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Getting Around: Google Maps VS Mapbox (Comparison)

Getting Around: Google Maps VS Mapbox (Comparison)

Digital maps represent one of the most useful applications of technology in making our lives easier. You can get around more comfortably than ever before and even make your maps for routes you use frequently.

Google Maps has been the de facto leader in digital maps for the longest time. Competitors have come in but failed to crack the market because the Google ecosystem permeates almost all areas of our lives. Therefore, for a product such as Mapbox to sustain competition with Google Maps as it has is impressive.

The two map providers are both decent, but choosing the right one will involve more than just a casual glance at what they offer. For you to make the right choice, you should go a little deeper. When you learn about how each platform works and the features thereof, then you can make an informed choice between Google Maps vs Mapbox.

Getting Around: Google Maps VS Mapbox (Comparison)
Map showing road network @yermolamers

Google Maps

You have most likely used Google Maps. It is an excellent product that makes navigation comfortable. For this to be possible, it comes packed with several features.

1. View modes

One of the outstanding features on Google Maps is the several view modes they offer you. You have the primary map mode. Map mode represents the ground, as you would expect to see on a normal map. You can zoom in for more detail or zoom out for the bigger picture. The maps are accurate and pack extra information for you, such as shop names and even informal names of places.

The satellite mode is fancier than the map mode as you get a view like that of a satellite. It is an actual representation of the ground. You can see actual buildings and roads, so it is better if you find less representative maps hard to read. You can also zoom in and out.

Terrain mode is an option if you want information on elevation and other technical details. You’ll see the map with different shades of grey, and these represent the elevation of places above sea level.

2. Traffic and transit

You’ll find these two features quite useful. They provide you with information on traffic levels and bust stops. When you click on the transit feature, Google Maps highlights bus stops, and you can click on them for more details. For example, you can click on a bus stop to get directions.

The traffic indicator provides you with real-time information on the state of traffic on different roads. You can activate this feature in situations where you need to get somewhere as fast as possible.

You should also know that you can turn off all these modes at will.

3. Street view

The street view gives you a picture of a place on the map. When you click on any street, for instance, the street view will provide you with an actual image of that street. It will also indicate to you the date on which the photo was taken.

The street view we tried gave us a real picture of a street from a year previously. We found this a bit underwhelming; it would have been much better if the photo was from this year rather than last year.

4. Your places

You can make Goole Maps personal through several features found in Your Places tab. The first option you have is indicating your addresses, both home, and work. Google will save these for you for reference at any time.

You can also save the places you have visited or want to visit. These places will appear on your menu, so you don’t have to remember the names of places or directions. Besides, you can also star sites. When you star places, they also appear on your menu and provide a quick reference point.

The saved places option is for places that you may not have visited. You may, however, want to keep the location of these places. These may be places you want to go to or like a lot for whatever reason.

The last option you have is making maps. You can create maps and save them in your places. For example, if you have a road you use frequently, you can make a map of the road and use it instead of navigating on your own.

5. Sharing

Google Maps enables you to share your live location and even maps with other users. Of course, this works best if all the users are on the Google platform. You can also print your maps for offline use.

6. Help

The help you get in Google Maps is mostly in the form of informative articles. You can search for advice on topics such as measuring the distance between points. There’s also a forum where you can see discussions on all kinds of issues.

7. Cost

Google Maps is free, but you must have a Google account to access it.

Getting Around: Google Maps VS Mapbox (Comparison)
A held phone displaying maps @bahrainthisweek


As a rival to Google Maps, Mapbox has had steady growth and now provides maps to various high profile clients. It also has several features that make it stand out.

1. Maps

Maps are the first product you get from Mapbox. These maps are multi-platform, you can view them in Android, iOS, and on the web. They are also accurate, and you can be sure that the information you get isn’t misleading.

2. Navigation

Another exceptional feature you get from Mapbox is navigation. You get routing based on real-time traffic data.

3. Traffic-aware Routing

Based on data from millions of drivers, the routing instructions you receive take into account traffic density and other factors. With this information, Mapbox can provide you with the fastest routes to your destinations.

4. Flexible Guidance

The routing advice you receive changes with changing situations. With every turn, guidance is refactored and updated to give you current information. In case of changes in traffic, therefore, Mapbox can give you alternative routes quickly.

5. Lane Guidance

Mapbox also gives you lane instructions based on exits and your destination.

