance. Unfortunately, not all navigation apps are supported.
  • AR Features:
    Augmented reality — or AR, for short — has been adopted by certain navigation apps for its ability to enhance user experience. Apple’s Flyover, for instance, tin requite you lot a virtual birds-center view of a supported city as you move your telephone around.
  • Widgets:
    This pick is keen for multitasking, and primarily shows navigation prompts on your device’s home screen when supported.
  • Music Integration:
    Playing your favorite tracks while out on a long drive goes a long fashion towards keeping boredom from setting in. Having an app that lets yous play music in-app keeps you lot from having to switch back and forth between navigation and an external music app.
  • Siri Shortcuts:
    With Siri Shortcuts, you lot can create instantly accessible commands to streamline your navigation even further. For instance, yous can create a Shortcut for your morn commute to automate the task, which you tin can then run by summoning Siris and saying the designated command.
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App i: Google Maps

To no one’due south surprise, Google Maps handily takes the top spot in our comparison. The app is clearly the most comprehensive out of all the maps on this listing, with 266 countries and regions mapped and full driving directions provided for 253. Across that, Google Maps besides comes jam-packed with features to make it the best app all around for navigation both at dwelling house and away.

  • Install Google Maps: Android (gratis) | iOS (gratuitous)

Google Maps is truly an impressive app when it comes to navigation. The app uses data sourced from Google World and combines information technology with information gathered by users worldwide to provide some of the most authentic traffic information. And cheers to regular software updates, there’s fiddling incertitude that the service will go on to improve.

There’s ride share integration using Uber and Lyft so you lot can quickly summon a car, and there’s even back up for Lime so you can observe a wheel to ride. Also providing routes for cars and ride shares, Google Maps also provides directions for walking, biking, and public transit, in addition to displaying wheelchair accessible areas.

(1) Summoning either Uber or Lyft can be easily done using Google Maps. (2) Finding a wheelchair accessible route with Google Maps.

While all the apps on this list show gas station prices, Google Maps is by far the easiest to view. It shows the price within the details carte on the bottom when you select a gas station from the map. These gas prices also announced when adding a gas station as a pit finish during longer drives. And dissimilar many of the apps on this list, Google Maps lets yous add more than one stop to your trip.

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Google Maps features indoor maps for airports, malls, and museums, which tin be accessed past zooming in on the target location. Buildings and other structures are displayed in 3D on the standard layout, and this is even more than prominent when you swipe with two fingers to change the viewing angle, but everything is shown in 2nd when the satellite overlay is applied. Luckily, the app features Street View if you need a commencement-person perspective to better orient yourself.

(1) 3D Renderings of buildings on Google Maps. (two) Picture In Picture fashion for Google Maps.

With all these features at your fingertips, the app’s UI can get little overwhelming at times, which brings u.s.a. to the app’s main downside. Google Maps’ numerous overlays can easily overload your senses, and ironically cause you to go lost within app itself due to the amount of reports, landmarks, and businesses both small-scale and large that are plastered on your screen.

Thankfully, the app lets yous minimize information overload past making overlays such as transit, satellite, and cycle overlays optional. Beyond that, Google Maps also lacks a congenital in weather information and the option to manually study traffic-related bug. When all is said and washed, however, Google Maps’ benefits far outweigh whatever limitations it has, making it a solid companion for travelers worldwide.

App ii: Apple tree Maps

Apple Maps is Apple tree’southward answer to Google Maps, and despite a rocky start, the app has become the navigation app of choice for many iPhone users due to it’s unproblematic interface and overall reliability. Equally per Apple’s MO, it’southward only available on Apple devices similar iPhones and Macs, but on the flip side of that coin, the app continually improves with each major iOS update to ensure it stays competitive.

  • Install Apple Maps: iOS (free)

Apple Maps has tons of features that make information technology stand out from the oversupply, such as total Siri integration for a truly easily-free feel, and accurate real-fourth dimension reporting of delays caused past road work and accidents. In addition, the app features support for indoor maps that covers airports and shopping centers, which is incredibly useful for frequent flyers and casual tourists akin.

Apple Maps also comes equipped with ride share integration, letting you summon a ride via Uber or Lyft straight from the app itself. When driving around, the app displays important information such as speed limits to maximize safety. The lane guidance feature is besides the easiest to empathize out of all the apps on the listing, and is displayed prominently in advance of an exit or intersection to ensure they’re not missed.

When it comes to 3D viewing, Apple Maps wins past a mile, as information technology provides bright 3D renderings of major cities across the globe like London, Paris, Sydney, and Tokyo. It’s worth noting that this feature currently covers 353 cities across the globe, as highlighted by the tiny “3D” badge on bachelor cities, though Apple volition likely comprehend more as information technology continues to update its app.

(one) The lane guidance feature on Apple Maps is difficult to miss. (2) 3D View of Bailiwick of jersey City.

Also 3D View’s limited coverage, there’s other elements that Apple Maps still has to improve on to brand information technology a truly swell navigation app. For one, the app currently doesn’t support street view, though it will likely roll out with the feature at some signal in the future, as it has been actively surveying areas across the United States and select countries using LiDAR-equipped vans since 2015.

In addition, Apple tree Maps focuses heavily on urban centers rather than countries every bit a whole, which makes it limited compared to Google Maps and even MapQuest in terms of overall coverage. This can be clearly seen when compared to Google Map’southward coverage of smaller towns and rural areas, which provides more details like parks than Apple Maps.

(i) Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Apple tree Maps. (2) The same town on Google Maps. Note the parks and rivers not shown on the one-time.

