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GPS Tracking

How Accurate is Google Timeline? We Put It To The Test.

David Kariuki
Last update on:
Apr 18, 2024
Published on:

Most of the major applications track your location to some extent. And while most try to keep this information private and often don’t explain why they need it, Google Maps is quite transparent about its use of your location.

In addition to providing directions and displaying your current location, Google Maps also allows you to create a Google Maps Timeline, which helps you view your travel history on a particular day, including any places you visited and the time spent at every location. This makes it easy to identify patterns, optimize your schedule, and improve your business operations.

We tested Google Maps to determine its suitability for employee tracking. This Google Timeline review reveals what we discovered about the app.

Discover the real accuracy behind location and mileage tracking.

See why Timeero is the best choice.

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What is Google Maps Timeline?

Google Maps Timeline is a feature of the Google Maps app that provides an estimated record of the places you may have visited and the routes you may have taken during a particular time based on your location.

How Accurate is Google Timeline

When Timeline is enabled, Google Maps will periodically track your location and store the information on your Google account. This data can be accessed anytime, anywhere, through the Timeline page. You can review and edit your Timeline, delete your location history, and set up location-based reminders. Your Timeline is private, so only you can access it.

Plus, you can add notes and photos to track important details. It’s a handy tool if you keep forgetting where you’ve been or when you need to recall your past movements for both work and personal reasons.

How Google Maps Timeline Works?

Google Maps tracks your location through the Google account and displays the information on a map. 

Google Timeline review

Here is a deeper look at how this works:

Location Tracking: To start, ensure that location tracking is enabled on your device. This helps collect your data in the background, which creates the timeline.

Google Timeline Test

Accessing and Creating the Timeline: To view your timeline, open Google Maps on your computer or mobile device and tap on the three-dotted lines in the upper left corner. The Timeline shows the places you’ve visited, including the date and time of each visit.

Timeline Editing and Sharing: It’s easy to edit your timeline by adding or removing places you’ve visited. You can even add notes and photos to every location. Of course, you can delete your entire Google Maps location history if you want. 

It’s also possible to share your timeline with others on your Timeline. Select the “Share” button and choose how you want to share it (either through email or social media). A link will be sent to their timeline.

Privacy Setting: When sharing information, it’s important to ensure that users are aware of and comfortable with the privacy and data security settings. On the Google Timeline feature, users can control their privacy settings, delete their location history, or turn off location tracking altogether. They can also share the location data with others or keep it private.

How Accurate and Reliable Is Google Maps Timeline?

Google Maps Timeline is considered a reliable tool for tracking your location history and providing information about your past activities. While this might be true, we discovered that the location accuracy and reliability vary depending on various factors.

How reliable is Google Maps timeline?

First, Google’s Timeline depends on the location data available in your mobile device or other devices connected to your Google account. This means that the accuracy depends on factors such as the GPS signal from the GPS receiver, the presence of obstructions such as buildings and other structures that may interfere with the signal, and the availability of location data from different sources, including Wi-Fi networks and cell towers.

Second, Google Maps may fail to pick the correct mode of transportation used at a particular time. For example, it may mistake a car ride for a bus ride, thus leading to incorrect distance and speed measurements.

Finally, the settings on your device, such as the airplane or battery-saving modes, can affect the accuracy of Google Timeline.

We also discovered that Google Timeline doesn’t track your location once you log out of your Google Account on your iPhone or Android. Your location history is connected to your Google Account; you must be signed in to record accurate location reporting. When you’re logged out, location tracking is turned off, and your location history is no longer recorded.

Overall, Google Maps Timeline seems useful for tracking location history and providing detailed data about past activities. That said, its accuracy and reliability depend on the factors mentioned above, which means it may not be 100% accurate all the time.

How Often Does Google Timeline Update?

Google Timeline is updated automatically and continuously as long as the location services on your Apple or Android devices are enabled and granted Google permission to track your location. 

That said, we found out that the frequency of updates depends on several factors, including the user’s device strength of cellular or Wi-Fi signal, battery level, and the frequency of geolocation requests and notifications.

Google Timeline updates your location history every few minutes or every time there is a significant change in your location.

 You can manually edit your location history to correct any inaccuracies or remove any locations you don’t want to see.

Google Timeline Activity Controls

You can also turn on, pause, or turn off location completely if you don’t want Google to track your movements.

