5 Best Alternatives to Google Maps in 2019

Google Maps a set of applications map service and technology provided by the company Google.
Google tracks users through different apps, mainly through Maps. Here are some alternative navigation apps that offer more privacy than Google Maps.

Google is the Matrix of our time.

In ‘The Matrix,’ the machines kept the humans in a state of continuous sleep, feeding off their heat energy and showing them their desired world in return—a life with free will.

In today’s world, Google keeps us entrapped in its ecosystem of apps, feeding off the data we generate and providing us with targeted ads in return.

If you’re wondering whether the cost of giving up your data is too high, you may want to keep reading and consider an alternative to Google Maps.

Why?

Location Is the Key

If you are anything like us, normal people who value their privacy, you’re probably fighting the urge to turn off that location option on your mobile.

The complete picture is admittedly a little scary.

Google is currently tracking users through:

  • Webpages with AdSense and Google Analytics
  • Google products like Gmail, YouTube, and of course, Google search engine
  • And last but not least, your Google Map

It’s the map that completes the user profile by putting you, or rather your location while you were carrying out a certain action, on the map.

In fact, it is so important that a study found that Google will continue to track your location even if you turn off the location history. They simply track you a little differently by updating your location whenever a Google app like Maps, Search or Gmail is turned on.

So, where do we go from here?

While there can’t be an alternative for all these webpages using AdSense and Analytics, except for having a solid online privacy plan including a VPN, we can do something about all these apps. And using an alternative to Google Maps is a good place to start.

Alternatives to Google Maps

The following maps aren’t exact replicas of the Google Maps. Some may have more features and some may have less.

Some of them also require some of your data. However, they are at least up front about it so you can choose whether this is acceptable in your books before you commit.

1.      MapQuest

Mapquest

MapQuest

MapQuest is the oldest alternative on the list and had a major market share before Google Maps took over. MapQuest was founded in 1967 and provided cartographic services. They transitioned from providing static maps to online interactive maps in 1996 in order to provide road navigation.

MapQuest’s main feature is its unique driving direction experience and the accompanying options for finding businesses en route. You can also filter out hotels, gas stations, food and other options to customize your experience.

Furthermore, you can check out different cities even if you don’t want the driving directions. MapQuest provides the option of viewing satellite images and booking hotels, cars and flights.

The smartphone apps are free and MapQuest also now supports and uses OpenStreetMap (OSM) Data, being the first big company utilize open source mapping data.

MapQuest tracks your location through cookies on its website. However, you can choose to block this by not accepting the request.

Advantages

  • Driving direction experience
  • Booking function
  • Save, print and share options
  • Satellite Image
  • A long, rich history of reliable mapping data

Privacy Features

  • Asks permission for location
  • Works even without disclosing your location

Platforms

  • Web
  • Android
  • iOS

Disadvantages

  • Lots of ads
  • Location targeting ads

2.      OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap

Figure 2 OSM

Inspired by Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap started life in 2004. It is an open source mapping project which allows volunteers to edit and update.

The data is collected via free sources including aerial photography, surveys and GPS devices. Anyone can contribute once they decide to be a volunteer by registering with the company.

The project relies on local knowledge to be accurate and thus has a diverse user base. Most of the earlier volunteers were cyclists who mapped their routes and other trails. The project had more than 500,000 registered contributors in 2012 and now has more than 2 million.

As an app, it is simple and straight forward, containing all the basic functions you would expect – driving directions, cycling routes, and walking trails, but that’s about it.

However, the great thing about it being simple and open-sourced is that it is completely free, it can be used offline, there are no annoying ads to watch out for and it doesn’t mine your data. It does require your GPS for navigation purposes but that can be avoided.

The data has varying degrees of accuracy depending on where it is being used. However, since it is free and open source, many third parties utilize the data in their own maps. MapQuest was the first to adopt it and other big names like Snapchat, Facebook, Apple and Craigslist have followed suit. Some, such as Osmand and Maps F-Droid, have even built complete apps around it.   

