Google Maps App Poster Image

Google Maps

Sublime navigation tool with cool extras.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids can learn how to navigate the world through satellite-based views of homes, buildings, parks, streets, bus lines, and bike lanes. Data like distance, scale, travel time, cardinal directions, and even traffic conditions will empower kids to make informed decisions about getting around -- from making it to a new friend's party to safely biking across town. One downside is the apparent inability to use specialized maps for instance hiking trails. Google Maps is an essential navigation tool that empowers kids to explore their world.

Ease of play

Interface is well-designed and intuitive, navigation is mostly easy despite many functions, and controls are responsive. Unfortunately, exiting navigation requires exiting the app.

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Main menu includes local offers and services like restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, campgrounds, attractions, oil change, and movies. Banner ads at top and offers placed in map searches.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Google Maps is essentially a map and navigation tool based on Google Earth with some very cool bells and whistles. Along with map layers like traffic and Wikipedia, nearby services, and friend mapping, there's also solid navigation for driving, walking, riding the bus, or bicycling. Main menu button is not always available so moving around can get tricky. Check In and Latitude features could make big vacation-style family reunions a breeze. Please note that this review is based on the Android version of the app; the iOS version is similar but there are differences in functionality.

What's it about?

Expandable side menu includes maps, navigation, nearby services, and more. Top menu includes map search box with text or voice recognition and layers button. A basic search entails speaking or typing a location: Google Maps does the rest. The double-diamond compass rose returns orientation to north facing. Tap "My Location" compass rose in the header to return to current location. Tap again for "Compass" mode and a slightly angled view most useful in street view.

Is it any good?


Google Maps is an excellent tool for active people who like to get around. Navigation provides well-highlighted alternate routes, optional text-list display with voice guidance, street level views with rotation, a peg man to drag around, and easy zoom controls. Users can ask for directions for driving, walking, biking, or riding the bus. Map layers include traffic, transit lines, bicycling routes, Wikipedia articles, attractions, restaurants, and satellite view (toggle for map view). Terrain layer shows contour. The app also provides some icing with latitude and check-in features, screenshots for offline viewing, and extensive web-based help. While we don't recommend that minors broadcast their location, Latitude and check-in allow you to publish your presence at nearby locations even intersections with traveling direction, westbound, for example. (It feels a bit strange at first, like, uh, Can I check out? à la Hotel California.) App mines Google+ info including profile photo and contacts from your device to select groups to "check in" with (the default is public). With Latitude layer selected, you can see all nearby checked-in contacts in maps. Great for family resort vacations or reunions.

Settings has a [Google] Labs list of hopeful yet currently confusing accessibility add-ons including one for blind and low-vision users, one that measures distances and elevation changes, one that makes text larger, and one that displays elevation with directions. Unfortunately, in practice, the usefulness of these add-ons, other than the larger text, is unclear. The few downsides are that it sucks power like most navigation tools, and you must exit the app when you exit navigation.

Families can talk about...

  • Make your kid the official navigator starting with a low-stress trip when you have plenty of time.

  • Put your kid in charge of teaching and tracking family members at a resort location.

  • Challenge your kid to find the quickest way to the new restaurant while still at home.

App details

Devices:iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
Subjects:Social Studies: cultural understanding, exploration, geography, global awareness
Math: measurement
Skills:Self-Direction: achieving goals, goal-setting, initiative, personal growth
Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, asking questions, collecting data, part-whole relationships
Tech Skills: using and applying technology
Pricing structure:Free
Subscription price:Free
Release date:December 17, 2012
Size:0.00 MB
Version:varies with device
Minimum software requirements:varies with device

This review of Google Maps was written by

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Teen, 14 years old Written byleahcar July 21, 2013

Even more efficient than a mapbook!

Google Maps is a very useful maps service, where you can easily search for any place or road in any part of the world. You can even take a look around the streets to get a picture of where you are. I also use it to get directions from one place to another and the approximate time it'll take to get there. It is easier to use than a paper map or an atlas, so be sure to download this app as it will certainly come in handy whenever you need to search somewhere up. Definitely something I'd recommend.
Kid, 9 years old April 14, 2014
Kid, 10 years old February 16, 2015

Directions anywhere, anytime.

This is definitely the best map app. You can see where you are compared with the surroundings, and get directions to anywhere you want. However, it is a bit laggy. Recommended.
What other families should know
Easy to play/use