Apple Maps have been subjected to so much ridicule since iOS 6 was released that any more negative comments and jibes at the app would be pointless. Besides, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has formally apologized for the inadequacy of the Maps app in an open letter, indicating that it is time to move forward (carefully, if you happen to be using Apple Maps) and look for some good alternatives that are already present in the App Store. The big names come to mind first of all, like Bing and Waze, but one mustn’t ignore lesser-known alternatives. It’s not like there weren’t many maps apps in the App Store before, but the release of iOS 6 has seen such apps sprout like weeds. Having a third-party client still won’t feel the same as the native Google Maps client of course, since it is sure to be missing some features, but it could have some features of its own to make up for that. A shining example of this is the new gMaps Browser for iPhone and iPad. This Google Maps client does not offer route planning, but other than that, you’ll be getting everything that can be expected from a maps alternative – Street View and public transit maps, along with a tidy interface and a few bonus features including additional map layers for weather and geotagged photos.
gMaps Browser has a simple options menu that can be brought up by tapping the handle (much like the one at the bottom of the Notification Center) at the left edge of the screen. A handle on the right side hides the search bar. The options menu is divided into two main parts; Mapstypes and Layers. At the bottom, you’ll find a button to navigate to your current location.
The map views are the same as those provided by the stock iOS 5 Maps app, plus an additional ‘Terrain’ view. You can switch between the following views or Maptypes from within the aforementioned menu.
- Standard view
- Satellite view
- Terrain view
- Hybrid view
Regardless of what Map view you’re using, you can simultaneously turn on as many layers as you want. You have the following four options to choose from.
- The first button in the layers section highlights all the roads that are suitable for vehicles.
- The public transit layer shows the routes of all the buses and metro trains in your area.
- Looking for the temperature around a particular city? gMaps has got you covered with its weather layer, which displays the current weather conditions and temperature for all major cities on the map.
- To view photos submitted from different areas to location-based sharing service Panoramio, toggle the photo layer on.
Hitting the small thumbnails that appear on the map shows larger previews. You may also view each photo in Panoramio by tapping the View in option within each preview.
gMaps Browser indicates Street View support for an area via a small icon in the top-left corner of the map. Wherever the icon is yellow, Street View is available, and you jump right into it by dragging the small stick figure over to the desired location. Once in Street View, you can move around using the usual pinch and swipe gestures.
As mentioned earlier, gMaps Browser isn’t really an option if you’re looking for route planning, turn-by-turn navigation or voice directions, which kind of makes it pointless to use it as a Maps alternative. However, its neat interface, the additional features it supports, and a $0 price tag definitely make it worth a try.
gMaps Browser is a free, universal app, and works only with iOS 6.