Don’t laugh! Microsoft has Google beat on maps, but you would never know it

bing maps google vs

Want to hear a joke?

Bing. 

This zinger sums up the current state of the search engine wars – if you can even call them that anymore – with Google crushing the competition, and Bing relegated to the roll of punch line. Problem is, the prevailing “Bing sucks” assumption is not entirely fair – and, more importantly, it might be keeping you away from a surprisingly superior product: Bing Maps.

That’s not a joke – Bing Maps is awesome. In fact, over the past few months, I have all but entirely switched from using Google Maps to Bing Maps on the Web. And, dare I say, you should too. Here’s why.

Bing Maps 2, Google 0

My migration from Google Maps devotee to Bing Maps evangelist began after the former service repeatedly pinpointed the wrong location of restaurants and bars in my area. The addresses were always just slightly off. And, in once instance, the directions Google provided would have led me 30 minutes out of the way, because Google Maps didn’t recognize the existence of a particular bridge.

Bing Maps’ trump card over Google Maps is its “bird’s eye” satellite imagery feature.

Frustrated with Google, I began comparing Google and Bing’s maps to each other, just to make sure I had the best possible route. (Yes, I’m a dork like that.) Much to my surprise, I quickly realized that Bing always put me on the right path from the start. Score one for Bing.

Accurate address location and directions are not the only area where Bing has the upper hand, however. Bing Maps’ trump card over Google Maps is its “bird’s eye” satellite imagery feature. Compared to Google, Bing offers higher resolution areal images and lets users get a satisfying 360-degree look at a place. In other words, when you shift viewing angles with Bing, the service displays an entirely different, highly detailed photo – not true with Google Maps.

Google offers 360 views as well, but the “satellite” view option only delivers a flat image that doesn’t change when you shift the viewing angle; it’s like spinning a photograph around on a table. Google Earth view, meanwhile, does allow you to view locations from multiple angles, and adds in the element of 3D buildings. Unfortunately, 3D view looks as pixelated as a video game from 2005, and it is only available for urban locations. Bing’s “bird’s eye,” on the other hand, is available for all locations across the U.S. and Western Europe thanks to the areal images collected by Microsoft’s ambitious Global Ortho project.

Where Bing Maps goes bust

Of course, Microsoft wouldn’t be Microsoft without screwing up an overall solid product in some ridiculous way. In the case of Bing Maps, the absurd failure comes in the form of a completely inadequate mobile experience – the version most useful to people who need maps.

windows phone bing mapsAt the moment, Bing Maps is not a standalone app for iOS and Android devices – i.e. the smartphones and tablets most people use. (It is, however, available for Windows Phone 8 users.) Instead, it’s part of the larger Bing app. While the Android version is a bit more robust, the experience on Apple iOS is filled with glitches, there’s no turn-by-turn directions feature, and it often fails to even find the places I’m looking for.

Google, meanwhile, offers the absolute best mobile maps experience available. It’s intuitive, easy, and filled with helpful features. Its turn-by-turn directions work fantastically. And it recalculates with ease when you miss a turn. Bing Maps does exactly none of these things.

The reason for Microsoft’s neglect of Bing Maps on mobile may be Nokia, whose Here app has become the primary mapping tool for Windows Phone devices. But I’ve tried to use Here, and despite a few nice features, Google Maps still blows it out of the water.

Nowhere to go but up

The disparity between Google Maps and Bing Maps on mobile means it would be insane for anyone to make Bing their exclusive mapping option – despite the fact that, on the Web at least, Bing Maps is the clear winner (especially if you live in the U.S. or Western Europe). So listen up, Microsoft: If you want to get more people using Bing – and we know you desperately do – why not take what is arguably its greatest feature and make it available to everyone everywhere? Or would that just make too much sense?

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Home Theater

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the epic sound revolution you didn’t know you needed

After Sony’s utterly bizarre press conference, I almost missed what was perhaps the most impactful sonic experience at the show. Luckily, I went back to Sony’s booth on the last day of the show, only to have my mind blown.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Gaming

PS4 vs. Switch: After weighing the pros and cons, which one comes out on top?

Nintendo Switch versus PlayStation 4: Which one has better overall value? We break down the pros and cons of each platform to tell you which of these consoles is truly worth the money.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Mobile

AT&T jumps the gun with deliberately misleading 5GE launch

As excitement about 5G networks continues to build, AT&T jumps the gun with a ridiculous and deliberate attempt to deceive the public with 5G Evolution – a speed bump that’s based on improvements to 4G tech.
Features

Netflix’s latest price increase heralds the end of streaming’s golden age

Netflix’s recent price rise is just the latest in a string of signs that streaming’s golden age is nearly over. As more services enter the fray, content will be further partitioned, signaling the end of streaming’s good old days.
Features

Netflix’s rate hike is a good thing. Wait, wait, hear us out

Upset at Netflix for raising its rates? We don't blame you. Nobody likes to pay more for anything -- even if they love that thing. But you really should be thanking the streaming entertainment giant. The hike in prices is a necessary and…
Mobile

Bezel-less phones are terrible for typing on, and it’s only going to get worse

Bezel-less smartphone screens look great, and foldable smartphones are an exciting part of the mobile future; but we don't like where the typing experience is heading because of these two trends.
Gaming

Blizzard's dismal updates to 'Diablo 3' make 'Path of Exile' the better option

'Diablo 3' season 16, the 'Season of Grandeur,' is live. It attempts to shake up the stale meta-game with a minor tweak, but it falls far short of what fans of the franchise want. Better games like 'Path of Exile' are eating Blizzard's…
Wearables

A wearable may save your life, thanks to A.I. and big data. Here’s how

Wearables are morphing from devices that send you smartphone notifications and track your fitness into gadgets that can monitor your health -- and maybe even save your life.
Gaming

'Wargroove' is a delightful tactics game that lets you recruit cute armored pups

Wargroove is a fantastical Advance Wars successor with beautiful pixelated visuals and rewarding grid-based combat. In addition to a meaty campaign, Wargroove has an intuitive map editor that lets you create robust campaigns of your own.
Smart Home

Will everything from lamps to fridges be spying on me? Yes, and I’m creeped out

With the debut of Panasonic’s HomeHawk lamp with built-in video camera, should we be concerned that everything -- from couches to dishwashers -- could soon be spying on us? Here’s why the answer to that question is yes.
Computing

Debunking Dark Mode: Here’s why it won’t improve your laptop’s battery life

Dark Mode is known to improve battery life for certain devices, like a smartphone with an OLED screen. Does that apply to laptops, as well? To find out we tested two laptops, one running Windows and one running MacOS.