Google Maps for Android: 4 hidden features

With all the talk over Google Maps and iOS right now, I thought it'd be a good time to take a look at Google Maps for Android and a handful of hidden features you might not know exist.

Google Maps Labs

As it does with many products, Google maintains an evolving Labs section of experimental features in its Google Maps mobile app. You can find the section by going into the Maps app and then tapping the on-screen menu button (or the physical menu button, if you're on a device with pre-4.x hardware design), selecting "Settings," and then selecting "Labs."

The Google Maps Labs features vary based on what Google's working on at the moment, but right now you'll find four optional add-ons that you can activate:

Google Maps Lab #1: "Measure"

Google Maps Measure

The "Measure" option in Google Maps Labs is probably my favorite of the bunch. Once you check it, you'll get an extra on-screen button that looks like a ruler anytime you're viewing a map. You can tap the ruler and then tap any two points on the map, and Google Maps will tell you the exact distance as well as elevation changes between the spots.

Google Maps Lab #2: "Bigger Text"

The "Bigger Text" setting in Google Maps Labs is pretty self-explanatory: When checked, it makes the text in all of your Maps labels larger. Not the most exciting thing, by any means, but it could definitely be useful for a lot of people.

Google Maps Lab #3: "Directions Elevation"

The "Directions Elevation" setting gives Google Maps' walking and biking directions a little extra oomph: It adds an "elevation profile" to those directions so you can see the total ascent and peak of your journey.

Google Maps Lab #4: "Intersection Explorer"

The last Google Maps Labs option is an experimental accessibility setting that lets you explore maps by using a combination of haptic and spoken feedback.

Android Power Twitter

So there you have it: the Google Maps Labs for Android. Nothing "revolutionary," as they say, but some interesting additions to an already excellent product that, you know -- just works.

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