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Aug 27, 2017

Instant Tethering lets you easily share your connection with nearby Android devices - ANDROID INSTANT TETHERING TIPS

instant tethering
The Wi-Fi tethering feature built into your Android phone is a great feature that shares your connection with devices that might not have cellular capabilities. Now Google is making it a little easier to get it up and running.
A new feature called Instant Tethering is currently rolling out as part of the 10.2.91 update to Google Play Services. First reported last month by Android Police, the feature should be live on a select few phones, namely Nexus and Pixel handsets running Nougat 7.1.1.
Phones that can share their data connection include the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P. On the receiving end, the only currently supported tablets are the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later. That said, the service could eventually make its way to more devices, possibly as part of Android O.

How Instant Tethering works

Omri Amarilio, an associate product manager at Google, explained Instant Tethering in a post on the Pixel User Community forum: “When you unlock a tablet such as the Pixel C, it will notice if there is no internet connection available, and will ask your Pixel phone if it has internet and battery life. If it does, we will give you an option to enable a secure hotspot and pair automagically, without even taking your phone out of your pocket. When you are done, if you don’t disconnect, we will notice that you stopped using your tablet and we will disconnect the hotspot for you to save your precious battery throughout the day.”
Where previous connection required pairing codes, passwords, and several steps to get set up, the new method works similarly to the way automatic Wi-Fi connections work today. The two devices need to be within Bluetooth range and linked to the same Google account to start the connection, but other than that, there aren’t any toggles to flip or passwords to enter. Basically, your tablet will instantly connect to your phone’s hotspot (hence the name) whenever it needs a connection.
instant tethering
Instant Tethering lets you easily share your phone’s connection with a device that needs it, no passwords necessary.
To find the feature, head to the Settings app—just don’t look for the option under the Tethering & portable hotspot tab. Instead, scroll down to the Google tab under the Personal heading and tap Instant Tethering. You’ll see two toggles, one for Provide data connection and another for Get data connection (they’ll both be on by default). Below the switches, there will be a list of any available devices that need to use your connection. If your Pixel to Nexus phone or tablet needs a connection, they will appear there, and a pop-up window will ask if you want to connect. Tap Connect and you’ll be on your way. 
In my testing, the feature worked flawlessly, and my Internet-challenged phone connected quickly without any fuss. But be warned, as with any portable hot spot, Instant Tethering can use excessive amounts of data and battery life.
The impact on you at home: While the requirements are pretty specific at the moment, Instant Tethering could be a killer feature down the road. It also could mean that Google is finally serious about Android tablets. Apple introduced a similar feature in iOS 8 called Instant Hotspot designed to tighten the integration between its phones, tablets, and laptops, and here’s hoping Instant Tethering is a step toward creating something similar with Android.

Aug 20, 2017

How to add, remove, and manage accounts on your Android phone - GOOGLE ANDROID ACCOUNT TIPS

