I rarely use Google Maps to actually get directions, but I open the app almost every day for other reasons that may not be so obvious. The truth is that Google Maps is useful for much more than just showing you how to get from point A to point B. Beneath all the Christmas-colored traffic patterns and high-resolution satellite imagery hides a powerful search tool that offers lots of real-time information about restaurants, shops, professional offices , public parks and practically anywhere else you want to go.
Some of Google Maps’ latest updates include, , and . Directions are so compared to the last decade. If you already know about this app as a navigation tool, you are just a push, tap or swipe away from these and more superpowers in Google Maps.
To unleash the hidden potential of the Google Maps app on your phone or tablet, take a look at the five ways I use Google Maps almost every day that have nothing to do with getting directions.
See how long the line is everywhere from Walmart to DMV
Before I walk out the door, whether I’m on my way to Walmart, the grocery store, the doctor’s office, or to renew my driver’s license, I almost always check Google Maps to see exactly how busy I can expect my destination to be. This is how you can look up that information as well.
In the Google Maps app, tap the business or place you want to visit and scroll down until you see a chart highlighted Popular times. Tap on the day of the week if you are planning a trip for later that week.
Click on the red column to see the current traffic data or one of the blue columns to get a summary of how busy you can expect it to be at another time: Not busy, Not too busy, A little busy or As busy as it gets.
Next, under the heading Plan your visit, You will find general information such as peak waiting times (“up to 5 minutes from 6 to 12”) and length of average visit (“People usually spend 20 minutes here”). Now you know if you can get in and out in an instant or if you need to pack a good book or just plan your visit for another day when the waiting times are not that long.
Check out menus, photos and customer reviews
In addition to the navigation tools, Google Maps is also a full-blown reviewed app, much like Yelp or TripAdvisor, so you can get a good idea of what types of options your destination offers, as well as price, presentation and whether you need to take out a loan to have afford it.
This feature is just as useful for restaurant pick-up and delivery as it is for previewing menu options and prices – not to mention getting a good look at the dishes. It may make or break your decision to try something new. For those who trust the wisdom of the crowd, it also shows the restaurants’ five-star average as well as individual reviews to weigh in on your decision.
On most restaurant lists, you will see a navigation bar at the top Overview, Menu, Reviews and Photos listed as options (you may need to scroll to see them all). Tap any of these or just scroll down. The link marked Menu is often listed just below operating hours, but keep scrolling until you see the title Popular dishes to see pictures of food. Continue past Popular times to almost the bottom to find the restaurant’s five-star average and user reviews.
Book a table or place an order for transport or delivery
Once you have taken a look at all your restaurant options, you usually do not even have to leave the Google Maps app to make a reservation. If you prefer to eat at home, you can usually also order transport or delivery from the app.
If the restaurant you have decided on uses a booking service such as, you see a tab below Menu options that say either Find a table or Reserve a table. You do not actually need to log in to the booking service to make the booking (but if you collect bonus points or otherwise actively use the service, you may still want to).
Look for an alternative marked for transport or delivery Order. A popup will give you a list of available services, such as DoorDash or Postmates, but you will need to log in to complete your order, so if you have an account with one of them you will probably want to select it.
Hi, Google Assistant, how did you get my iPhone?
I spend most of my digital life in the famous garden of the Apple ecosystem, with one obvious exception: I use a Google Home ($ 99 at Walmart) with Google Assistant to control my smart home.
Google Assistant does not enter iOS in the same waydoes, but a Google Maps setting lets you push Siri aside so you always have access to Google Assistant when navigating.
To set the Google Maps app on your iPhone to listen to “OK, Google” while navigating, open the Google Maps app and press menu icon (the three stacked horizontal lines to the left of the search bar), then tap settings. At the top of the page, under the heading Getting around, Press Navigation, then scroll to the option highlighted Go to your assistant with “OK Google” and turn on the gear.
Admittedly, this solution is a bit unfortunate – you have to set up Google Maps to navigate to a specific destination for the “OK, Google” voice command to work, and you can not call Siri with “Hello, Siri” while this feature is turned on . But until Android can defend me from my iPhone, it’s better than nothing.
Find opening hours, telephone numbers, postcodes and more
When I need to know when a store or business is opening or closing, or if I need to call the place and I do not have the number, or in rare cases when I need the zip code of a business for which the street name and number is all I know at the top of my head (say, for an application), I go directly to Google Maps to get these answers and more.
Here you can quickly and easily find basic information about places listed in Google Maps:
Opening hours: The company’s opening hours are displayed immediately below the address. You can press down arrow next to today’s closing time to see hours for other days of the week. Most lists are updated with any special holidays, which are marked with a red font.
Phone number: During most operating hours, you will find the telephone number. To call it without leaving Google Maps, tap the number, then tap the pop-up window that prompts you to Call followed by the number.
Website: If the company has a website, it will be listed under telephone numbers. Tap it to open the website on a Google Chrome tab in the Google Maps app.
ZIP code: This is less common, but when I needed it, Google Maps saved a lot of time. Enter either the street name and number or the company name and press search. At the top of the list next to the street address you will see the postcode.
For more Google tips and tricks, check these out, these and .