Implement Google Maps API on PhoneGap Using the Device API


In previous articles, I have touched on installing PhoneGap on Windows and Mac OS X, as well as getting jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap working together. In this article we are going to look at how to use Google Maps API together with PhoneGap to create a map that is interactive. Google Maps is a mapping service provided by Google, and allows you to add interesting functionality to your application without too much blood, sweat or tears.

Installing PhoneGap and Geolocation APIs

I’m going to assume you have followed these instructions, or you already have a working version of PhoneGap on your machine. Once you are ready, fire up your command-line interface—Terminal on OS X or CMD on Windows—and navigate to your PhoneGap application, as I have done below. My project is located in my Home/Server/phonegap, and a directory listing shows my PhoneGap application has four directories—merges, platforms, plugins and www. See figure 1:

Figure 1

In the Root directory of the application, as you can see in Figure 1, I am going to tell PhoneGap to install the Accelerometer, Compass and Geolocation PhoneGap plugins using the command line. The commands are:

$ phonegap local plugin add$ phonegap local plugin add$ phonegap local plugin add

And Figure 2 shows my Terminal console after running these commands.

Figure 2

To confirm that these plugins are installed, we can simply look at our project and see the files. In my IDE, the directory structure is shown in Figure 3. Notice the plugin directory—our Device Motion, Device Orientation and Geolocation APIs are installed there. The Device Motion API detects the device speed, the Device Orientation detects the device Direction, and the Geolocation API plugs into the device GPS and allows us to pass our location to Google Maps API.

Figure 3

Install Google Maps API

The Google Maps API requires you to create an API key to use with your application. This is a security measure, making sure that only your application has access to your API. Head over to and login with your Google account. Once there, you’ll see a menu option in the left sidebar called APIs & Auth. Click on that, and a submenu will open the APIs button. Make sure that Google Maps API v3 is active, as seen in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Next, click on the Credentials option in the sidebar and then on the red block that says Create New Key. You will see a new popup as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5

Choose “Browser Key” and continue. The next screen in the popup is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6

To add an HTTP Referrer, you can add * for now, as you application is not being deployed to a specific URL. This wildcard should be updated later, though, when you go live. Click create, and you will see your new key—see Figure 7.

Figure 7

Remember that API key. Keep it somewhere (of course you can always come back to this page and find it.)

Figure 8

Figure 8 shows our project/www/index.html file. This is the default file structure for a PhoneGap project. When we run this page, we see the screen as shown in Figure 9. This page is just used to show you that PhoneGap has managed to access your device, and is ready to work.

Figure 9

The first thing we need to do is insert the Google Maps API into the index.html page, and the format for this is:

Figure 10 shows my index.html page with the Google maps API key inserted into the JavaScript tag in the footer. This tag gets authentication from Google’s servers and then sits back and waits for you to tell it what to do, and that is the thing we are going to get to next. Let’s look at the contents of the file www/js/index.js. If you have followed the first two articles in this series, linked in the introduction, you will know what this file is. If you are not sure, please go check that out now, and then head on back so we can continue.

Figure 10

Figure 11

Figure 11 shows my www/js/index.js file, and this is the default PhoneGap stuff in here, automatically generated when you create your project. But this doesn’t actually do anything, so I’m going to remove the method called receivedEvent and I’m going to remove the contents of the method onDeviceReady. This is where we are going to put our Google maps code. So, before we continue, look at Figure 12 and make sure you have a similar setup.

Figure 12

Getting Our Location

The first thing we need to do is determine our location. We can do this thanks to your device (which hopefully has a GPS installed) and the Geolocation Plugin you installed in PhoneGap at the start of this article.

To get our location, we have to call a PhoneGap method called getCurrentPosition. To do this we call:

navigator.geolocation.getCurrentPosition(onSuccess, onError); 

The arguments onSuccess and onError are names of callback methods we are going to use depending on whether our device finds our location or not. We can use the onSuccess callback to contain the code for showing our map. The onError callback can be used to alert the error. Of course, we can call those callbacks anything we want to.

The first thing we need to do is update the index.html page to simply contain a div that will contain our Google Map. See Figure 13 for how I did this. Note that I just styled the div for an iPhone 5’s resolution.

Figure 13

Once I update the code to include the onError and onSuccess callbacks, which will call the Google map, our code in index.js is:

Figure 14

Breaking down Figure 14, we see the following:

  • Line 37—we call the getCurrentPosition method, which locks into our device GPS and figures out where we are.
  • Line 42—The onSuccess method, and the position object is passed into it.
  • Line 44—Define our longitude
  • Line 45—Define our latitude
  • Line 46—latLong is defined as an object by our Google maps API and our location.
  • Line 49—The mapOptions object is constructed, and this is passed into the map object (line 55)
  • Line 50—We tell the map to center on our location
  • Line 51—We tell Google Maps what our zoom level is.
  • Line 52—We tell Google Maps which map type to use. Options are ROADMAP, SATELLITE, HYBRID and TERRAIN.
  • Line 55—We call the Google Maps API method which will deliver the map, and tell it which div to load the map into (“#geolocation”).

When we fire up our emulator, we see the app load and then ask for permission to use our location, as in Figure 15.

Figure 15

Once we give permission to use our location, we watch as the Google Map loads, with our location centered as requested.

Figure 16


We have reached the limit of the scope of this article. For further reading regarding this topic, please see and – Geolocation.

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