Bing Maps was the second one off the blocks after Google Maps. Though Bing Maps has had to play catch-up since the starter gun went off, it hasn’t lagged behind by far. In fact, if you check out the map-by-map comparison with Google Maps on Wikipedia, it almost seems neck and neck – especially when it comes to what I consider to be the two most important features of any mapping application (location coverage and age of satellite imagery).
I would say, give and take a few features here and there, between both the virtual maps you shouldn’t get lost. Our editor, Abhijeet could do with both as he still swears by Google Maps (and still gets lost).
Bing Maps has a few amazing features of its own. Let’s look at few of the main ones.
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Using a mapping application starts with it giving you directions. You can also enter multiple directions (an uncle’s house that falls on the way) and see it on the map. Directions are displayed with a high contrast blue line on the map and turn by turn information on the left panel. You can modify the direction on the map by dragging a map marker.
Along with the general road route, Bing Maps also gives you driving, transit, and walking routes for a few select cities in the United States (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark Metro Area, New York Metro Area, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Washington DC).
Get the Best Route
Transit is all about reaching Point B from Point A in the fastest time possible. That could mean avoiding busy routes or bottlenecks like toll points. Microsoft’s ‘ClearFlow’ technology takes real-time traffic data for 72 cities in the United States, tries to guess the traffic patterns and give you the best clear way across to your destination. Traffic flow is indicated using a Slow to Fast color gradation. Trouble spots are marked and mentioned in detail.
A really cool feature is that you can load a local traffic camera and get a visual feed if available. Pity, they don’t have this one for India.
Multiple Ways to View Street Maps
If you don’t need directions (or if you do), then you can have fun by checking out the multiple view options on Bing Maps. Aerial View isn’t as interesting as the Bird’s Eye View which gives you a feeling of being at a low altitude over an area.
Bing Maps also displays many prominent places in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and France using a 3D plug-in. You can pan, zoom, and tilt your way across the terrain.
Find People or Businesses
Bing Maps can also be used like a directory search if you are searching for someone by their local address or business. Oh yes, like the Hollywood sign in an earlier screenshot, you can type in a landmark too.
You can search in many categories:
Send Directions to Mobile Device or Email
You can easily send the estimated directions to someone via email, or to their mobile and GPS devices.
The Best of Map Apps
As always, what would you do without a few apps to enhance your map experience? Bing Maps has a whole line-up – official ones, and third-party too. Here are a few I would recommend – Photosynth, Gas prices, Local Lens, Sings and Billboards…among the others.
Bing Maps is heavily localized for the United States. That’s not surprising of course, but that’s pretty much true for Google Maps also.
If you lose your way, which of the two will you use for your part of the world? Tell us.