Apple Maps In iOS 6 Review: It’s No Google Maps, But It’s Not ‘iLost’ Either

 @redletterdave on September 24 2012 12:20 PM

 

Since the release of iOS 6 on Sept. 19, Apple’s newly-branded Maps application has been a real sticking point with mobile users. Google Maps, which was part of the iOS experience from the very first iPhone launch in 2007, has now been replaced with Apple’s new offering, and users are upset.

Apple rivals are baring their teeth with attack ads, and users are collecting some of the most embarrassing specimens from Apple Maps' early goings in a Tumblr blog mockingly called, “The Amazing iOS 6 Maps.”

While a torrent of hate rains upon Apple for its unstable Maps application in iOS 6 – some of it is deserved -- there are a few reasons you should save your outbursts towards Apple's new software.

Google Maps isn’t dead. Users seem to think that Apple, having chosen to remove Google Maps from the iOS home screen, has effectively killed off the Google Maps experience for any user that wants it. While the application no longer has premium placement on the page and its own  dedicated application, it is still possible to use Google Maps in iOS 6.

All iOS users need to do is click on the Safari browser application and visit the Google Maps website (maps.google.com). Once you’ve arrived on the page, users will be prompted with a choice to let Safari and Google Maps use their current location, in which they will need to click “yes,” and after that, users can press the share button at the bottom center of the screen, and click the center option that features the Google Maps application logo, which reads, “Add to Home Screen.”

Once the user clicks that option, Google Maps will be restored on iOS 6. The only features missing in the new application are Street View and the old stylish animations for when a pin would drop on a location, but other than that, all of the old features from Google’s popular Maps app are still there. Users can find local businesses by searching any number of terms, and they can also view areas’ traffic, transit and cycling routes, as well as see 2D and 3D satellite views.

So while there is a new sheriff in town – Apple Maps can’t be deleted from the homepage – Google Maps is not dead by any sort of the imagination. Give Google six months and it’ll have an all-new iOS application up and running in no time.

Google Maps wasn’t built in a day. Apple may be the most valuable company of any sector in the world right now, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make mistakes like the rest of us.

This brand-new Maps application is essentially a Frankenstein monster of three separate companies acquired by Apple, including PlacebacePoly9 and C3 Technologies, which were purchased in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. Combining and folding in proprietary technology from three separate companies into one seamless application was not going to be a perfect effort, and the application itself still has a number of kinks to figure out.

As you can see from “The Amazing iOS 6 Maps” Tumblr page, users are experiencing issues and bugs with map details, especially as they transition from the 2D to the 3D satellite renderings, and users are also complaining of the lack of robust search in the application. Users need to search exact or similar terms to the businesses they’re looking for, and the businesses and restaurants listed on the site are only the ones registered on Yelp, which makes the Apple Maps catalog far less substantial than Google Maps, which can rely on Google’s scrupulous search engine.

Now that Apple can no longer rely on Google’s search engine, the company knew its only course of action was to release the software at its most ready point and deliver it to users so they could start improving the platform based on user feedback. It would take far too long for Apple’s new Maps application to improve without the help and feedback of its global iOS customers, so it made sense for Apple to accept that the Maps application was ready enough to replace Google Maps, even if its replacement was only about 75 to 80 percent complete.

Apple doesn’t have the tremendous trove of user data like Google does so transit lines are not yet a reality, but the company is currently doubling down on the application to hopefully release an update in the near future.

There’s a lot to like about Apple Maps. Apple’s new offering may not be as thorough and diverse as Google Maps, but it’s a great start.

It’s true, Apple Maps doesn’t have Street View or an insane amount of local businesses, accrued over more than half a decade. But what it does have is an extremely clean and simple user interface that makes it incredibly easy for users to figure out where they are and where they’re going.

Finding your own location is easy, and examining it under 2D vectors and 3D rendered maps is simple and easy to do. Directions are also well-programmed and easy to find in the application, as well as a better way to find previously-used routes and directions straight to the addresses associated with your Contacts.

While small businesses may be frustrated about their lack of presence in Apple Maps, users still have plenty to choose from. Most major and medium-sized businesses, as well as ones that are well-rated from travel companies like Zagat, Frommer’s and Yelp (obviously), have all made the transition to the new application. Apple obviously needs to brush up its search – even searching “bar” in the middle of New York City only returns you with a mere handful of options, which is nowhere near close to reality – but Apple needed to map the entire world in iOS 6, not just your city.

As far as the businesses themselves, Apple presents more information than Google, and in a much more beautiful way. In Google Maps, clicking on locations gave you the business’ name, telephone number and website on a simple pop-up. In iOS 6 Maps, Apple provides the user with a detailed, context-sensitive information card, which includes plenty of information like the businesses’ name, phone number and website, as well as information about deliveries, reservations and “kid-friendliness,” and easy links to reviews and directions to the location. It’s not “bare bones” by any means.

Of course, the main feature everyone talks about in regards to Apple’s new Maps application is Flyover, where users can effectively soar over their 3D world from any angle right inside their smartphone, tablet or iPod device. The experience is stellar and borderline surreal, and in Apple’s newest devices like the new iPad and iPhone 5, this feature really sings. Dynamic rendering occurs extremely quickly, and rotating around your city and flying over it is a completely unique experience that Google hasn’t even achieved, despite Google Earth’s existence since 2005.

It’s brilliantly imperfect. The only way to conclude this defense of Apple Maps is to tell users that while admitting its list of flaws and imperfections, the maps program itself is extremely promising as is, and luckily for users, Apple isn’t making them choose iOS 6 or bust.

There are plenty of other mapping solutions in iOS 6 if you don’t like Apple’s new Maps app. If you don’t want to reclaim Google Maps from Safari, there are apps like Waze and Navigon, which both feature GPS and voice navigation features right on your iOS device, all of which are directly available through the App Store.

It’s too bad Apple Maps isn’t quite the one-stop shop as Google Maps, but it’s a great start. Apple’s Maps are easy to figure out and include some great features like turn-by-turn navigation with or without Siri’s help. The system from an aesthetic standpoint is also much more beautiful, and the ability to see your locations via Flyover is a complete game-changer for anyone that uses or loves looking at maps.

The Maps application in iOS 6 has its fair share of high and low points, but generally, there is plenty of room for Apple to grow in regards to this application’s development. Looking ahead, users should let the possibilities of fixes and additions excite them – transit map information, smoother Flyover and more user-submitted content -- rather than let glitches and blemishes color the entire experience on iOS 6, which is really quite excellent.

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