Photo: 123rf.com

We’re definitely no strangers to Google Maps – it’s our trusty companion when we need to search for locations on the go, or figure out the fastest way to get to that ulu gathering location via public transport. But did you know you can book an Uber or Grab straight from Google Maps, and get real-time transit bus information on the app? We test out some of its new features to see how exactly they make life easier.

1. Book an Uber or Grab right on Google Maps

If you’re planning your journey and decide it’d be better to take a cab, you can book an Uber or Grab straightaway without having to launch the respective apps. See that little man with his hand raised among the other icons of your transport options? Uber and Grab are also placed as options to consider when you’re looking at public transport.

It was quite a seamless experience booking an Uber on Google Maps. Like all other curious passengers, I like to look at the map and ‘stalk my driver’ as it approaches the pickup location. I realised my Uber seemed to be circling my office building without actually going in. The driver stopped outside and called me, and I asked him to turn into the office. This was the first time I encountered an Uber not being able to find the exact location despite an accurate address being entered. Perhaps there was a glitch with Google Maps – the driver said he kept getting directed to turn left into a construction site.

On the way to my destination, I could see my location pin moving, but interestingly, Google Maps showed that my Uber was still near my pickup location, as if I weren't in the car. That didn’t bother me much, as long as I could see how far I was from the destination.

2. Get real-time transit bus information

One benefit: Google works with the Land Transport Authority to give real-time updates on buses in Singapore, so you know exactly when your bus is arriving while checking out the route to take.

It’s great that we can see the whole list of bus stops each bus service covers, together with the estimated time of arrival at each stop. You can also track your bus in real-time with the bus icon moving down the list of stops. My only question, however, is if it takes into account traffic conditions like a jam or stopping at the red lights.

For instance, my bus 232 was supposed to arrive at Blk 17A at 7.49am, but it only did at 7.52am, by which time Google Maps showed that it was reaching Blk 52, two stops down. We’d love to see this promising feature do with more accuracy.    

3. Indoor maps

If you’re looking for a store in the mall but just can’t seem to find the shopping directory, Google Maps will be your saving grace. It has more than 110 venues in Singapore mapped, with shopping malls enabled with Indoor Maps include 313@Somerset, Vivo City and ION Orchard. MRT stations like Orchard, Raffles Place and City Hall have also been mapped.

Simply zoom in to see the indoor floor plan of the building and use the level switcher to move from floor to floor. To be honest, I was expecting the indoor maps to give me specific directions to a specific store (which would be a dream come true for shopaholics), but all things considered, it’s pretty impressive to be able to zoom into a mall’s floor plan and see the stores.

4. Create and share lists of your favourite places

Keep track of all your favourite restaurants, bars, boutiques and more in different locations, using the new “lists” feature. All you have to do is click “save” when you’re checking out information on a particular place, and choose to park it under generic lists on the app, or create your own, like “Best sushi in town”. Share your lists with your friends and they’ll be able to easily find directions to your recommended places.

This feature is a breeze to use, and is also wonderful for sharing your holiday itineraries, so you don’t have to painstakingly compile the addresses of places you loved.

5. Get real-time crowd information

Crowds are easily our greatest enemy. Use Google Maps to figure out the peak timings at certain places, so as to avoid jostling with the whole of Singapore. This is especially relevant for restaurants; this means you’ll know when your favourite food haunt is least busy and avoid wasting time on queuing.

6. Curated lists of places to eat and drink at (Android only)

Photo: Google Maps

Unsure of what to eat for dinner? Google Maps could very well be the saviour of indecisive people, with curated lists of places you can dine at under the places tab. Find recommendations for “cheap eats” or “best cafes”, or even everyday spots like ATMs and gas stations around you in just one tap.

7. Categorical search on offline maps

Photo: Google Maps

In case you didn’t know, it’s possible to download maps and access them offline. Now, you can even search for various establishments offline, from restaurants to bars. Happy browsing.

 

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