by James A. Martin

4 things you didn’t know your GPS apps could do

Nov 04, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsMobile Apps

With Halloween in the rearview, Thanksgiving and the year end holidays are coming on full throttle. Three of the most popular GPS navigation apps, Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps, recently received new features that will come in handy during holiday trips.

Today’s mobile GPS apps do a lot of interesting things, such as offer turn-by-turn directions voiced by Madea from the Tyler Perry films, and provide quick and easy dinner delivery. Here are four of the newest and coolest features in the most popular GPS apps — Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps — just in time for the holiday travel season.

Order dinner using Google Maps

In addition to offering seemingly endless driving directions, Google Maps has evolved into a database of local resources, which includes information on many restaurants.

When you launch Google Maps, you’ll often see an “Explore food & drinks near you” bar at the bottom of the screen. You can tap it to browse nearby restaurants in categories such as “Best dinners,” “Cheap eats” and “Quick bites.” Or you can type “restaurants” as a search term, and you see nearby restaurant listings that include Google ratings, types of food and operating hours. You can filter the listings by price, star rating, cuisine, whether they’re open or if they’re Zagat rated.

At some restaurants, you can now order delivery using the “Place an order” menu option. When you tap it you see an option to continue with whichever delivery service or app the restaurant uses, such as Doordash, GrubHub, Caviar or Eat24. However, you need an account to order from those services, and you may need to download an app. 

Find parking with Waze

In September, Google added a brilliant new “Where to park” feature to its Waze service, in conjunction with transportation data service firm Inrix. It works seamlessly. You just tell Waze a destination. If parking lots are available nearby, the app shows the nearest lot, followed by a “View more lots” option, if there are any. That option shows you all the nearby parking lots, along with how many minutes it should take you to walk from the lots to your destination. Unfortunately, the app does not specify parking rates.

waze gps navigation app Google

Ride the rails with Apple Maps

Apple Maps is my least favorite navigation app, because the quality and usefulness of its directions still trail Waze and Google Maps.

But Apple is working to continually improve its navigation app, and the inclusion of Amtrak train routes is a good example of this. Apple Maps initially added U.S. Northeast Amtrak routes in the fall of 2015. As of October 2016, Apple Maps included all Amtrak routes in the United States, as well as some in Canada. For those who prefer trains — and especially if they live along the Boston-Washington corridor — the inclusion of Amtrak routes is a helpful addition to Apple Maps.

Let Madea point you in the right direction

Most turn-by-turn directions come from soulless voices. However, Waze has been known to add distinguished, and sometimes spicy, “limited edition” voices, including ones from Morgan Freeman, Darth Vader, Mr. T and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Waze recently added the voice of Tyler Perry, as his popular movie character Madea. The take-no-prisoners elderly woman, which Tyler plays in the current film “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” adds a touch of sass to your drive. After I typed a destination, for example, Madea said, “It’s been so lovely ridin’ with you, have a pleasant drive now.”