Unlike Google Maps and Waze, Apple Maps doesn’t provide you with police-related reports such as speed traps and cameras, making information technology less than ideal if you depend on this functionality to avoid potential traffic tickets. Bicyclists may also want to avoid using Apple Maps, as it doesn’t offer bike navigation. But the virtually glaring shortcoming with Apple tree Maps is its availability. The app is but available for iOS and macOS devices, which places it firmly out of achieve of users on the Android platform.

App 3: Waze

Waze is the navigation app of pick of drivers the earth over and it’southward piece of cake to see why. The app features novel alerts such as speed traps to help ensure you stay ahead of police force enforcement to avert expensive traffic tickets. The app uses data gathered from boyfriend
to build an incredibly accurate existent-time view of your environment.

  • Install Waze: Android (free) | iOS (free)
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Google purchased Waze dorsum in 2013, and has used Google Maps data since then to raise its user-curated services, and vice versa. Besides the same speed traps, Waze also shows you other important traffic information such a police locations, traffic cameras, road work, and accident-related slowdowns that fifty-fifty include their average speeds.

Beyond detailed real-time traffic reports, Waze has the usual options like toll and highway avoidance built in, in addition to the ability to add together price lanes like EZ-Pass and HOV lanes for more than route choices. The app too features hands-free navigation and pit stop additions to ensure safer and smoother road trips.

Waze strips almost all the bells and whistles found on more than pop counterparts and is insufficiently blank — there are no buildings rendered in 3D and no satellite or terrain overlays, merely elements you need to go around safely. Of course, this stripped downward functionality has some downsides, such as limited options for other modes of transport.

(one) Thanks to fellow Wazers, you lot can view traffic slowdowns in real time. (2) Adding toll passes and HOV lanes couldn’t exist any easier with Waze.

As a driver oriented navigation app, Waze offers multiple options for varying modes of transportation, and tin observe you the optimal routes for motorcycles, electric cars, and taxis. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t provide directions for biking and walking, making it less than ideal companion when not in a motorcar, especially in urban locations.

Waze’south shortcomings don’t end there. Information technology has the lowest overall coverage in this list with only 72 countries supported by the app, according to Wazeopedia. That being said, Google does country that Waze will function anywhere in the world that has roads, though the quality of navigation will depend profoundly on how active a community is in any given region. It’s best to check out Waze’s alive map if y’all’d similar to go an idea how may users there are in a specific country.

And while it did then in the past, the app has since removed the choice for downloading routes for offline navigation, which can be a problem if yous come across an area of poor cellular service while driving around. And because of its lack of building outlines and indoor maps, it’s harder to orient yourself and zero in on a specific building or landmark while on pes.

App 4: MapQuest

Though nowhere near a famous every bit its Google and Apple tree counterparts, MapQuest has nevertheless remained a solid and reliable navigation app that’s definitely worth checking out. The app has mapped out 252 countries and regions and comes standard with numerous features that makes it a great companion while sightseeing in a different state or state.

  • Install MapQuest: Android (costless) | iOS (free)

Though MapQuest has long been overshadowed by its more well known competitors, the app has really been around for a very long time. It was the map of pick for many long before Google Maps became a household name. The app’s merits to fame is its layering feature that lets you apply and remove map elements like hospitals to but show relevant information and proceed your map ataxia-free.

(one) MapQuest lets you add or remove overlays on the fly. (2) If you lot’re craving for pizza, Mapquest has you covered.

Like Google Maps, MapQuest offers real-time reports like heavy traffic due to accidents, road work, and traffic cameras, to help yous steer articulate of slowdowns and trouble. Speed limits are also posted and easy plenty to see when navigating, along with your current speed if you lot’re going faster than 15 mph.

Beyond that, the app gives you a choice betwixt a standard layout consummate with building footprints and a satellite overlay to help you become a better perspective while out and virtually. Relevant atmospheric condition details like the current temperature and forecast are shown in the lower-right corner and disappear once navigation has started.

(1) The traffic nightmare that is New York Urban center. (ii) Speed limit posting on MapQuest

As great every bit MapQuest is, information technology lacks some notable features and refinements that we’ve grown accustomed to, and it has a UI that’s a trivial clunkier to access when compared to its famous competitors. Among these limitations are the lack of transit navigation and support for indoor maps of airports, shopping centers, and other points of interests plant in Google and Apple tree Maps.

MapQuest also doesn’t give you the option to either navigate offline or download maps, which can be a major handicap if you’re visiting a location with poor cellular service. The app also doesn’t come with its own version of Street View, which can limit your perspective.

Lastly, MapQuest doesn’t have Picture In Picture mode, which tin limit multitasking, though navigation prompts withal show up in your Phone’s notification panel. Despite these disadvantages, notwithstanding, MapQuest is withal a feasible option for interstate drives and traveling away — it has a clean UI that is very easy to empathise and interact with, which is all yous need when getting around from place to place.


As you lot’ve seen from the chart above, Google Maps blew out the competition, largely due to the sheer amount of features it has, and the residuum it achieves betwixt that and overall user-friendliness. That’s not to say that the other three apps are not without their merits, however. To the contrary, these apps all have noteworthy features that have undoubtedly contributed to their popularity.

Apple Maps is arguably easier to admission if yous’re on an iPhone, with just the right features to make information technology a solid pick. Waze, on the other hand, is more catered to drivers and is ideal for longer road trips, while MapQuest and its numerous overlay options make information technology the perfect choice for those who like to keep distractions to a minimum. Which ane is your app of choice for getting around? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

This article was produced during Gadget Hacks’ special coverage on traveling with your smartphone. Check out the whole Travel series.

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Cover image, screenshots, and GIFs by Amboy Manalo/Gadget Hacks