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Google Maps is great for getting directions, but if you’re off-road and can’t find your way home, you’ll need to improvise. Thankfully, it’s possible to use Google Maps to find your direction of travel if you get lost. Here’s how.

This will only work if your Android or iPhone device has a magnetometer that can find your direction of travel using the Earth’s magnetic field. Most (if not all) modern Android devices have a magnetometer installed, as do all recent iPhones.

Finding Your Direction Using Google Maps

You can easily find your direction of travel using the Google Maps map view. These instructions will work whether you own an iPhone or Android device, but you might wish to calibrate your compass first to ensure your direction is as accurate as possible.

RELATED: How to Calibrate the Compass on Android to Improve Device Location Accuracy

You’ll also need to ensure that location services are enabled on your phone to allow for accuracy in pinpointing your location and direction.

In the Google Maps app, you should see a small compass symbol visible in the top-right corner, below the button for changing the map terrain and style. If the compass isn’t currently visible, use two of your fingers to move the map view around to display it.

The compass icon showing north and south in the Google Maps mobile app

The red symbol in the compass icon is pointing north, while the grey symbol is pointing south. Your blue beam icon will show your current direction of travel.

The red symbol is the compass icon is pointing north.

In the example above, the current direction of travel is approximately east, as north is pointing towards the right-hand side. Using the compass icon as a guide, you can then move in the right direction, whether it’s north, south, east, or west.

Finding North Using Google Maps

Rather than manually move your map to face a certain direction, you can tap the compass icon to automatically point the map view towards north and south at your current location.

This means that, as long as your blue icon has a beam that points upwards, you’re heading north. If it’s pointing downwards, you’re heading south, etc. To do this, tap the compass icon in the top-right corner of the Google Maps map view.

Your map position will move, with the icon updating to show that you’re pointing north.

Google Maps on mobile, with the map view pointing towards north, and the blue beam icon showing the direction of travel pointing east

After a few seconds, the compass icon will disappear from the map view. It will only reappear if you move the map manually, showing the correct north and south position to help you navigate.

With the map view calibrated towards north, you can then change direction using your blue beam icon to help you. As long as the beam is pointing upwards, you’re heading north.

For instance, if your blue beam icon is pointing towards the right-hand side, then you’re heading east. If you need to change the map view manually, the compass will reappear, allowing you to keep track of your direction of travel.

Ben Stockton Ben Stockton
Ben Stockton is a freelance tech writer from the United Kingdom. In a past life, he was a UK college lecturer, training teens and adults. Since leaving the classroom, he's been a tech writer, writing how-to articles and tutorials for MakeUseOf, MakeTechEasier, and Cloudwards.net. He has a degree in History and a postgraduate qualification in Computing.
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