accounts android
Everyone who owns an Android phone has a Google account, but there are lots of other apps on our phones that all require their own login credentials. The longer you have your phone the more they can pile up, and before long, your app drawer is filled with all sorts of services that may or may not be tied to an active account.
But you don’t have to open each app to manage them. Whether you want to add, remove, or tweak one of your accounts, Google has built a handy way to do it right inside the Settings app. Let us show you how to do it.
accounts android1
The Accounts tab in Settings holds the keys to all of the online accounts on your phone.
Under the Personal tab in Settings, you’ll find an option for Accounts. This is separate from the Google tab, where you’ll find a slew of preferences related to how your Google account operates on your device. Accounts keeps a running list of the social media, storage, and email accounts you have on your phone and gives you the power to delete them and control their background activities.
Once you open the tab you’ll instantly be met with an alphabetical list of any apps on your phone that have active accounts tied to them. All of your Google accounts will be fittingly collected under the Google tab, but any other email addresses you use will be tied to the appropriate client. So if you use Newton Mail and Gmail to manage your iCloud address, they will show separately.
accounts android
These two screens might look the same, but the Add Account page also includes any apps that haven’t been linked with an account yet.
At the bottom of the list you’ll find an Add account button, which does exactly what you’d expect it to do. Tap it and you’ll get a list of all the apps on your phone that require an account, so you can link a new one or add another to Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc.
Select one of the apps in the list and you’ll be taken to its respective login page where you can login with a new username. (The Google button, which takes you to Google Play Services account page, requires fingerprint or passcode authentication first.) When you return to the Accounts page it will have been added to active list.
accounts android3
You can adjust the sync settings for individual apps or turn it off completely in the Account tab.
Along with adding accounts, you can also manage how much data each is using in the background. Every app has its own sync settings, so you’ll be able to get a handle on any that may be harpooning your battery life. Most provide a simple on/off switch, but some offer more granular controls, particularly the Google app, which has 13 toggles for each of its various apps and services. You can also opt to turn off auto sync completely by tapping the three dots in the top-right corner and unchecking the Auto-sync data box.
While you’ll have to visit the individual apps to do things like change your password or turn on 2-factor authentication, you can still use the menu to remove any dormant or compromised accounts. For example, if you wanted to delete a Google account from your phone, you would tap the app icon, select the account you want to remove (if more than one is linked), and press the menu button in the top right corner. Then, in the drop-down menu, select Remove account, confirm it’s what you actually want to do it, and it’ll be instantly wiped away from your phone.
accounts android
If you want to get rid of an account completely, you can do that in the Accounts menu.
Repeat that process for any account you want to remove from your phone. However, remember that this method only unlinks the account. To delete the app completely, you’ll need to find the icon on your phone, tap and told it, and move it to the Uninstall droplet at the top of the screen.

Aug 13, 2017

How to manage your Google Account on your Android phone - ANDROID GOOGLE ACCOUNT TIPS

google settings
Your Google account is the lifeblood of your Android phone. From email to photos, payments, and, of course, apps, your Gmail account is the key to making your phone hum, no matter what you’re using it to do. And just like you would with anything in your life that is so valuable, you probably aren’t protecting it as well as you should.
But it’s not hard to get your account up to speed. Google has built a fantastic way to manage and secure your account right in the Settings app, and it’s worth taking routine trips to check on things. So if you haven’t been there in a while, we’ll walk you through the important stuff.

& security

To get started, open the Settings app, scroll down to Personal, and tap the Google option. Inside you’ll find sections for Account and Services (as well as Developer if you’ve enabled it), which contain numerous tabs for managing various aspects of your account. For most of these options, you’ll actually be working in Chrome, not Settings. But since Google uses Chrome Custom Tabs, the experience is pretty seamless, and you won’t be jumping back and forth between apps.
google settings 1
The Google settings pane includes several important options for controlling your account.
At the very top of the list is Sign in & security, which holds the keys to your main login. Tap it and you’ll instantly see something called Security Checkup, which lets you change your recovery phone number and email address, along with your security questions.
Then, it’ll run through a series of checks to make sure your account hasn’t been compromised: recent security events, connected devices, and account permissions. Within each you should see phones and changes that you recognize, but if anything looks amiss, you’ll be able to make some changes. If there’s an app or service that shouldn’t have access to your account, for example, you can revoke its privileges, and if you see any unrecognizable devices, you can change your account password.
google settings 3
You’ll be able to turn on 2-step verification duting the security checkup. You should do so.
The last option, 2-step verification, will show your verification settings and any backup options you’ve selected. And if you’re not using 2-step verification, you’ll be able to turn it on by following a few simple steps. For those who don’t know, 2-step verification provides an extra layer of security to make it harder for people to hack into your account. Instead of just a password, every time you log into your account you’ll be sent a code to your phone that is needed to unlock your account.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to protect all of your accounts with 2-step verification, but it’s especially important for your Google account, so if you haven’t done so, use this opportunity to turn it on. You’ll need to re-enter your Google password on all of your devices, but it’s well worth the minor inconvenience.
Elsewhere in the Sign in & security section, you’ll find tabs for each of the steps in the Security Checkup in case you don’t want to run through the whole thing. And you’ll also be able to change your alert settings and manage the passwords stored with Smart Lock.

