I personally know a lot of people who haven’t bought an iPhone 5 only because Apple dumped Google Maps in iOS 6. To make matters worse, Apple Maps turned out to be completely inadequate. Only yesterday the story broke out that the Australian Police department has advised people to refrain from using Apple Maps, since they can lead you into serious trouble with their flawed directions. Although Apple fixed the particular bug that caused the Australian outcry, the damage was done. Just when things were looking pretty gloomy for iOS 6 users, Google has come to the rescue! The whispers of something big on the horizon started circulating around the internet a few hours ago and sure enough, we now have Google Maps app for the iPhone. As you would expect, the app is optimized for iPhone 5’s larger display, but unfortunately you will have to wait a bit longer for an iPad version. The app is a huge improvement over the iOS 5 version, and offers turn-by-turn voice guidance, street view and everything else you can hope to find in such a big-name app.
Before anything else, you will notice that the app’s interface has been completely overhauled. There’s much less gloss, a sprinkling of gestures and a simplistic overall feel to Google Maps. If you want the app to remember your navigation history and show personalized search results, sign in using your Google account by hitting the icon in the top-right corner. To view your current location, tap the small button at the bottom of the screen. If you want to change the map type, there is a small button for bringing up the menu that houses options for switching to traffic, public transit or satellite views. Google Earth users can jump to the current location in the Earth map with a single tap. To help you in your daily commute, the ‘Settings’ screen lets you define the addresses of your workplace and home.
When you search for a particular place in Google Maps, it is possible to view additional details about it by swiping upwards. If the location has Street View imaging available, you will see a button for that mode on the info page. Just like on a computer, Street View pages offer a 360-degree panorama of the place. For businesses, Google Maps shows contact information and the option to share it via email and SMS. Everyone who uses the app with a Google account can bookmark places by hitting the ‘Save’ button.
So, we saved the best for the last. Turn-by-turn navigation is something that iOS users have been craving for a long time. Setting up a route is easy, and you just have to specify your destination and starting point before the app maps out everything for you. It is possible to get a preview of the route you will be following even before you start your journey. Google Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation is a nice mixture of visual, textual and voice directions.
Although this first release looks pretty flawless, Google has hinted at even more upcoming features. There are rumors of offline support, and the app is sure to get optimized for the iOS tablet in the near future. Fortunately, Google Maps is not exclusive to iOS 6, and any device running iOS 5 or later is capable of running the app.