6. Incidents

You’ll always be aware of any events on the road, such as accidents or traffic pile up. Other incidents, such as closed roads, also make up these updates.

7. Searching

You can search using place coordinates. There’s a robust API that facilitates Mapbox’s searching. If you go to the official website, they have data pointing to over 2 billion search requests every week. You can store results from search data and access it later.

Mapbox’s searching also allows you to turn coordinates into names for easier searching. You can also run batch searches; the API is powerful enough to handle multiple searches at the same time.

The API is a tool that developers will find useful. It has libraries for Android, Python, javascript, and other platforms. You can, therefore, extend the API to suit your individual needs in a variety of ways.

Lastly, Mapbox integrates with Foursquare’s global point of interest data. Foursquare’s POI data increases the accuracy of your searches and also covers more extensive areas meaning you are more likely to find your searches.

8. Custom Maps

Mapbox, just like Google Maps, allows you to create custom maps. You can do this through a platform called Mapbox Studio.

The studio caters to developers and has ready-made templates for various mapping needs.

9. Fonts and Icons

You can use custom fonts. Mapbox studio allows you to upload fonts and icons and use them on your maps. The other option is for you to use professional fonts from Monotype.

10. Import Data

You can import data into your maps from outside. You can also create your data layer on the map instead of using already existing layers.

11. Integration

Your maps are ready for any platform in an instant. To ensure this happens, Mapbox uses OpenGL renderers for Android, iOS, and the Web. The rendering is fast, meaning your maps will be ready in a short time.

12. Dataset Editor

The dataset editor helps you to create or edit spatial data. You can then convert this data into other types or export it. At the same time, you can add additional features to the data. You can, lastly, visualize the data and even apply filters on it.

13. Offline Maps

Mapbox can offer you offline maps. Over 500 million users worldwide generate these maps, and they are updated weekly monthly, and every three months. You can also integrate offline mapping capabilities into business intelligence tools. Essentially, Atlas is all of the power and features of Mapbox but offline and running on your infrastructure.

The maps you get to use are vector base maps, and you can style these in whatever way you want while still offline.

14. Mapbox Data

Mapbox gives you an impressive collection of data for all your needs. You can get information on traffic density and speed limits on American and European roads. You will soon have access to 2D and 3D outlines of buildings on Mapbox.

15. Solutions Provider

Mapbox provides mapping solutions to numerous clients. These clients are in sectors as diverse as transportation, business intelligence, governments, and logistics. Some of the use cases companies in these sectors employ Mapbox for include: asset tracking, navigation, on-demand logistics, and data visualization.

16. Mapbox Pricing

Mapbox’s pricing is quite complicated as they offer so many solutions. You only pay for what you use, but you could use their price calculator to find the specific cost of a service. However, there are several standardized costs which we will discuss below,

17. Maps for Mobile

You can get map SDK’S for whatever number of mobile users you have. For up to 25000 users every month, you don’t pay anything. Higher numbers of users will cost you more. For the full cost breakdown, you can visit the official website. However, if the number of users exceeds 1.25 million every month, you have to contact the sales team for a quotation.

18. Web Loads

For web users up to 50000 every month, you don’t incur any costs. Higher numbers of users up to 1 million will cost you. For a number higher than 1 million you also have to contact the sales team.

There are other products on which Mapbox has not set prices. These products include Maps for Unity App, search sessions, and navigation trips.

Getting Around: Google Maps VS Mapbox (Comparison)
Screenshot of Mapbox @persp_urb

Comparison: Google Maps vs Mapbox

Google Maps is a dependable map provider. It has accurate maps and can provide you with maps for a variety of situations. Also, because it is free, most individual users prefer it. In terms of features, however, it cannot compete with Mapbox.

Mapbox offers you way more features vs Google Maps. The API allows for the extension of the platform in unique ways, and their searching feature is advanced.

One area where Mapbox is better vs Google Maps is offline maps. The Atlas platform allows you to use and modify your maps even when you aren’t on the Mapbox platform.

Getting Around: Google Maps VS Mapbox (Comparison)
Screenshot of Google Maps @barbieangell

The verdict: Google Maps vs Mapbox

Mapbox wins this comparison, but not by much. Because you pay to use it, many users will not consider it. However, the range of features it offers more than justifies this pricing. Google Maps is a decent option. Most users who do not have complex needs will find it good enough. Therefore, it is up to you. If you have sophisticated user needs, you’ll go with Mapbox; otherwise, Google Maps is good enough.

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