Back

19.04.2016

Is the Usage of Google Maps Free?

Michael Pletziger, CEO & Head of Business Development (center); Jens Wille, CEO (left); Martin Kleppe, CTO (right) (Source: Ubilabs) Gecoding converts addresses into cartographical coordinates to be placed on a map (Source: Google Maps) Google Places – the POI database from Google comprises address and contact details for almost any company in the world (Source: Google Maps) Calculate routes with Google Directions API. Ubilabs developed a tool for route optimization based on the Directions API (Source: Ubilabs)

As a Google Maps Premier Partner, offering comprehensive consulting for Google Maps licenses is part of our day-to-day work. We are often asked whether Google Maps is free. Michael Pletziger, Managing Director of Ubilabs, would like to help you make the initial decision regarding a Google Maps license and present the new license, effective immediately, to you. [German Version]

Those Who Work Professionally Use a License

Let’s start by answering the question of whether the usage of the Google Maps API is free: it depends. There are application scenarios where Google Maps can be used free of charge. As a rule however, a fee-based license is advisable for businesses that want to use Google Maps professionally – and this is generally also a requirement. In addition, there are situations where a license may not be a legal obligation, but it is still highly recommended for business reasons.

APIs and Web Services

Before we get to the new license model, it is important to understand the products that Google offers. Alongside the interactive map familiar to almost all Internet users, a range of APIs and Web services are associated with Google Maps – for the sake of simplicity, we will call these a “family of APIs and Web services.” This includes:

Geocoding – the conversion of an address into coordinates and vice versa.

Directions – the calculation of a route using the transportation method of choice.

Google Places – the POI database from Google not only comprises address and contact details for almost any company in the world. With auto-completion of addresses and POI data, it also offers something that all users of maps.google.com really appreciate: less typing in the address bar and finding the desired location quicker.

Additional APIs that are less frequently used.

For Mobile, Web, and Cross-platform

Google offers these functions in various technologies: JavaScript for development for Web browsers – mobile and stationary – as well as Android and iOS SDKs for native development on both platforms. The Web services mentioned can be used on all platforms.

Now to the license model and back to the original question: can I use Google Maps free of charge?

New Premium Model with Many Benefits

As of spring 2016, Google is offering a simplified license system that is also cheaper for many businesses. Google Maps is provided as two basic models: the “Developer Plan” and the “Premium Plan.”

Free Developer Plan

The Developer Plan is free and may be used, given that the application based on Google Maps is free (!) to use for everyone (!). Maps used with the Developer Plan may contain advertising.

“Free” means that even a transaction that a user is planning must be free. A pizza delivery app can therefore only be understood to be free if the delivered pizza is free.

“For everyone” means that anyone should be able to open the app. A login is allowed, but only if it is provided to everyone free of charge. Intranet applications and logins for particular groups of people are by definition the opposite of “for everyone.”

Fee-Based Use by Businesses

If your application is not appropriate for the Developer Plan, then the Premium Plan is the right choice for you. It facilitates both internal and external business use. The Premium Plan is licensed in two versions that generally correspond to a company’s business model:

“Standard” means that you are using Google Maps in an application that you use yourself. A business that, using the example above, develops the pizza app and directs it straight to the end user would require an app in line with the Standard model.

“Integrator” (or OEM) means that you develop an application and pass this on to a third party. For example: a software development company that develops CRM passes on Google Maps functions to third parties as a part of its own software.

Alongside all “Integrator” scenarios, the application areas requiring a business to possess a Premium Plan license include:

Internal business use because only a closed user group has access.

Use in fee-based applications – directly and indirectly fee-based.

Applications where people, vehicles, or goods are tracked on a map, e.g. for security purposes or logistics scenarios.

In addition, we recommend the Premium Plan for businesses who would like to introduce services from the Google Maps family into business-critical applications – these could be “free” and accessible “for everyone,” but only the Premium Plan offers uninterrupted operation with a service level agreement and support from Google engineers.

tl;dr

Google Maps may be free in specific instances. It is, however, vital to check so that individual situations and issues relating to license law can be considered. Those who would like to work professionally with Google Maps should acquire a license nonetheless – because this is the only way to ensure uninterrupted and smooth operation. Those in possession of a Premium License also have access to special functions that increase the value for your business operation. Only a Premium Plan license guarantees ad-free use.

For any questions regarding Google Maps APIs and the Premium Plan, feel free to contact us via maps@ubilabs.net