I am an avid hiker and I love to look at the satellite views of the places I’ve been hiking on Google Maps. I am always frustrated by how long it takes Google Maps to load when I zoom in/out, pan around, or switch from street view to aerial to traffic maps. Imagine my surprise when I found out how much easier this is with Bing!
Using Bing Maps, there is no loading time between views – it is so smooth and seamless. Bing maps have many of the same features as Google: views include bird’s eye, aerial, and road maps; you can get driving, walking, or transit system directions; you can view all types of businesses; and finally, you can even get map apps to find the cheapest gas or calculate cab fare. You can even turn on the “Automatic” view, which will toggle between viewing modes to best suit the map you’re viewing.
It all seems really great. I found that the search for businesses – restaurants, shopping, and local services, was easier to use than Google and was more in line with the decision engine type of search. I used the example of looking for a coffee house in my local area. Using Bing maps, you can refine your search by restaurants; see the “nearby” menu in the screenshot below:
Under restaurants, you have the option of searching for all types of foods, from Caribbean to Halal to Vegetarian, even coffee shops. The results will display numbered pushpins on the map.
Doing the same search in Google gives this result:
I think it is a bit disappointing. There is now way to look for the restaurants and businesses as in Bing, not even when you click on “Explore this area.” I have to type in “coffee shop” to get the results I need. I think the results were worse too: Google retrieved only results with coffee in the name or category, whereas Bing gave me results for all kinds of coffee-serving places, from Starbucks to Boba Tea House to the local 24-hour donut shop. I do like how you can see local pictures of attractions, such as the Mission Inn. But the pretty pictures don’t make up for the slowness of loading the maps or the narrow retrieval.
I was very excited just by the speed with which Bing maps loaded, but there is a downside to it. They are out of date in some areas. Of course the first thing I tested out searching with Bing maps is my house. On Bing, you can still see the old landscaping in our yard, or a bunch of dirt, depending on the zoom. On Google, at least it is as recent as the dead grass period before we bought the house, and the street view has our new water-wise landscaping. I also checked how the ever-changing UCR campus looks on each, and they are both very up-to-date. Bing is known for having great results when it comes to local business, travel, and health information, so it would seem that their Bing Maps effort has been concentrated in those areas too.
Further, Bing Maps doesn’t have extensive street views like Google does, nor do they have Google Earth. These features are so extremely useful and fun that it would be hard to give up Google Maps entirely. So, this exercise demonstrates that again, it is important to have choices and different options, and to choose the technology, or search engine, that best suits your needs. For me, when I’m browsing around the bird’s eye view of my hiking trails, I would prefer Bing. When it comes to getting directions to that little hole-in-the-wall place, I’ll use Google street view.