The data distribution is licensed under the Open Database license and the parties involved in running the system follow the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

 Advantages

  • No Ads
  • Simple and straight forward
  • Offline mode
  • Ever improving data quality contributed by volunteers around the world

Privacy Features

  • GDPR compliant
  • All collected personal data is deleted periodically and not distributed
  • Doesn’t mine data to profit or personalize

Platforms

  • Web
  • Android
  • iOS

Disadvantages

  • Less than ideal accuracy in different parts of the world

3.      Here WeGo

Here We Go

Figure 3 Here WeGo

Here WeGo is the closest in functionality to Google Maps and in some ways surpasses it. It started as Here Maps by Nokia and is now majority-owned by German car companies. The map application was first launched for the Windows platform and then came to the web, Android and iOS.

Here collects the map data by itself and has a unique collection of live traffic data that helps you best navigate the area and the unique ‘Places’ option which gives you details of local business, restaurants, attractions and hotels.

The live traffic data is collected through speed cameras, police reports and twitter feeds etc. It classifies traffic as light, moderate and heavy and notifies you of reasons for delays.

You can download offline maps for more than 200 countries, but map data is only updated every two or three months so they may not always be up to date.

Here WeGo does relies on cookies in order to show you personalized data. But, you can choose to reject this and also choose not share your location. The app also shows you ads, but if you haven’t accepted cookies then they aren’t personalized.

Regardless, even if you do accept cookies or share your location, the data is deleted once the session is over and is never associated with a personal account.

Advantages

  • A long list of functionality
  • Places database
  • Offline mode
  • Live traffic data
  • Has maps of more than 200 countries

Privacy Features

  • GDPR compliant
  • All collected personal data is deleted periodically once the session is over
  • Location can be turned off

Platforms

  • Windows
  • Web
  • Android
  • iOS

Disadvantages

  • Not as up to date as Google
  • Ads

4.      Maps.Me

Maps me app

Figure 4 Maps.Me

Maps.Me uses open source data from OSM and further builds upon it.

It has a default offline mode and a huge collection of places or points of interests in more than 345 countries and islands.

The app offers offline searches of places and routes by either car, bike or foot, along with the ability to share your location with your friends. In the online mode, you can see traffic, public transport and driving directions. Maps.Me is also one of the few apps that show you hiking trails.

Maps.Me started off as a free app and later changed its philosophy to include targeted ads, which though not personalized, are location based.  Despite this, the app is GDPR compliant for its European client base and its data is updated twice every month which allows it to stay relatively current.

Advantages

  • Offline mode
  • Places database
  • Hiking trail 
  • Location Share
  • Has maps of more than 345 islands and countries

Privacy Features

  • GDPR compliant for European users
  • Personal data is not shared with third parties
  • Only location data is used

Platforms

  • Android
  • iOS

Disadvantages

  • Not as up to date as Google but still better the Here WeGo
  • Location-based ads

5.      Sygic

Sygic

Figure 5 Sygic App

Sygic is a Slovakian company which was the first to offer GPS navigation for iPhones. It was 2nd to offer navigation to Android and has a huge user base reaching more than 100 million worldwide. 

Sygic Maps have all the features you might expect and could be considered an equal to Google Maps, if not better. However, the full list of features is only offered to premium users which somewhat limits its appeal.

They provide offline map services where you can navigate without having to use the internet, and the app’s not too heavy on memory either. The whole map for the state of California takes around 330 MBs and has all the data to navigate turn by turn along with information about places (points of interest) and 2D/3D terrain for orientation.

Real-time traffic data is collected through more than 400 million drivers and is updated every two minutes, also providing information about parking spots and speed limits for specific roads. Finally, Sygic supports more than 30 languages and collects user data anonymously.

However, there are a few downsides. Despite being strict on user data storage rules, it doesn’t have user privacy as a core value. It requires user data to function and and stores it for around three years after the app is deleted.

Advantages

  • Comprehensive Offline mode
  • Places database
  • Parking spot and driving suggestion
  • Huge coverage of more than 200 countries
  • Trip Advisor recommendation for Places

Privacy Features

  • GDPR compliant
  • Personal data is not shared with third parties

Platforms

  • Web
  • Android
  • iOS

Disadvantages

  • Full features in the premium version
  • Not privacy-centric

Trying out any of the apps from this list could be a worthwhile step towards increasing your privacy. Give it a go and see if you miss Google Maps. There’s no harm trying and you can always go back!

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