Personal info & privacy

In the next tab, you’ll be able to tweak your privacy settings via a similar series of checks that let you tweak the information you share with Google and the public. Inside the tab you’ll be able to edit your email address, recovery phone, birthday, and gender, as well as things like location sharing, and your search settings.
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The Privacy Checkup lets you control what aspects of your Google account other people can see.
Like the previous section, you’ll be able to run a Privacy Checkup to make sure you’re not sharing anything you want to keep private. It’ll take you though six steps that let you tweak several settings to give you greater control over the apps and services that use your account.
Follow the prompts and you can manage what you share on YouTube, disable automatic grouping and geo location in Google Photos, hide your phone number, change what people can see in your Google+ profile, tweak the activity date Google saves, and limit ad tracking. Depending on which services you use, it might be worth taking an occasional swing through the checkup to make sure your settings are still to your liking.
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If you want to see what Google knows about you, you can download your data in the Personal info & privacy section of your account.
Also in the Personal info & privacy settings you’ll be able to see what Google knows about you. All the way at the bottom of the page there is an option to Download your data, where you can export and download an archive of data from the Google products you use. You can select certain services (Mail, Calendar, Hangouts, etc.) or download everything in your account as either a zip, tgz, or tbz file, and choose to store it in your Google Drive, Dropbox, or One Drive account. Depending on how much data you opt to archive, it could take several hours to generate.

Account preferences

The third option in the Google settings pane is where you’ll find information pertinent to your account, including your language preferences and Google Drive storage allotment. You’ll be able to change either option, though keep in mind that an increase in your Drive storage will incur a fee. 
Additionally, it’s here where you can remove services linked to your account. Tap the Delete Google Services option, and you’ll be able to unlink Google+, YouTube, or Gmail from your account.
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You’ll have to jump through some hoops, but Google will let you delete your account if you’d like.
At the bottom of the list, you’ll find the Delete your Google Account option, which will do more than remove it from your device. You will completely eradicate all existence of your Google account, so Google rightfully provides a series of necessary warnings and explicitly lists all of the songs, apps, movies, contacts, photos, etc., that will be deleted. But if it’s indeed what you want to do, you merely need to agree and press the blue Delete Account button at the bottom of the page.


Occupying the rest of the Google settings are controls for various other parts of your account, including Smart Lock for Passwords, Location, Connected apps, and Ads. Most of them include minor options that you probably won’t care to change, but there are a couple that will be of interest.
google settings 2
You’ll find some important settings inside the Security tab in the Google settings.
In the Security tab, you’ll find options to change your account’s security code (which is different from the passcode on your device), track your device in the Android Device Manager, and allow for remote lock and erase, both of which should be turned on. Additionally, users of newer phones like the Galaxy S7 and Pixel will find the Verify apps toggle here, which will scan side-loaded apps for malware.
It’s here where you’ll also be able to add and delete any credit cards in the Android Pay section, and opt out of personalized ads in the Ads tab (if you haven’t already done it during the Privacy Checkup). And in the Networking menu you can tell your phone to automatically connect to open high-quality Wi-Fi networks. 

Aug 6, 2017

How to share your Android phone's connection with Wi-Fi hotspot - ANDROID HOTSPOT TIPS

hotspot how to
Your Android phone is always connected to the Internet, but you might not know that your other devices can take advantage of it, too. If you’re traveling with a tablet or a laptop that only has a Wi-Fi chip, your Android phone can magically be transformed into a Wi-Fi hotspot that your cellular-challenged devices can use to get access to the Internet.
And it’s not hard to do. With just a few taps in the Settings app you’ll be able to securely broadcast your signal to any device that may need it, letting you work as if you were connected to your home Wi-Fi. There are a couple caveats, however. For one, you’ll be using your phone’s data, so you probably shouldn’t use it to stream movies or download large files. Furthermore, some carriers block the feature for certain plans, so if it you can’t get it to work you might need to call your wireless provider. And finally, it can be a major battery drain on your phone, so make sure you have a battery pack handy.


