What is the Google Places API?
The Google Places API offers developers a simple yet powerful tool to retrieve information about various locations worldwide. The Google Places API accepts HTTP requests and returns either JSON or XML.
Examples of locations might include:
- Establishments, like businesses or government offices
- Geographic areas, defined by coordinates
- Points of interest, like buildings, parks, or memorials
The API can return data based on various searches. For instance, users can send search queries to retrieve specific locations based upon a search string or the current location. The API can also return details, reviews, and photos about places. In addition, the Google Places API can autocomplete queries posed in text strings.
Using the Google Places API requires an API key and a billing account. Google offers a generous bill credit each month of $200. Google says that works out to 28,500 free transactions. After customers exhaust the credit, the company will bill for transactions. Paid service tiers also include better support. The bill credit and community support make the data accessible for free to smaller users or developers. Google offers more support for paid users, but they may also give them budget-straining bills.
Developers often use the Google Maps API and Google Places API together, so it’s only natural to first compare these two Google mapping APIs.
Google Places API Vs Google Maps API
Since places appear on maps, many people naturally confuse these two Google API services. Think of Google Places as a layer over the maps to understand the difference. For instance, Google Maps offers driving directions, but Google Places serves up reviews and other details about specific places on the map.
Thus, Google Maps primarily serves maps and directions. In contrast, Google Places provides more specific information about places on the map and responds to queries. Developers might use both of these APIs but can’t replace one with the other.
16 Google Places Alternatives
Every development project comes with its requirements and budget. Thus, Google Maps might not provide the ideal solution for every application.
For instance, Google requires a billing account to use its API. The company offers a $200 credit each month, but once it’s gone, the company bills on a pay-as-you-go model. For instance:
- Google allows unlimited dynamic maps without charging.
- However, the company charges $7 for 1,000 transactions for the static street view maps and $14 for 1,000 transactions for dynamic street view maps.
Scaling up may rapidly exceed planned budgets for popular apps or large enterprises needing logistics. Many alternatives charge less, and some offer their services without any charges. In other cases, specialized data providers might provide information tailored to unique requirements. Also, some providers may have simpler or more flexible terms of services and licensing conditions, which might appeal to many organizations.
To help our readers decide if they should use this solution or find an alternative to Google Places API, we’ve hand-selected 16 top choices and ranked them by the number of followers they’ve earned on Stackshare as a measure of popularity.
1. Google Maps
Google Maps offers the most popular solution for creating custom maps and other map-data visualizations. Like Google Places, the Google Maps API operates under a freemium model, with $200 in monthly bill credits and pay-per-query after that. Also, Google provides high-quality, reliable data, with many local guides contributing to the company’s information.
Google’s platform and billing model make Google Maps easy to scale, though it can get expensive. For instance, small businesses will probably not exceed their free credits, but larger companies can quickly pay for more resources if they need them.
Thanks to a large user community, the API offers plenty of plugins to extend its functionality, and many users also contribute to the Leaflet ecosystem. Data comes from OpenStreetMap.org, and some organizations that rely upon Leaflet include Data.gov, Pinterest, and NPR.
Based on Leaflet’s popularity, many developers consider this solution the best Google Places API alternative. For instance, more Stackshare companies and developers list Leaflet than Google Places in their stacks.
Because of its open-source nature, Leaflet doesn’t force users to stick to the same TOS that Google does. Also, some developers use both Leaflet and Google, though that action sacrifices some of the speed and efficiency of Leaflet in the application or website.
Also considered by many to stand out as the best Google Places API alternative, Mapbox offers a popular open-source mapping tool. For example, find Mapbox used on popular sites like Pinterest, Foursquare, and GitHub.
Mapbox can produce static maps, dynamic maps, and it offers a tiling service for data visualization. Cross-platform SDKs let developers create customized maps fast on various platforms. The Mapbox Studio provides a visual interface that allows designers to create their own maps, even using custom data.
Mapbox operates with a freemium model, with various usage levels for different services offered for free. It may require a license for redistributing maps.
The virtues of OpenStreetMap include the fact that it’s simple, free, and open-source. A global community provides and maintains information about streets, businesses, transportation, and points of interest. OpenStreetMap also provides the data that many other mapping APIs use.
Developers can use OpenStreetMap freely without cost or licenses, though the organization has terms and asks developers to credit it. Examples of notable users include Apple, FourSquare, and Flickr. Various OpenStreetMap frameworks offer tools for displaying static or dynamic maps, geocoding, navigation, etc.
Developers can use this API to display maps, markers, and vector data from sources that developers choose. Prominent users include Insoft, Flight Aware, OpenSeaMap, HostelJobs.net, and OpenHistoryMap.
ArcGIS offers a freemium service, with users paying after exceeding a specified number of uses. For instance, developers can use up to two million tile layers for free, and after that, they pay 15 cents per 1,000 additional layers. Examples of ArcGIS’ notable users include POLCO, Scarabee Aviation, and Jabar Digital Services.
Bing Maps API comes from a major search engine that’s smaller than Google but still considered a major competitor. Since Windows owns Bing, the API particularly supports Windows devices and applications. Bing recently released phone apps for iOS and Android, and the company also has both an Android and an iOS SDK.
In fact, PC Magazine praised the utility and accuracy of Bing Maps over Google Maps for several features. Features of Bing Maps include routing, logistics, spatial data, and logistics services. At the same time, Google Maps API offers better coverage for businesses or points of interest.
