iPhone users rejoice. After weeks of suffering with Apple’s inaccurate, annoying Maps app, you now have a better alternative, because Google has just released its map app for iOS 6. The new app promises to help iPhone users get the kind of accurate, helpful location-based information and directions they had before the smartphone's newest mobile operating system was launched.
When Apple released iOS 6 in September, it came without Google Maps functionality. Though Google had powered the iPhone’s built-in Maps application since the handset’s launch in 2007, when it released iOS 6, Apple decided to use its own mapping service. The results were disastrous.
Immediately, users noticed a slew of errors – wrongly named places, bad directions, places in the wrong location on the map – that they hadn’t experienced with Google. For example, when we searched for a restaurant called “Brio Tuscan Grille” at a New Jersey mall, Maps gave us an animal hospital instead.
Forbes published a list of the six worst Apple Maps fails, including wrong directions to Dulles Airport that would have drivers turning onto the runway and a distorted image of the Brooklyn Bridge. Even worse, Australian police recently had to warn motorists not to use Apple Maps, because the program had been directing users into the middle of the wilderness, where they might need to be rescued. Maps’s problems were so bad that Apple was forced to issue a public apology and Scott Forstall, who had been in charge of the project, was subsequently let go.
Fortunately, users don’t need to wait for Apple to get its Maps act together. As of this evening, Google Maps is now available as a free download from Apple’s App Store. Though it lacks offline mode, the fully-native application has all the other features you’d expect, including walking and public transit directions, satellite and street view and Zagat restaurant reviews. Dieter Bohn of the Verge was suitably impressed, writing that “Google Maps for iOS is the best-designed maps app on any platform.”
The Google Maps app will run on any iPhone with iOS 5.1 or greater. However, iPad users looking for better directions will have to wait for Google to release a tablet version of the app.