• ALL
  • CATEGORIES

Google Maps API pricing changes: what do they mean?

Google Maps API Pricing Changes

Google announced the launch of their new Google Maps Platform last week, as well as a new pricing structure for organisations making use of the Google Maps APIs to deliver customised Maps, Routes and Places experiences for their users. Some confusion surrounds these announcements, so here’s a quick walk through the major changes and what they might mean for prolific users of Google Maps.

The new pay-as-you-go model

In line with many cloud computing providers, the Google Maps API will move to a pay-as-you-go pricing structure from 11th June 2018.

Update, Wed 27th June: Google is giving developers an extra month of lead time. While the product updates rolled out on 11th June, the new pricing will take effect on 16th July.

The newly-named Google Maps Platform is being brought under the Google Cloud umbrella and consists of three core products: Maps (for delivering customised dynamic maps, Street Views and 360° views), Routes (directions and traffic) and Places (location names, addresses, reviews etc). Each has its own pricing structure which you can find in the Google Maps Platform pricing table.

First $200-worth of API calls are free

The new pricing strategy employed by Google for their Maps Platform is a freemium one – all users get to make $200-worth of API calls for free each month. That works out as, for example:

  • up to 28,000 free loads of Dynamic Maps; or
  • up to 100,000 free loads of Static Maps; or
  • up to 40,000 free Directions calls; or
  • up to 40,000 free Geolocation calls.

Importantly, the new pricing system allows unlimited free use of simple Dynamic Maps in Embeds and in Mobile Native apps. So, if you’re just serving users a simple map with a marker, say to show your office location, you’ll continue to pay nothing under the new system. However, if you use the Embed API in Directions, Views or Search mode, you will be eligible for billing.

And, as Manifesto’s Callam Williams says; that’s where things can start to get very expensive, very quickly: “If you update the map with any new location details, that counts as a separate call. So if you’ve got something that loads a map, alongside an address search using autocomplete, and provide geolocation services for directions or distances; that’s three separate API calls on page load. Autocomplete makes a call for every letter typed in the search bar and again when you select a location; then when you add directions to the nearest location, that’s another.”

No more API calls without billing details

As of June 11th, calls to the various Google Maps APIs which don’t include an API key will return an error or a watermarked map (‘for development purposes only’). So, even if your usage falls well within the free $200 credit, you still have to create an account and provide Google with billing details to keep using the APIs.

You can set usage caps at $200 per month to ensure you won’t get charged, but for organisations who were previously using a variety of maps for free, updating all their implementations to use an API key could be a major headache.

Google Grants can be used against Maps charges

Eligible not-for-profit organisations, as well as some startups, crisis response organisations and news media companies, can apply for extra free Maps credits. See if you’re eligible for Google for Nonprofits.

Free alternatives to Google Maps

Even if you deliver fairly basic map functionality using the Google Maps Platform, if you serve a high volume of users you could find yourself forking out substantial sums under the new pricing model. Organisations which provide info on lots of events, properties or businesses (estate agents spring to mind) might find free, open-source alternatives to Google Maps worth considering.

While, for example, OpenStreetMap, a huge community-driven mapping project, lacks Google Maps’ huge amounts of data and universal interoperability with Google products, it’s fast and free, and there are a variety of JavaScript libraries available to use it to deliver customised experiences. Find a full list on the OpenStreetMap wiki.

Don’t-be-evil-o-meter status: amber

Google announced an end to keyless use of the Maps APi a couple of years ago, but the new pricing plan, and the requirement to add billing details in order to get an API key, comes with much less warning. While you can set up usage caps to stop going over the $200 limit, what happens to businesses that now have to pay e.g. $700 a month for a service they used to get for free? They have 45 days to find the money or change services.

Leave a reply

You can use these tags:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

  1. The alternative for google map is the OpenStreetMap which has similar features as the google map. The Application programming interface calling will proceed after the payment.

  2. Jarrod says:

    Thanks for the article. We just got stung because we didn’t see it coming, but I was curious about what you mentioned in the article (from a different quote “If you update the map with any new info (markers, locations) that counts as a separate call”.

    Does that mean if I add or change a marker on the map, it will count as a request?

    • Gemma Reeve says:

      Hi Jarrod,

      You’re welcome, sorry to hear you were stung! Thank you for raising your question. A call would be making a search for a new location and then adding a marker to indicate that. We’ve updated the blog to make to make that more clear.

      “If you update the map with any new location details, that counts as a separate call. So if you’ve got something that loads a map, alongside an address search using autocomplete, and provide geolocation services for directions or distances; that’s three separate API calls on page load. Autocomplete makes a call for every letter typed in the search bar and again when you select a location, then when you add directions to the nearest location, that’s another.”

      Hope that helps. Feel free to get in touch if you need any further support.

      • Norman says:

        I have autocomplete implemented, and I see that on the billing they charge the search, then some things related to contact and atmosphere¿? guess what… checking on Google site any place returned from autocomplete with a Marker sign is a location/city/town/poi and even for me is a public place, the record has data as it was a restaurant for example with the “atmosphere” mood and contact information like address/website/etc ¿?

        Still not changed but thinking about a basic autocomplete from geonames.

  3. Enrique Fornes says:

    Hi. Just bumped into this blog. Sorry if this is ot the proper channel to ask, but I’m a freelancer with little means and all this about the new pricing is a bit scaring to me. I have done like 25 sites for small customers, and growing. What should I do with those old customers that have a location map in their site?.

    So far, only one customer has its map not working, but do I have to expect more fails in the future?. Do I have to create separate accounts for each customer? in this case, should I ask these customers their credit card credentials?? that is just ridiculous to me… but maybe not for google. Any further explanation on how to proceed if we are freelancers would be great.

    I have tried to contacted Google but they seem to NOT exist at all. They provide help only through public forums and general answers to general question. Nothing specific (do you imagine you phone company would do that kind of support?!. I remember when I hated Microsoft for being a monopoly, then Apple…. now Google. Great.

    I’m spanish so please, sorry for my english! Thanks!

    Enrique

    • Jamie Griffiths says:

      Hi Enrique – sorry to hear about your predicament. These changes will have caused many headaches for freelancers like you. Unfortunately, the answers to your questions depend on many variables – how your customers are using the maps, how they’re implemented, whether you can take the hassle of invoicing your clients for any costs that Google bills you for (I certainly wouldn’t advise setting up API keys/billing details on their behalf – they’d need to do it themselves). If the maps are simple location maps (‘how to find us’), you might be better off encouraging your clients to switch to static Google maps or a free alternative like OpenStreetMap. Good luck!

Sign up for the Manifesto newsletter and exclusive event invites