Here's Why we Switched from Google Places to Mapbox for our Autocomplete API by@niceboard
1,571 reads

Here's Why we Switched from Google Places to Mapbox for our Autocomplete API

August 8th 2021
3 min
by @niceboard 1,571 reads
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Mapbox, OpenCageData, LocationIQ and GeoCodIO are now using Google's Autocomplete API. Mapbox is not the cheapest of all options, but it strikes a good balance between affordability and data relevance. Google's reporting is hell on earth, but Mapbox's reporting seems to be better than Google's. The company's first 100,000 API calls are free every month, and we'll be paying $0.75 per extra 1000 calls, at a maximum of $94.

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My day was going great, I was in a good mood after checking our newly updated MRR on Stripe, and I decided to open my email to see if there were any questions from customers to answer.

That's when I noticed an email from Google, entitled "Google Cloud Platform & APIs: Payment received", and my day took a slightly different turn.

I open the email. "Payment Received", it says in big bold letters. "Great", everything's running smoothly, right? Wrong.

Your payment of $1,000.00 was applied to Google Cloud Platform & APIs on Jun 21, 2021.

Excuse me? $1000? And the month hasn't even ended.

"Well maybe it's just a mistake" I think to myself, as I open the Developer API console.


A beautiful colorful graph to tell you how much they're screwing you out of. 

But no, lo and behold, after opening 15 different Billing subsections each with less descriptive names than the next ("Cost table", "Cost breakdown", "Commitments", "Commitments analysis") and not finding an answer to the simple question "How many calls did we make on the API this month?", I finally manage to view what our consumption for the month was (I tried to get back to it as I wrote this article, and couldn't even find it anymore). It seems that we are in fact paying for what we consumed. There's only one little issue:

Just one little issue... we've made about 226,000 API calls in total this month.

What? What? What? How could this be? I still don't understand it, but apparently it should make sense:


Why are we paying for Atmosphere Data and what the hell does that even mean? I guess Google felt they could use an extra $100 bucks on "Contact Data", whatever that is.

Just to break it down, that's:

  • $560 dollars for 32,998 requests on the Places API
  • $345.57 on 127,566 Autocomplete requests
  • $165.01 on Atmosphere Data: I've been using Places/Autocomplete, why am I even paying for Atmosphere Data?
  • Throw in an extra $99 on "Contact Data", what's an extra $100 at this point?

Well... Maybe this explains why the pricing pages are so obscure on Google's API products.

But my favorite part is that we weren't actually paying the full price, this is our discounted price! How generous of them!

Oh, and if that still doesn't make sense, here's another breakdown of the pricing for you. Yeah add a few dropdowns everywhere, that'll make it clearer:


Google's reporting is hell on earth

That's when I started looking into alternatives. And thankfully, there are a decent amount of them out there in 2021: Mapbox, OpenCageData, LocationIQ and GeoCod.IO just to name a few.

In the end, I settled on Mapbox: it's not the cheapest of all options but it seemed to strike a good balance between affordability and data relevance, with the most relevant results in Autocomplete across the space.

And coming from Google's mess of a console, their no-nonsense dashboard is also extremely refreshing:


Mapbox's simple reporting UI

Now, our first 100,000 calls are free every month, and we'll be paying $0.75 per extra 1000 calls, at a maximum.

At this month's rate, that breaks down to around $94 total.

A tenth of Google's price!

By now you've guessed I surely won't be using any of Google's APIs without heavy scrutiny of the pricing and the alternatives moving forward.

Hopefully this article can help a few more people think twice before blindly heading for the default choice.

Footnote: While I'm highly satisfied with Mapbox's service and offering so far, this article was in no way sponsored or requested by Mapbox.I am merely a disillusioned Google customer who found a glass of water in hell.

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