A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What 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.
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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.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
- Subjects: Social Studies: cultural understanding, exploration, geography, global awareness
- 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
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Free
- Subscription price: Free
- Release date: December 17, 2012
- Category: Navigation
- Size: 0.00 MB
- Publisher: Google
- Version: varies with device
- Minimum software requirements: varies with device
For kids who love learning with apps
Our editors recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.