You can also turn on, pause, or turn off location entirely if you don’t want Google to track your movements.

Can Google Maps Timeline Track Mileage?

From our observation, we discovered that Google doesn’t have a dedicated Google Maps mileage tracker to help the maps user track mileage and see their tax deductions in the same place. That said, Google Maps Timeline can track the places you’ve visited, including the routes you have taken using the location history, which can be used to keep mileage logs.

You can discover how far you’ve traveled and how you traveled, whether it’s walking, driving, biking, or on public transport. 

Google Maps Timeline Review

To see your mileage information on Google Maps Timeline, follow these steps:

  • Open the Google Maps app on your computer or mobile device (both iOS and Android)
  • Tap on the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of your screen.
  • Select “Your Timeline” from the menu.
  • Scroll down to the day or date range that you want to view.
  • A map will contain all the location history for that day or date range. To see the distance you traveled, tap on the “Total distance” option just below the map.

Google Timeline displays the distance traveled in miles or kilometers, depending on your settings. To see the distance between locations, tap on the individual sites on the map.

 It’s important to remember that your location needs to be extremely precise for Google Maps Timeline to calculate the distance you’ve traveled accurately.

If you have trips in your Google Maps Timeline, you can easily convert them into a fully IRS-compliant mileage log with Timeero. We will show you how to achieve this in the next section.

Can I Use Google Timeline In Business for Employee Tracking?

Google Timeline is designed to help individuals keep track of their location history. Some businesses may use Google Timeline for employee tracking, such as monitoring employee progress more closely, planning and distributing the mobile workforce, and improving the safety of lone workers. But, it’s not a common or recommended practice, as it can lead to severe privacy violations.

As employee tracking raises significant privacy concerns and ethical considerations, businesses must consider the risks and advantages before using any tracking app or operating system. 

Fortunately, some of the best GPS tracking software solutions are tailored for employee monitoring while ensuring their privacy and enabling business compliance.

Timeero, for example, records employees’ locations during their working hours only, so your employees don’t need to worry about their privacy being invaded. When they’re off the clock, no data is captured.

Plus, there are other outstanding features businesses can benefit from. For example, the Who’s Working dashboard shows you all the information you need about your available workers: their locations, working hours, and jobs. You can see everything on one screen. In addition, the GPS data Timeero collects is granular and detailed and contains valuable information, such as timestamps or speed.

Timeero Who's Working Dashboard
Timeero lets you see the locations of all your available employees on a single screen

Besides real-time and retrospective data on your employees’ location, Timeero has even more advantages over Google Timeline regarding employee monitoring. For example, it lets you generate accurate and reliable reports on your employees’ time and mileage so that you can export data easily to other software for payroll and mileage reimbursement.

Remember that no matter which GPS tracking method you choose, staying compliant with the relevant laws and regulations is crucial. Besides selecting the GPS tracking system tailored to your business needs, you can achieve this by a clear employee GPS tracking policy outlining the reasons for employee tracking, the nature of data collected, and how the data will be used.

Timeero: Best Alternative To Google Maps Timeline

While Google Timeline shows the user’s location and places you’ve visited over a certain period, it’s not the best option when you want to track mileage for taxes for a few reasons:

For starters, it doesn’t have a dedicated mileage tracker, so it doesn’t tell the difference between trips taken by bike, car, public transport, or on foot.

When Google’s Location History feature is not turned on for previous trips or periods, the user of the maps will have a hard time backtracking and recreating their mileage logs.

Regarding accuracy in location tracking, Google Timeline may fail to show the correct address for places you visit. You may need to separate or merge trips to get accurate results, which may be tedious.

Finally, Google Timeline often doesn’t tell the difference between the reimbursement rates and the standard mileage rates, which means you have to compute them separately to get the desired results.

Timeero excels in all these factors, which is why it’s the most accurate and reliable time-tracking app and a powerful alternative to Google Maps Timeline.

Timeero offers businesses and individuals an easy-to-use time and location-tracking solution. Thanks to its mileage tracking capabilities, creating mileage logs is easy, and business owners can use this information to keep track of travel time, reimburse their agents fairly, and calculate IRS tax deductions.

Let’s explore Timeero’s strengths that make it the best alternative to Google’s Timeline.

