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Smartphones & gadgets

10 hidden Google Maps tips and tricks

Google Maps is more than just a way to get from point A to point B. It’s also a way to learn more about the world around you and even play games. For instance, Smarty Pins is a trivia game within Google Maps. It asks you geography-based questions, and you move your pin around the map to answer.

Of course, with convenience comes some luggage in the form of privacy concerns. Tap or click here for eight ways Google constantly invades your privacy. Luckily, you can protect yourself by turning off a few hidden settings.

Once you’re done following our privacy-protection guide, you can take full advantage of everything Google Maps has to offer. There are many hidden features you may not even know about. That’s why we’re sharing our top 10 hidden Google Maps tricks — as well as how to use them.

1. Send your exact location to someone

This is great if you’re trying to meet someone in a public place. Maybe you’re on one side of the park and your friend is driving up. Make sure they don’t waste time looking for you by sending them your exact location.

To do this, whip out your Android phone and open Google Maps. Set your current location by pressing a finger down where you are located on the map. That makes the address pop up. Just tap Share and Messages.

Of course, you can also do this on an iPhone, but the method is more complicated. First, open a text message. Then, tap the profile of the person you want to meet. Tap Send my current location. Your screen will look something like this:

Pardon the messy streaks on the map. I don’t want any private address information getting out!

As you can see in the final image, tapping Send my current location automatically sends your map and location to the person you’re texting. It even includes exact coordinates so they can’t possibly miss you.

Speaking of texting, you should probably know that some messaging apps are more secure than others. Some may even leave your texts exposed for the world to see! Tap or click here to find out which messaging apps you should avoid at all costs.

2. Go back in time

This is a fun one. Channel your inner Marty McFly by opening up Google Maps on your computer and dragging the little Pegman onto the map. If you have no clue what that means, your Pegman is the little yellow figure in the bottom right-hand corner.

Once you drag and drop it onto your location of choice, tap the Time button. That pops up a slider with a range of dates. Drag it around to take a trip back in time through Google Maps.

It’s handy for anyone doing a project to investigate how an area has changed over time. You can even use your Google Maps Timeline to create a travel diary!

3. Save parking in Google Maps so you can find your car

I love this feature since I have spent 15 minutes wandering around the wrong side of a parking lot looking for my car in the past.

When you roll into a parking lot and find a spot, open up Google Maps. Tap on the blue location dot and tap Save parking. You’ll see a More info option. Tap on it and you can add a note about your parking spot.

If you have a parking meter, jot down how much time you have left. You can even add photos of the parking garage level or where you’re parked so you can track your spot down faster.

When you’re ready to drive home, open Google Maps and check out the, You parked here pin. Tap it and select Directions for a step-by-step guide to your parked car.

4. Turn on the compass

It’s easy to get directions on Google Maps when driving through well-established roads. When you veer off the beaten path, though, you need a little old-fashioned ingenuity.

Luckily, Google Maps has a plan for that through its compass feature. Use it to find your direction if you’re ever lost.

This works with phones that have magnetometers, including most modern Androids and all recent iPhones. Here’s how to get the job done on Google Maps and Apple Maps.

In Google Maps

Open your app and look for the compass symbol in the top-right corner. Sometimes, you may not see it. In that case, move the map around to make it pop up. If it still doesn’t pop up, do this.

When you’re in compass mode, the red part of the compass always points north. The grey part points south. You’ll see a blue dot on the map. That represents where you are. There’s also a blue beam coming out from it, representing the direction you’re traveling in.

Image from

You can also tap the compass to make the map view adjust to match the direction you’re heading in. So if your beam points down on the south setting, you’re heading south. The map adapts to your needs. It’s all pretty nifty!

In Apple Maps

To turn on the compass in Apple Maps, open Settings and tap on Maps. Then, select Driving & Navigation. Toggle Compass to on.

That’s just step one, though. The compass won’t automatically pop up on Apple Maps. To use it, open Maps and tap on the location arrow twice to activate the compass.

5. Use Maps offline when you have a bad signal

This requires a bit of preparation. If you know you’re heading into an area with poor signals or long stretches of lonely roads, download an area map ahead of time. Here’s how.

On Android

Sign in and open the Google Maps app. Search for the place you’ll be exploring later. Once you entered the address, tap Download. Drag or zoom to adjust the map and tap Download again.

On an Apple device

Open up Google Maps on your iPhone or iPad. Make sure you’re not in incognito mode and that you’re connected to the internet. Tap the address of the place and select More. Then, tap Download offline map and Download.

6. Walking directions with AR

Since 2019, pedestrians have enjoyed the walking directions that use augmented reality. Just hold your phone up and see directions over the world around you. It’s kind of like Pokémon Go, but instead of seeing Pikachu on the street ahead of you, you see, “Turn right at the street up ahead.” Here’s how to use it:

  • Open up the Google Maps app and enter your destination.
  • Tap Directions.
  • Then, tap on the Walking icon you see here.
  • Lastly, select Live View

This is a great way to get a handle on your surroundings and prevent getting lost!

7. Use voice commands during navigation

Driving with both hands on the wheel is what we all strive for. Some people will take one hand off to peer at their phone and look at the map. They may wonder, “What road is this?” or “Where do I turn?”

Put an end to this by using voice commands instead. This way, you can ask any question on your mind while keeping your hands and eyes on the road.

On an Android, first, set up the Google Assistant. Then, on your device, say, “Ok, Google” before asking a question. This is the wake word that lets your assistant know you’re ready to speak.

8. Go somewhere “incognito”

This is an excellent trick if you want to hide your location from other people. It’s good if you’re going to buy a gift and don’t want to leave clues behind. Speaking of which, here’s another tip you may like. Tap or click here to hide gifts you buy on Amazon so you don’t spoil the surprise.

To use incognito mode for Google Maps, tap your profile picture and select Turn on incognito mode. Google Maps won’t save your browsing or search history when using this mode. It won’t send notifications, use your activity for personalization or update your Location History.

9. Find parking

It’s impressive to see how much Google Maps can do. You can even use it to find parking spots. Just hit Directions, click the P and select Find parking.

This reveals nearby parking spots. Pick a spot by tapping Add Parking. Then, tap Start to head there before someone else snatches it up.

10. Just for fun, change your icon

If you’re bored by the blue navigation icon, you can change it in a second. You’ll just have to be in navigation mode. Just tap the arrow icon to change it to one of three cars: a pickup truck, car or SUV.

If you want to go back to the arrow, just tap the icon one more time. It’s really that easy!

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