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Why can't Android users drop a pin in Google Maps?

On Android phones, the Google Maps app does not let you drop a pin to mark a location. Here are some solutions.
On Android phones, the Google Maps app does not let you drop a pin to mark a location. Here are some solutions.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Amy Gahran wonders why iPhone Google Maps has feature Android doesn't
  • Starred places can be used to save locations you'll only visit once
  • Google's My Maps saves places on your computer, but can't edit on mobile
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Editor's note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for CNN.com. She is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and media consultant whose blog, Contentious.com, explores how people communicate in the online age.

(CNN) -- If you own a smartphone, chances are you've used a mapping application on it -- probably for Google Maps.

Most of these maps use "pin" icons to denote a saved location. On the go, it's very handy to be able to drop a pin to mark a location you'll need later.

When I owned an iPhone, I did this all the time in the Google Maps for iPhone app. This video shows how easy it is to drop a pin in iPhone Google Maps. It's also easy to drag a dropped pin, and to edit its information.

Unfortunately, on Android phones, the official Google Maps app simply does not let you drop a pin.

This is especially odd since Android is a product of, well, Google.

Don't get me wrong: I love my Android phone and wouldn't switch back to iPhone now. But no smartphone is perfect.

For my fellow Android users, here are a few workarounds I've found:

Starred places

This feature is built into the Android Google Maps app. It's what I generally use to save places I'll probably only need to visit once, like when I'm meeting a friend for lunch.

This process is not nearly as intuitive as dropping a map pin on the iPhone, but it does work, and I can do it all from within the Google Maps app.

First, search for a location, or click and hold a location on the Google Maps screen. (Remember: To accurately record your current location, be sure to turn on your phone's GPS first.) After the map shows the address or location, click on the bubble above the pin to open an info page about that place.

Then, in the upper-right corner, click the star icon, which will change from gray to yellow. This adds that address to your phone's list of starred places.

Unfortunately, you cannot edit the name or info for this item. So you might have to settle for an address-only listing like "617 43rd St.", rather than "Joe's office." You also cannot change the order of items in the list.

When you're ready to go to a starred location, launch the Google Maps app, click the Android menu button, and then select "starred places." You'll see a list of all the places you've starred.

Click an item on the list to bring up the info page for that location, then click the map icon to see it displayed as a pin on the map.

Yeah, I know: pretty cumbersome. But it works.

When you no longer need a starred place, you'll want to delete it to keep your list from getting cluttered. Sadly, Google Maps for Android offers no obvious "delete" option. Instead you must select the item from your starred places list, bring up the info page, and then click the yellow star. When the star turns gray, the location will no longer appear on your list.

My Maps

Google Maps' My Maps feature allows you to create custom maps associated with your Google account. The Android app for Google maps actually does a very good job of allowing you to view your custom maps on your phone. (In this earlier post I explain how that works.)

But to my frustration, you cannot edit a custom "My Maps" map from within the Android Google Maps app.

Therefore I tend to use My Maps to record (ahead of time, on my computer) places where I'll need to go in the near future. Saving My Maps locations is very easy on a computer. My Maps also lets you edit info for saved locations, and change the order in which they're listed.

I maintain a custom, private Google Map titled "Running Around" that I use to save places where I'll need to go, in the order I'll be visiting them. For instance, right now this map lists the locations for some events I'm attending over the next few weeks.

When I save a new location, I edit that item to display the name and date of the event. Then I drag that item so it appears in date order.

This allows me to easily find needed locations on the go, without having to search for them. When I no longer need a location, the next time I'm on my computer I log into My Maps and delete that item from the custom map.

I really wish I could edit Google My Maps from the Android Google Maps app. Again, these products are all from Google -- why can't they pull that functionality together?

Somebody at Google did try, once. I found a 2008 Google Mobile blog post by Brian Cornell, a staff software engineer who in his "20% time" created an Android app called My Maps Editor.

According to Cornell, this app allowed Android users to create, edit, share and view personalized maps on a phone synchronized with the My Maps tab on Google Maps.

"Create a map on your desktop computer using Google Maps and then take it with you on the go and update it on location," his post said. "My Maps Editor by Google supports full editing functionality for markers, lines, and shapes on maps, plus the ability to mark your location using GPS or attach a photo directly from your phone."

Sounds really cool. Unfortunately, I can't find this app in the Android Market now, so I suppose Google withdrew it. What a shame.

iPhone users apparently cannot load My Maps at all in the Google Maps app for iPhone. There is a separate third-party mobile Web app, MyMaps Mobile, which runs within the mobile Safari browser.

The catch is that to use this service you must enter your Google account login info -- and some people might not wish to do this for security reasons.

These are just a couple of partial answers (please comment below if you know of others) to an annoying oversight in Google's Android strategy. In the big picture, this lack represents a competitive disadvantage for Android/Google, considering that dropping a pin on a Google Map is dead easy on an iPhone.

It bothers me less that Android apps for other popular mapping services (such as Mapquest and Bing) don't allow you to drop a pin. But the fact that iPhone users can easily drop a pin on a Google Map, while Android users cannot, is ridiculous.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Amy Gahran.

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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