Mapping GPS Coordinates: Google vs Baidu

Baidu map, Beijing University, is accurate to the line map. The map has a lot more detail about local anemities than the Google Map

Baidu map, Beijing University, is accurate to the line map. The map has a lot more detail about local anemities than the Google Map

If you play around with GPS coordinates you will quickly need access to a map. The GPS coordinate numbers do not reveal a geographic location useful to a human. The two go-to internet resources are Google and Baidu. Both have maps for North America and China, but are not as good outside of their competitive areas. As I am in Toronto and have lived in China, I can verify their usefulness for these locations, but for other parts of the world you are on your own.

Google is great in North America. They have really good detail. The Google satellite maps are available in both North America and China, but the China sat maps are inaccurate. In China, however, they play a distant second to Baidu. Baidu is really good in China, but you need to be able to read Chinese. In North America they good. If you want North American maps with some Chinese they have them. Baidu has satellite maps for many parts of China, not all, and none for North America/Toronto.

Google has already started using a newer GPS coordinate system, called plus codes. These plus codes are global. For example, Beijing University, Beijing China, has the plus code of 8PFRX8P4+Q8. These plus codes still do not work with Baidu.

Bing also has maps that use GPS coordinates, but not Plus codes. Mapquest also has something, such as https://www.mapquest.com/latlng/42.4962765,-72.27879283

North American Maps
In North America, maps.google.com allows you to input your GPS coordinates, which then provides a map, your GPS coordinates are highlighted with a red stick pin. You can zoom in or out. You can switch to satellite view and zoom in or out. There is really nothing to complain about, as everything works.

Google Maps from GPS coordinates, Toronto.

Google Maps from GPS coordinates, Toronto.

Baidu Maps from GPS coordinates is not exactly the same as Google Maps. There is some Chinese on the map. Toronto, Canada

Baidu Maps from GPS coordinates is not exactly the same as Google Maps. There is some Chinese on the map. Toronto, Canada

Google Maps satellite  from GPS coordinates, Toronto.

Google Maps satellite from GPS coordinates, Toronto.

Chinese Maps
Mapping in China does have some variability. Unlike Google, you cannot simply plunk the GPS coordinates into the Baidu map window. Baidu is or at least was different. In fact, I could not figure out how to find the GPS coordinates from a Baidu map.

There are some threads on Baidu Maps, this one dating back to 2015, and a bit old.

A link to the Baidu API, referenced in the second article, requires you to reverse the first and second GPS numbers. The resultant screen has no pinpoint map location. The map also does not expand and contract. Nor does the screen scroll down, thereby cutting off the bottom of the map. This Baidu feature seems neglected and does not work well.

Baidu API input box for GPS coordinates. Ensure the right side box is checked off or it will not work. Baidu now has a better way.

Baidu API input box for GPS coordinates. Ensure the right side box is checked off or it will not work. Baidu now has a better way.

Baidu API link, you need to reverse the GPS coordinates. The map does not expand and contract, and also does not scroll down, thereby cutting off the bottom of the map.

Baidu API link, you need to reverse the GPS coordinates. The map does not expand and contract, and also does not scroll down, thereby cutting off the bottom of the map.

Baidu now has an easier URL structure that does not require reversing GPS coordinates. it is:

http://map.baidu.com/?latlng=39.9884022,116.3080489

The Baidu GPS coordinates somehow do not align with the Google GPS coordinates, though they are close. I do not know why.

For some of China Baidu also has satellite maps. Both Baidu line and satellite maps work well in China. They are more detailed in Chinese than the Google Maps.

Google Maps works the same in China, so no change required. Google Maps have some detail, but lack daily use detail useful to Beijing residents. The large buildings are labeled in English and Chinese, but little else is marked. Google satellite maps seem to be very inaccurate. While the underlying line maps are good, the satellite overlay is terrible.

Baidu maps, Beijing University area.

Baidu maps, Beijing University area.

Google Maps, Beijing University

Google Maps, Beijing University

Baidu map, Beijing University, is accurate to the line map. The map has a lot more detail about local anemities than the Google Map

Baidu map, Beijing University, is accurate to the line map. The map has a lot more detail about local anemities than the Google Map

Google Map satellite, Beijing University, is inaccurate. There is a highway running through a forested area. The underlying line map is correct, but the satellite overlay is incorrect. I have seen this a couple of times using Google satellite Maps in China.

Google Map satellite, Beijing University, is inaccurate. There is a highway running through a forested area. The underlying line map is correct, but the satellite overlay is incorrect. I have seen this a couple of times using Google satellite Maps in China.

Summary:

  • North America
    • Google Maps: excellent line and satellite maps. Good detail, Input GPS coordinates into input box, or plus Code
    • Baidu Maps: excellent line map, all English, some Chinese, no satellite maps, GPS coordinates requires a special URL
  • China
    • Google Maps: sparse line maps that lack local detail, English and Chinese, satellite map overlay not accurate, Input GPS coordinates into input box, or plus Code
    • Baidu Maps: excellent line maps, Chinese only, satellite maps very accurate, not available throughout China, GPS coordinates requires a special URL

Addendum: 2018 April 06, Ken’s Deli, Bedford Mass, USA, 42.4922925,-71.2796261

Locate in Bedford, Mass, using Google Maps. Note the detail and landmarks

Locate in Bedford, Mass, using Google Maps. Note the detail and landmarks

Locate in Bedford, Mass, using Google Maps satellite. Note the detail and landmarks

Locate in Bedford, Mass, using Google Maps satellite. Note the detail and landmarks

Locate in Bedford, Mass, using Baidu Maps. No satellite available.

Locate in Bedford, Mass, using Baidu Maps. No satellite available.

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