Bing charges for some services, but they offer relatively generous allowances. For instance, the Bing Maps API provides a license for developers with 125,000 billable transactions for free. They also provide similar licenses for websites or apps. Prominent examples of organizations that use Bing Maps include NHS Digital and Scopeland Technologies.
CARTO’s benefits include responsive customer service, a well-designed UI, and a helpful platform. It relies on data stored and managed within a CARTO cloud account to produce maps, plus it also allows custom SQL and CSS to analyze, process, and create visualizations.
CARTO isn’t limited to geographical maps or business insights. For instance, Science Direct discussed the integration of the system to produce a navigational map of a human heart to help doctors and researchers. Examples of organizations using CARTO include Erublik Labs, Stanplus, and 1Doc.
Like many other mapping APIs, OSRM relies on OpenStreetMap data. The API’s C++ routing engine provides the fastest navigation between points. OSRM offers a particular function, but it processes requests very quickly. For instance, the developers say ORSM can manage continental-sized routes in milliseconds. Plus, OSRM works for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
OSRM offers its product for free with a BDSM license. A couple of organizations that rely on OSRM include F Labs and Pace.
10. HERE Routing
Developers can use HERE to generate the fastest routes, so it’s often used for optimizing fleet navigation. The cloud-based platform offers maps, fleet telematics, geocoding, searches, and routing. The company also provides users with a choice of SDKs for iOS and Android. Extra features of the premium addition include such information as tolls, speed limits, and more.
This product uses a freemium model, which offers a free monthly allowance and pay-as-you-go pricing after exhausting the free allowance. Companies like Bing Maps, Intel, Garmin, and Oracle rely upon HERE tools for their own applications.
LocationIQ provides an API for geocoding. This feature allows developers to convert coordinates to street addresses or vice versa. LocationIQ relies upon data from Open Addresses, OpenStreetMap, and other sources. LocationIQ integrates with OpenStreetMap. This scalable solution offers plans for up to 10 billion daily queries.
LocationIQ offers flexible billing tiers and simple scaling. The free trial tier handles up to 5,000 daily requests and no more than two requests per second. The priciest paid tier handles up to a million daily requests with 40 requests per second.
Organizations can contact LocationIQ to work out a deal if they believe they will exceed the highest tier. Use cases include fleet management, business intelligence, and customer navigation.
As the name of this API suggests, MapTiler focuses on rendering map tiles. It can produce seamless maps and aerial photos rapidly and efficiently. For example, it can use up to 100 percent of the capacity of multiple CPUs.
Examples of maps include satellite images, outdoor maps, and basic street maps. Users can also customize maps with various colors, fonts, and languages. MapTiler also provides data hosting and editing capabilities. Examples of users include Savvy Navvy, BraodStreet, and eAgronom.
The company promotes itself as a more affordable alternative to Google Places or Maps API. They offer limited free map views and paid tiers based on usage, which work out cheaper than Google for Maps or Places. Map Tiler also provides more customization options and the option to host data. Also, Map Tiler never shows ads to map users, as Google does.
13. MapKit JS
MapKit doesn’t serve as a complete alternative to Google Places API because it offers more limited data, though many developers say it’s easier to use. MapKit developers get 250,000 views and 25,000 calls with an Apple App Developer Program membership. Otherwise, Apple asks developers to contact them if they might exceed these limits.
Geocodio offers a straightforward, simple tool for data matching, geocoding, and reverse geocoding. Some examples of less-typical features include the ability to send spreadsheets of geocodes, the ability to add such data as time zones or legislative districts to geocodes, and the correction of minor typos.
Geocodio offers somewhat flexible and generous terms of service, which may appeal to some developers who have concerns about violating Google’s TOS. The company offers 2,500 free lookups daily with no billing account or credit card required. After the free allowance, Geocodio charges 15 cents per 1,000 lookups.
The company also has an unlimited package that costs $1,000 a month and offers a five-percent discount, an unlimited number of team members, and priority support. Examples of organizations that already rely on Geocodio include Oracle, Amazon, and AAA.
Radar calls itself the leading geofencing platform. For instance, the company’s geofencing solution focuses primarily on local retail marketing. The company also provides trip tracking for deliveries or pickups. Radar also offers APIs for searches, geocoding, and distance tracking.
The company uses data from multiple sources, including Pitney Bowes, Yelp, and OpenStreetMap, and it prides itself on the information’s accuracy. Radar also lets customers upload their own data. The company offers free developer accounts and has custom prices for higher usage tiers. Examples of current tech partners include AWS Pinpoint, One Signal Marketing Automation, and Amplitude Analytics.
Mapquest stands out as one of the grandfathers of digital mapping technology, so we can’t exclude them from this list. Their large base of users and partners offers an example of an advantage of the company’s longevity. Mapquest partners include Delta Dental, Verison, Papa Johns, and Sabre.
Mapquest starts off with free plans that limit transactions to 15,000 a month. They also provide plenty of paid tiers to accommodate every customer, from small startups to enterprise organizations. No matter the level, every plan comes with a full suite of features. Features include maps, points of interest, routing, geocaching, directions, and the API and SDK.
What is the Best Google Places API Alternative?
Google Maps established itself as the most commonly used mapping application. For more rich details about places on the map, it might appear natural to complement it with the Google Places API. While Google Places API offers a standard solution for Google Maps users, it’s not as popular as Google Maps or other competitive mapping applications.
For example, other services might provide better solutions because of their lightweight libraries, specific features, relaxed licensing requirements, or lower costs. Hopefully, this overview of Google Places API alternatives offers a springboard for determining the optimal solution.