Apple’s decision to eliminate the Google Maps App from their arsenal of native apps in the iOS suite was much talked about before it was done, and it was much talked about after it was done when it was replaced with the Maps App of Apple’s own creation. It didn’t live up to the hype, and people weren’t happy.
What Google Maps had going in its favor was many years of data. Apple was just starting out in the maps business and was trying to put together a map that had all directions to every place imaginable. The new app was bound to fail, and it did, as CEO Tim Cook even issued a public apology and gave users some alternatives, although certainly not to Google Maps. Regardless, Google Maps has now been re-released for iOS in a much fancier package. The question is if it’s better than before, and if it’s better than Apple Maps.
Signing in the first time, the new Google Maps app is already different from its previous versions. It asks you to sign into your Google account. This allows you to save and keep track of your destinations. However, there is current litigation suggesting that it’s illegal for Google to keep track of such information.
Clicking the person icon at the top allows you to update your personal addresses. You can input your home address as well as your work address. It has the picture of me in there automatically because of my Google account. If you click the gear icon you can go into settings and edit these addresses, as well as view and edit your Maps history. Somewhat shockingly, this doesn’t just include what I have searched for on this app, but also every address I have ever Googled while logged into my account on a computer. It’s a little like going through memory lane.
If you click the three dots along the right bottom edge, it shows you viewing options. You can toggle back and forth between standard view and satellite view, have it show traffic and public transit, and also pull up Google Earth. Google obviously didn’t have time to implement a full 3D view as Apple has done, so it did the next best thing, which was implement the Google Earth app.
Going to the search allows you to find your destination. It shows that list of your previous searches. You can also find your starting point if you aren’t starting from your Home or your current location by clicking on the “Y-in-the-road” icon next to the person icon. It again shows that list of previous searches.
Previously, once you found your route, that was as far as Google Maps took you. Now it takes you through turn-by-turn navigation with voice guidance. You can switch to a step-by-step list or mute the voice guidance by clicking those three dots in the lower right corner. I did have to actually start driving in my car to “activate” it and get it out of preview mode. It didn’t click in right away, either. I had to go five blocks or so with two turns before it clicked off of Preview mode. Curiously, this view looks very much like the Apple maps app.
It seems like what Apple did was light a fire under Google. They were happy not making many changes to their app, because it seemed they owned the market on it. They didn’t see anyone else coming in to take away their position in iOS. Since it’s re-release, though, they’ve made some great changes that should have been done before. Apple didn’t really need their own Maps app; they just needed to give Google a reason to change the existing map. It will be some time before everyone can trust the Apple maps, and until then they can go back to using the Google maps app.