To start the setup process, head over to the Wireless & networks section of Settings. Click the three More dots below Data usage and you’ll see a section called Tethering & portable hotspot. Tap it and you’re in.

android hotspot1
To find the Tethering and portable hotspot menu, tap More under Wireless & networks.

Inside you’ll find four options. The first is USB tethering, which requires a USB cable (it’ll be grayed out if one isn’t plugged in). To use it, simply connect your phone to your laptop via USB and toggle the switch to begin sharing your connection. If your plan supports it, an icon will appear in the quick settings pane and you’ll be ready to go.


Next up is Portable Wi-Fi hotspot. Toggle it on and you’ll see a message appear below it: Portable hotspot AndroidAP active. This will be the temporary name of your Wi-Fi network, and if you go to your laptop’s Wi-Fi pane, you’ll see AndroidAP in the list of available networks. Select it and you’ll be asked to fill in a password before it can connect.

android hotspot2
You’ll be able to change the network name and password inside the Set up Wi-Fi hotspot settings.

For that, you’ll need to head to the third option, Set up Wi-Fi hotspot. Tap it and you’ll be able to edit the network SSID name, disable the WPA2 PSK security (which you absolutely do not want to do), and switch the band frequency from 2.5GHz to 5GHz. You’ll also be able to change the password (or write down the default one by checking the Show password box). After you’re done tweaking, press save and turn the hotspot back on to proceed. Then it’s just a matter of selecting the network (AndroidAP or whatever you’ve renamed it) on your other device, and typing in the auto-generated password or the one you’ve changed it to.

android hotspot3
You’ll need to pair your phone with your laptop or tablet before you can use Bluetooth tethering.

The final option is Bluetooth tethering, and it’s the same as USB tethering except without the cable. After you flip it on you’ll need to take a trip to Bluetooth settings on your laptop or tablet to pair it with your phone. Once you identify your phone in the Bluetooth pane, press Pair and then head over to the Bluetooth settings on your phone. If the two devices have been successfully linked, you’ll get matching verification codes that will allow the two devices to link. Select Pair when prompted and you’re on your way.

Jul 30, 2017

How to use Google to sync all your passwords - ANDROID TIPS

google smart lock android
Keeping track of passwords is a pain. 
You shouldn’t use the same one for every account because that’s ridiculously unsafe. A third-party password manager is one solution, though it isn’t perfect, and the best ones cost money. I once crowned LastPass the king against competitors, but since then a perpetually bad interface on the web and a recent security breach caused me to look around. 
While Dashlane and 1Password are admirable services, none have proven to be fully satisfactory. They sometimes get confused by different URLs from the same site, so you end up with duplicates. The extensions that are required to run them sometimes slow down your browser. It’s an imperfect solution to a complex problem.
Google thinks it may have the answer. It could be the right one for you right now, as long as you’re willing to live on the edge a bit and put a few puzzle pieces together. But in the end, if you use Google’s existing password management tools, you’ll have a smooth system that keeps all your online security backed up with Google. Sure, it puts your eggs in one basket, but Google’s shown to be a pretty ferocious bird when it comes to protecting the nest.

Google’s Smart Lock is the future

At Google I/O the company showed off its latest weapon in its long battle against the passwords: Smart Lock. The promise is that Google will “unlock” your favorite websites and apps by securely saving your password to your account and syncing them between Chrome and Android.

smart lock nytimes
Google Smart Lock will save passwords you enter in supported Android apps.

You’ll of course need to be a Chrome user and tell the browser (which it does by default) to save and backup all your usernames and passwords.
For example, if you’ve saved your password to The New York Times in Chrome, Google will automatically log you into the Android app. No need to find the password somewhere and re-enter it.
Android developers have to add support for this feature into thier apps in order for the magic to work. Google partnered with a core group of apps to get this ball rolling. Popular services like Netflix, Orbitz, Instacart, and Eventbrite already have it live. Fortunately, because this capability is tied to Google Play Services, it’s already working on your device. No need to wait for an Android update.

To fire this up, head to the Google Settings app on your Android device and select Smart Lock Passwords. 

smart lock passwords on
Flip the Smart Lock feature on with the Google settings app.

