Google has been in the process of taking over the internet and the mapping business for several years now. A recent presentation by Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist at Google Research in London gave some pretty interesting statistics about the prevalence of Google Maps that might make some GPS companies a little nervous.
According to this spreadsheet, Google map tiles are available for 209 out of 218 countries. For those 9 countries not covered by Google maps, only three do not offer driving directions (Cyprus, Kiribati and North Korea). And, while many dedicated GPS devices have similar map coverage, Google Maps doesn’t require a separate unit and is completely free. And, as of July 17, Google Maps on Android updated to version 8.2 which allows for hands-free voice commands (although they seem a little limited) that many dedicated GPS units enjoy as well as elevation measurements for mapping bike routes. Google also now allows for maps to be saved for offline use, although it does not map routes without a connection.
In his workshop, Parsons states that about 41% of worldwide internet users use Google Maps and 30% of all Google searches are for local or geographic intent. Google Maps is used roughly 1 billion times per month and roughly 1 million third-party websites use Google Map’s API.
So, while I still would recommend a dedicated GPS device for navigation instead of a smartphone and Google Maps, it will be interesting to see how GPS companies will react to Google as their free mapping services continue to improve. And more than that, whether or not Google will be able to catch up to dedicated GPS companies like TomTom or Garmin.
You can listen to Ed Parson’s workshop for yourself and decide where Google is headed in the mapping industry: