Don’t get me wrong: Google Maps is the king of the online mapping industry, but that doesn’t mean that the Google Maps app is the best navigation app for your Android phone. There are plenty of other navigation apps on the market, and most of them are just as speedy and accurate as Google Maps (some are more so). Google Maps is a good general maps app, but if you commute all day long or you primarily use public transit, it may not be the best app for you.
Here are five other Android navigation apps you might want to check out:
Waze is technically owned by Google, but this “social” navigation app is completely separate from Google Maps. While Google Maps is a general navigation app, Waze is driving-focused, which means it offers some cool features like user-reported gas prices and turn-by-turn directions to parking lots near your destination. The app also has a robust community of users, and it uses this community to gather real-time traffic data and user-reported incidents, such as accidents, road closures, speed cameras and police traps.
If you’re looking for a friendly driving community that’s committed to keeping the public informed about upcoming speed traps, Waze is the app for you. This app is all about social networking, so you can also plan trips with friends, sync events from your phone’s calendar as well as your Facebook account and see the ETAs of friends who are traveling to the same place as you are.
Here WeGo (which was originally developed for the Windows Phone platform by Nokia) is a free app that offers turn-by-turn directions for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and public transit riders. The app also features real-time traffic information, nearby points of interest, the ability to share your location (or the location of a point of interest) with friends and family members and offline map downloads for when you don’t have a data connection.
Here WeGo offers just about everything Google Maps does, and a little more. The cycling directions and the public transportation overlays are useful, and the app’s points of interest system is also pretty strong (the app pulls info from places like Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, BlaBlaCar, Expedia, Car2go and GetYourGuide).
If you take public transportation frequently, you’ve probably noticed that Google Maps’ directions are very basic. Moovit is a free, dedicated transit app that offers several features you won’t find in Google Maps, such as step-by-step directions that will tell you how many stops you have left and alert you when it’s time to get off the bus, train or ferry you’re riding. Moovit also features an entire section dedicated to information about delays, maintenance and service interruptions. It also links you to the local transit agencies’ Twitter accounts, so you can really feel like a local.
Google Maps’ public transit directions will work in a pinch, but Moovit — which is available in 1,200 cities around the world (including over 100 cities in the US) — is the app you need to really understand the local metro system. The app has even started integrating information about local bike shares in select cities.
BackCountry Nav Topo Maps GPS
If Moovit is for urban city-dwellers, BackCountry Nav Topo Maps GPS — which costs $12 (roughly converting to £10 in the UK and AU$15 in Australia) but offers a 21-day free trial — is for the opposite. BackCountry Nav Topo Maps GPS is an offline navigation app designed for people who are trekking through the wilderness. This app offers a variety of maps available for users to download, including topographic maps, marine maps and aviation maps. The app also has street maps (through OpenStreetMap and Bing World Street Maps) available, though its primary purpose is for navigating non-street areas.
Other navigation apps (including Google Maps) understand the value of downloadable, offline maps, but most of those apps do not pay much attention to topography or navigation outside of cities and suburban areas. BackCountry Nav Topo Maps GPS is the app you’ll need for those ultra-outdoorsy activities, though.
Maps.me is a free navigation app that focuses on offline navigation. This app lets you download entire cities (or, well, parts of cities) at a time for when you need to save data or you do not have internet access. Maps.me uses OpenStreetMap for its offline maps (but, unlike BackCountry Nav Topo Maps GPS, Maps.Me is completely free). The app offers turn-by-turn directions and a comprehensive list of points of interest — including overlays for nearby places with Wi-Fi and toilets — but does not offer real-time traffic information since it is, after all, an offline app.
Maps.me is a handy app when you don’t have internet, and, unlike some of the other apps that offers offline maps as an afterthought, Maps.me makes downloading apps quick and easy.