Make sure that this setting and Auto sign-in are both flipped on. Then try it out yourself by downloading one of the aforementioned apps or signing out and back in again. You should see the Google Smart Lock icon fire up next time you try out one of these apps.

Use the Google sign-in

Because Smart Lock for passwords is in its infancy, there’s another piece of Google’s password-killing strategy that you can use. Google sign-in allows you sign up for and log in to any supported service with your Google account. In most cases you’ll see the Google+ icon, though that’s probably going to morph over time to regular Google branding since the company’s social network is dramatically scaling back.
Just about any decently-sized service now uses the Google+ sign-in option. It’s more secure than a password because the app authenticates your account with Google. You can also occasionally check in with Google’s new account management tool to see which apps you’ve enabled and de-authorize any that you don’t use anymore.

google sign in
Use Google sign-in to by pass creating another password.

I use this service whenever I can. It means I don’t need to create or keep track of another password. Yes, it means Google owns yet another piece of my online identity, but the company has been a pretty good steward. I’ve been using Gmail for 10 years, Chrome since it launched, and a heavy amount of Google services across Android, Chrome, and iOS. My security has never been breached and my data hasn’t ended up anywhere I’m uncomfortable with. You should be sure to enable two-factor authentication and regularly check in with which devices are accessing your account. With diligence and common sense your security should be fine.

You’ll still need some workarounds

Google’s Smart Lock effort is still in its early days. Very few apps have implemented the feature to automatically use your saved Chrome password when logging into an app. And there are still some that don’t use Google’s sign-in. So you’ll need a workaround for sites where you’ve saved your password and need it to login on Android.
The best way to manage this for now is to get to your passwords at passwords.google.com. From here you can copy any password over to the app that you’re trying to sign in to (after you again sign in to your Google account). It’s not as smooth as having a password manager connect you or using SwiftKey’s partnership with Dashlane. 

saved passwords
You can get to all your saved passwords in Chrome through this mobile-friendly site.

But for now, it will get the job done. You can view any of your passwords, hit the eyeball icon, and then copy and paste it into the app you want to use. It’s somewhat of a pain, but it’s the best you can do for now until Smart Lock takes off. Strangely, I also found that sometimes the password wouldn't copy to my device's clipboard. The best workaround was to hit the multitasking button, swipe away Chrome, and try it again.
Another tip: Chrome has a hidden feature that will generate secure passwords when it detects you're trying to create a new account on a web site. To flip this on, type chrome://flags into the Omnibox and then look for Enable password generation. Select Enable, and then press the pop-up Restart button for this feature to go live.

chrome password generator
Chrome will detect account-generation pages and create a secure password for you.

This works for both Chrome on Android, Windows, OS X, and Chrome OS. It's the fastest way to get a strong password that's synced to your Google account. I suspect this capability will eventually become a standard feature in Chrome as Google pushes forward with its Smart Lock efforts.
The security solution I’ve outlined here is definitely for someone who doesn’t mind a few hiccups and knows their way around the intricacies of a smartphone. It will be a pain from time to time when you need to copy and paste over passwords. But I expect going all-in with Google’s passwords scheme is the best way to protect your online identity and prepare yourself for Google’s goal to tighten identity management and security between Android and Chrome.

Jul 23, 2017

The best Android weather apps - TOP RATED FREE ANDROID WEATHER APPS

The weather is one tap away
Android is a virtual paradise for weather geeks and anyone who just wants to know if it’s going to rain today. Between all the weather apps out there and Google’s built-in tools you’ll never be short of meteorological data to help you decide if you need to pack an umbrella or grab extra sunscreen.
Here are our ten favorites, which should ensure you’ll have plenty of information to satisfy your appetite for the day’s forecast. Most are free, but usually there are extra perks worth having if you can spare a few dollars to support development.

