If you have an iOS device, you may have been using the Apple Maps app for the last few months. While it has its redeeming qualities (free turn-by-turn directions being the major one), the general consensus has been that Google Maps had a better interface, and that the Android version’s turn-by-turn navigation was more reliable. On 12-12-12, Google released the new and improved Google Maps for iOS.
Google Maps is a free App for iOS that you can download by going to the App Store on your device. It is only 6.7MB, so it can be downloaded over a 3G/4G or Wi-Fi connection. The app is a radical re-work of the original Maps app in iOS, and the interface has been updated to mimic the new Gmail interface on iOS. The basic interface includes a search box in the top center, a locator icon in the lower left, and a pull-out menu to access traffic, public transit, satellite view and Google Earth.
Once you click the search box, you can start typing, and Google’s predictive search engine will kick in, giving you suggestions for what you may be looking for. This comes in handy if you’re looking for a business, location, restaurant or other known location. The only odd part is that the app does not integrate your contacts, so you can not search your contacts to find an address. Google has partially fixed this by allowing you to sign in to your Google account and save favorite locations.
Once you’ve searched for a location or place, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the location’s information (if available), save it, share it (message, e-mail and copy it to clipboard), and see other Google information, such as store hours, location or reviews.
The feature most sought after is the turn-by-turn navigation. This is accessed by clicking the arrow next to the search box. The default option is to use your current location, but you can select a specific starting location and enter your destination. You can get driving, mass transit (in many cities) or walking directions by selecting the appropriate icon at the top of the screen. Once you select your destination, the screen will show you the route Google has picked, letting you know about any potential traffic and estimated time of arrival.
Once you click start, the voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation will begin, and you’ll see a nice large map with directions. You can exit the app, if needed, and the voice guidance will still continue, thanks to iOS built-in navigation background ability. Keep in mind that this drains a lot of battery, so having the phone plugged in if you intend to use it as a GPS is advisable. The maps also download real-time, so if you run into an area without data, you won’t be able to update the maps. However, Google does cache the route data, so you’ll still get to where you’re going if there are brief interruptions to your data signal.
Google Maps for iOS makes a fantastic download, improving on many of the features of the original maps App for the iPhone, and greatly improving on Apple’s own Maps. You can download it through the App store by searching for Google Maps.