Google Maps for Android review: The best maps app you'll find on Android

If you're not exactly sure what you're looking for, you can now ask Google Maps for suggestions by using the Explore function, which is not unlike that of Foursquare. With this tool, you'll get info cards for a number of categories, including Eat, Drink, Sleep, Shop, and so on. And because recommendations are based largely on Zagat reviews, they can be a big help in finding popular spots in unfamiliar cities.

Speaking of Zagat, the reviews platform is now even more deeply integrated, as star ratings are front and center on a business' info sheet. Also, you can now rate and review businesses right from within the app, so watch out, Yelp.

Indoor maps and Street View
For some buildings, you can zoom in and get indoor maps. A number of malls, museums, and airports around the world are supported, and the list is growing rapidly. Once you're peering at an indoor map, you can even switch floors using the slider on the side of the screen, making Google Maps a great alternative to shopping-mall directories.

And, of course, you can get Street View on the Google Maps app as well. You can activate it right from an info sheet, and some businesses even offer indoor views so you can have a 360-degree look around inside as well. What you don't get in Google Maps, though, is the 3D flyover view. For that, you'll need to jump over to Google Earth.

Navigation and directions
One of the most important aspects of Google Maps for Android is directions. The app lets you easily conduct a search for a destination with text or voice, so you can get directions for driving, public transit, walking, or even biking. I've been consistently impressed with the number of walking paths and bike trails that are viewable through the app, and the public transit directions offer several different options if you'd rather take a train than a bus or vice versa. And to make things easier, the app even suggests the best mode of transportation by default and plots out different routes on the map for you to quickly compare. In the end, whichever mode you select, you can read your route in list form or map form, or hit the arrow icon to activate voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation.

Google Maps offers different route options, and even notifies you if switching to a new route would be a good idea. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

When it comes to routing, Google Maps' navigation usually works well, though I have seen it suggest inconvenient routes in very specific instances. For example, I've had Google Maps route me around the block, when a simple U-turn around a traffic island would have sufficed. That said, I still consider its navigation reliable and I generally trust it to get me from point A to point B. It gives ample warning leading up to turns, and I like that it even gives a warning when you have to make two quick turns in a row.

One thing I love about the improved Google Maps' navigation is that it constantly takes into account current traffic conditions, and it feeds you information about road incidents ahead of time. In fact, if you hit a traffic jam and there's a better route available, Google will automatically notify you, so all you have to do is hit the Reroute button. Alternatively, if you simply veer off a selected course, the app will reroute you automatically.

Final thoughts
For a fast and powerful mobile mapping experience, it's hard to beat Google Maps for Android. This feature-fest goes far beyond a simple piece of mapping software with its turn-by-turn navigation, voice search, indoor mapping (select locations), Street View, Zagat reviews, and more. Further, if you use Google Maps on your other devices while signed in to your Google account, your search history and saved places all sync to the app seamlessly.

At this point in the game, there's not much in the marketplace that can hold a candle to Google's preinstalled Maps offering. Of course, you could try MapQuest, but its feature set doesn't come close. Very simply, if you need a map on your phone, then skip the competition and stick with Google Maps.

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    Where to Buy

    Google Maps (Android)

    Part Number: com.google.android.apps.maps
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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Category Navigation and maps
    • Compatibility Android