The Weather Channel
The name “Weather Channel” is for many people synonymous with weather forecasts. The app is a pretty solid option, with lots of video, maps, and other data.
There’s a lot packed in here, including a persistent temperature reading that lives in the notification bar. There are also many different alert options, allowing you to select notifications for rain, lighting strikes, or breaking news.
The app also has a monetization scheme called mPoints, which has a scroll of offers from other apps and companies. It lives to the right of the app’s main screen, but fortunately you can turn it off.
If you have an Android tablet the app is one of the few optimized for bigger screens. Included are plenty of widget choices to put all that screen real estate to work.

Google's quest to organize the world's information extends to the weather. 
Google's weather information can be found a few ways. You can issue a voice command by asking, "How's the weather?" Or launch Google Now to see a dedicated weather card that offers brief weather details based on your location. If you've installed the Google Now Launcher, you'll get a notification from time to time about the day's forecast. 
On Android Wear, you'll see a weather card that tells you the current temperature and expected weather for the next few days. If you just want to be able to find out the temperature and what the weather might look like tomorrow, Google may be all you need.

Weather Underground
Weather Underground just got a nice overhaul that will make Material Design fans happy. I find the new look makes it very easy to navigate, as all the content is focused into one stream, whereas other weather apps sometimes shift content into multiple areas. You’ll find Doppler radar, detailed forecasts, and rather easy-to-read charts.
I also appreciate the health section, as it has good information about the air quality, UV index, and influenza details. You also get some widget options, though it would be better if the 4x1 would stretch over one more space for larger devices like the Nexus 6P or Galaxy Note.
The app is ad-supported, but you can nix them with a $1.99 per year annual subscription.

If you like your weather app dark and to the point, then 1Weather is a good choice. The black background makes the text easy on the eyes, although you can customize some elements of the view with landscapes, live weather views, or cats (it's still the Internet, after all).
The app also follows the new permissions model in Marshmallow, so you can agree specifically to each request for your location or other personal data.
The widget choices are good, especially with some larger ones that would stretch out on a big phone or tablet. If you want to nix the ads (there’s a fake Facebook notification that’s particularly annoying) it’s $1.99. 

Yahoo Weather
If you enjoy being wowed by visuals, then you'll enjoy Yahoo Weather. If it's raining your screen will mimic a window that's dripping with water and condensation. Scroll down for a five- or ten-day forecast, maps, wind, pressure, and sunset information with a pleasant aesthetic. 
Unfortunately there's no way to kill of the ads, and the slide-out menu carries plenty of Yahoo propoganda. But it's still a great option if you want a simple, and free, weather app.

Eye in the Sky Weather
Here’s another nice Android exclusive that you can show off to your iPhone-using friends. Eye in the Sky scraps all the extraneous detail and focuses in on the day’s forecast, with a quick swipe to see the next 48 hours or 15 days.
Pro tip: the first thing you’ll need to do in the U.S. is change the temperature unit to Fahrenheit, as the default is Celsius.
You’ll also find a good number of large and small widgets to bring that minimal goodness to your home screen.
The app is free, and a $1.80 in-app upgrade will remove the ads. While I still enjoy using Eye in the Sky, it’s worth noting the last update was in March of 2014.