Accurate GPS Location Tracking

GPS location tracking is a critical feature, especially for companies with a mobile workforce, including agents, delivery drivers, freelancers, contractors, sales reps, and other teams. It makes it easier to track employees’ activities and get real-time feedback on their movements.

Timeero’s GPS location tracking offers accurate location details once you clock in. 

Timeero gps tracking is accurate

The best part is that you get a precise map showing the individual’s exact location. In addition, you can zoom in to see details, such as when the employee has been at that specific location.

If you want further clarification of the employee’s path, you can use the route replay mode, a feature lacking in Google Timeline.

This feature combines breadcrumbing technology, enabling you to recreate the employee’s journey and get an overview of where they were throughout the day and the time they spent at that specific location. 

You can click on each breadcrumb to see each employee’s time, location, and speed if they used any means of transport. 

Read our comprehensive test article to learn more about how Timeero compares to other best employee GPS tracking software.

Mileage Tracking

Google Timeline alone cannot track mileage fully. Instead, you must use an automatic mileage-tracking mobile app that integrates with Google Maps. This is where Timeero excels.

Timeero time and mileage dashboard

The motion detection technology on Timeero allows automatic recording of mileage when the vehicle exceeds the predetermined speed limit. This is quite useful for employees who want to keep track of the distance covered and travel expenses. 

Timeero includes other great mileage-related functionalities.

For example, under the IRS requirements, commuting expenses are not tax-deductible. That’s why the commuter mileage feature comes in handy, helping you deduct commuter miles from business-related travels.

Timeero suggested mileage
Timeero compares the actual and the shortest route

Besides, when you assign your employee a remote job, Timeero can show them the shortest route to the desired location and compare the actual and shortest mileage using the suggested mileage feature.

With Google Timeline, we found it difficult to track the accurate location and distance covered when you switched off the internet or went to an area with barriers or low internet coverage.  

Interestingly, with Timeero, we could switch off the internet as the trip is on. The app continued to track mileage without a problem, which is a plus if you want to deliver services to areas with poor internet coverage. 

Segmented Tracking

But the advantage of Timeero over Google Maps Timeline for business use doesn’t end there.

Timeero’s Segmented Mileage feature creates the timeline of employees’ working hours and segments their activities into:

  • Business travels—details on employees’ trips, including total driving time and mileage.
  • Jobs and locations, and time spent on each.

Timeero Segmented Mileage

This hands and hassle-free feature gives you a complete overview of your employees’ day - all they have to do is clock in when their shift begins and clock out when they finish.

Google Timeline Review: The Bottom Line

Now that you know a little about Google Timeline, you need to understand that its accuracy is only as effective as how you use it. Therefore, knowing the right tips and tricks should be a jumpstart to help you get the best user experience.

Overall, Google Timeline will allow you to review your location and activity data. You will also access other details such as past locations, distance traveled, routes taken, and time spent at every site. Users can also edit or delete the location history data as per their preference.

That said, it’s not the best choice if you want to track mileage and keep logs to help in calculating tax deductions and reimbursement rates. Instead, you might want a more advanced time and mileage tracking app like Timeero to achieve this.

Try out Timeero’s 14-day free trial today and see the difference!


Can Google Maps Timeline Show Wrong Location?

Sometimes Google Timeline can show incorrect locations for several reasons, including inaccurate GPS, signal loss or low network coverage, battery saving mode, location history turned off, and inaccurate device settings.

Ensure all these factors are working properly to get accurate results. 

Can Google Maps Show Places You Have Never Been To?

Google Maps location may show places you have never physically visited. This is because Google Maps uses a combination of different data sources to provide users with information about sites, street view, satellite imagery, and user-contributed content. This means that if you have never visited a place physically, you may still be able to see it on Google Maps.

What If I Don’t Want My Location To Be Tracked?

If you don’t want your location to be tracked on Google Timeline, turn off the Location History on your Google Account. Go to Google Maps and tap on your profile picture. Choose “Your data in Maps,” then tap “Location History.” Toggle the switch-off button for “Location History” to stop Google from tracking your location.

Enjoy accurate and reliable location tracking with Timeero

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David Kariuki

David is a content writer passionate about all things SaaS and technology! With over seven years of experience, David knows how to craft content that captivates his readers and effectively communicates their value and offerings. When he is not writing, he is at home reading, out playing soccer, or exploring new places.

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