February 8, 2023

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Achievements of 2022: Google Maps helped me get out and explore more

I’ve been privileged to use many incredible new phones in 2022, packed with the latest hardware and capable of amazing performance. But there’s one app I’ve turned to over and over again as I’ve used each of these devices, and it’s far from new or innovative: Google Maps.

As in-person events (both professional and personal) resumed throughout the year, I had many more opportunities to get out of the house. From navigating unfamiliar transit systems to finding toddler-friendly playgrounds, Google Maps was the app I opened up when it came time to go somewhere. But beyond that, Google Maps has become more than just a “Take me from point A to point B” service. It’s become something of an all-around app for me, and I’ve taken full advantage of its conventional — and not-so-conventional — features over the past year.

Google Maps has become more than a “get me from point A to point B” service

In 2022, I used Google Maps a ton while traveling — a pretty typical use case for the app. I got walking directions, found the right BART line to get to SFO, and looked for coffee shops wherever I went – so many coffee shops. I even configured an iOS lock screen widget to search for nearby coffee shops so I can find coffee with as little friction as possible.

The app has also proven itself in unusual situations. When I recently missed a turn on a hike outside of Seattle and found I was hiking up a dry creek bed rather than a trail, I used Google Maps and my phone’s GPS to figure out which direction to go. I wouldn’t expect to use it that far off the grid, but it came in handy in a pinch.

View of a path with a bridge across it and a wall with graffiti tags on the right.

I found this hidden path overlooking urban murals (and some graffiti too) by scrolling around on google maps. Photo: Allison Johnson / The Verge

I also use it to get off the beaten path closer to home. I shoot with a variety of cell phone cameras in my testing, so I’m always looking for new interesting places to shoot. I turned to Google Maps when I’d exhausted all my usual locations, and that’s how I found a greenway in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood that runs along the light rail line with a view of the murals in the area. Even in an area I know fairly well, maps help me discover new places.

Google Maps is also a kind of archive. If I’m trying to remember the name of the restaurant I went to in another city years ago, it’s probably in my bookmarks. It has also become a de facto address book. When I send a package to my sister, I don’t look up her address in my phone’s contacts — I type her name into the Google Maps search bar and it pops up right away.

Sometimes I open Google Maps without a specific agenda. I might be scrolling around a specific neighborhood I’m curious about. Or I use Street View to get an idea of ​​what it’s like to walk the streets of Reykjavik or find out what restaurants are in the northernmost city in the United States.

For better or for worse, Google Maps has become as essential to me as email or Slack

Are there things about Google Maps that bother me? Yes. Sometimes I’ll have the map centered on a specific neighborhood and I’ll search for “breweries” and it will zoom out to show me all the breweries in the Seattle area. And I’ve spent years begging for a navigation option to stick to the easiest route, rather than taking a series of tricky turns to shave 30 seconds off my arrival time. I should be far more worried if I use the app to track my every step than all the data Google has on me.

For better or for worse, Google Maps has become as essential to me as email or Slack — no matter what phone I’m using. It helps me to explore my own city as well as to find my way in unknown ones. It’s the app that has helped me navigate 2022, both near and far, and I know I’ll be using it to plan my moves for next year, too.