Jul 16, 2017

10 Google Maps tips and tricks you need to know - GOOGLE MAP TIPS

Google Maps is way more than just a digital replica of a paper map. It’s a full-blown trip planner, travel aide, and recommendations engine for dining and finding new places to explore.
You can get way more out of Maps by tapping into the more advanced features. Sure, you can use it like a map, but it’s way more powerful if you learn how to save places offline, improve the information by adding details, taking advantage of navigation, and mastering other tricks.
These are our top tips that you’ll want to know about before your next adventure or trip across town.
Offline Maps
Whether you're headed to an overaseas adventure in Europe or up to the mountains to escape civilization, you don't need to leave behind the convenience of Google Maps. It's now pretty simple to download an offline map for those areas in the middle of nowhere.
Just head to the Settings > Offline areas and hit the plus button and pan your way through the globe to find the area you want to be available when you don't have a data connection.
Google Maps can also do this automatically for your home areas so your searches will be faster for the areas you're routinely looking at. This obviously can eat up a bunch of space from your device storage, so be sure to consider how much you want to download.
Send directions to your phone
You probably use Google Maps on the desktop as well as your Android phone. If so, there's no need to start over when you switch from the PC to mobile.
Just use the Send to your phone tool, which is located in a venue's card. Your phone or tablet should appear under the list of available devices, assuming you signed into them with your Google account.
You can even send the location to your car if it supports Google Maps integration with the infotainment system (this is a different configuration than Android Auto). The Share button also copies the link or creates an embed code to save the map on your own site. Many wedding guests have been saved from getting lost thanks to wise grooms and brides who embed maps on their wedding site.
Keep your timeline
Google Maps can keep tabs on everywhere you go. Now that may sound pretty creepy, but it's very useful at trying to figure out which new store you visited last week or to prove to a nosey relative where you were the other day. 
If you use Google Photos, Maps will also show which pictures you took at that specific location. I've used this for finding a shot I took of a particular product at an electronics store. But if you want to eliminate your tracks, you can just head to Timeline settings and delete your history or turn the feature off. 
Be a Local Guide
Google's Local Guides program is an effort to boost the number of reviews and details about all the places you find in Google Maps. In exchange for posting photos, submitting new restaurants, suggesting edits, and answering questions about where you've been, you'll eventually get freebies like Drive storage space and invites to preview beta features. 
If you really decide to go for this, then enable push alerts to get reminded about adding reviews to places you've visited. If this is too oppressive you can opt out, but contributing to the community is one way to make Maps more useful for everybody else out there.
Search along your route
You're bound to get the munchies or need to fill up the car during your next road trip. Google Maps has you covered, as when you're using navigation mode you can search along the route via voice or the floating action button. It pulls up specific suggestions so your passenger can peform this search while driving (we have tips to keep your eyes on the road). You'll even get current gas prices so you can save a few dollars on your pit stop.
Get transit information
If you live in a major city with some type of transit system, Google Maps is essential for finding out when the next train is going to arrive. You even get the color-coded lines present in BART, Washington's Metro, and other cities that use this scheme. 
When you go to plan a trip you can also use Google Maps to map out which trains to take, though just as with driving directions sometimes human intuition and local knowledge might be more accurate than what the algorithms suggest.
Master navigation
You don't always have to drive everywhere. When you're using the trip planning tool, Google Maps will find routes via transit, biking, or walking. You can also tell Maps to avoid highways, tolls, and ferries if you're trying to save a few bucks. 
As always, keep in mind that the specific route is more of a guide, so be prepared to change up your direction if there are unforeseen issues. But Google Maps is pretty good at adjusting on the fly, especially with real-time data coming in through the acquisition of Waze.
Take to the street
Street View is still an innovation that puts Google Maps far above the rest of the competition. But it's not so obvious to launch on mobile. 
To do so, press and hold with your finger to a specific location on the map. Then, you'll see a pin drop. Touch the preview image of Street View that appears at the bottom left of the screen. Then you can pan and zoom on the screen to virtually make your way through the streets and check out the view. 
There's a hint in the form of the navigation icon at the top of the screen, which launches a blue line to show you just where your virtual camera view can travel.  You can then swipe along that route to see what has been captured by one of Google's cars or bicycles.
Find local favorites
Google Maps has been morphing into more of a city guide the past couple of years with suggestions for places to visit and eat. Touch the Explore option from the slide-out menu and you'll be presented with lots of different choices for what's nearby.
The Where the local go section is pretty good at sticking to non-chain restaurants if you want to find something that has some local flavor. I've found it's helpful to touch the star icon on a few places that I discover in this menu and then compare which is closest if I don't feel like going that far. Press each item's card for more information like additional reviews, hours, and when that spot tends to be the busiest.
Add labels
You don't have to let Google do all the organization for you. You can create labels for different venues that you find, which you can then re-visit later from Your places
You're also able to label your home and work address, which helps Maps and Google Now give you estimated travel times when planning a route. The strength of using labels is that it can better organize some places that you might want to visit later without relying on search to find them every single time. It's also better than just adding a star to everywhere you like, as it's quite easy to clutter up your map with lots of stars (trust me, I've done this). 
This method takes more work, but it will help build Maps out to be a more useful tool over time.