9 Things to Know about Google’s Maps App
When Google announced its new maps app for iOS, there was a mixed reaction. On the one hand, many were happy to see an alternative to Apple’s flawed Maps app that bungled the release of iOS 6. However, others noted that Google Maps doesn’t have all of the features that made it stand out on Android devices. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about Google Maps for iOS.
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1. Offline mode is available but limited.
The new app has an offline mode that lets you view maps without any kind of signal, which can be great for those who live in areas with spotty coverage or no cellular data plan at all. However, Google hasn’t made offline mode fully functional. It’s limited to just seven days, which means you won’t be able to save a map for later use. Even worse, while Google promised you could save an entire map offline, it doesn’t seem to work.
Google said the feature is still in its early stages and more updates are on the way.
2. Google Maps is missing some features.
The first version of the app for iOS has a handful of on-screen buttons that don’t exist on Android devices. To make room, Google dropped Street View and Transit directions, which probably isn’t going to sit well with those who had no problem with Apple’s buggy version of Maps. However, Google said both features are coming “soon.”
3. It’s nowhere near as slick as the Android version.
Google’s iOS app looks amateurish compared to its Android counterpart. While Google has made an effort to make it work on iOS devices, there are some rough edges that need polishing. The most notable difference is the menu, which is a direct port of Google Maps for Android. The only thing missing from the iOS version is Latitude and Buzz. All other elements like Street View and Transit directions are ported over as separate apps that you can download from the App Store.
4. It has some interesting new features.
Google has added some interesting new features to the app that will delight transit riders. The first is one-stop search, which lets you find out when your next train or bus is arriving without having to launch another app. Once you’ve found the schedule, Google Maps will give you an estimated time of arrival for both your car and public transportation. And if that’s not enough, you can also see station layouts for all of the major transit stations in New York City with street-view images.
5. It looks great on the iPhone.
Apple’s new iPhone has a high-resolution display that makes it easy to read text displayed on the screen. This comes in handy when using Google Maps on iOS. The print is larger and thus making it easy to read while you’re zoomed in on a map. Such clear display for text makes reading Yelp reviews much easier.
6. There’s no way to get turn-by-turn directions on the iPhone without jailbreaking your device.
Google has disabled the built-in navigation feature on iOS devices, which isn’t surprising given Apple has its own Maps app that does the same thing. This means iPhone users who want turn-by-turn directions will either need to use Siri or jailbreak their device.
7. It’s not available in all countries yet.
It appears Google has rolled out the app to only a handful of countries. So far, users in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand can download it for free in the App Store. Google said more countries will be added over time.
8. Hit-and-miss crash reports from users who installed early versions.
Early adopters have been quick to report crashes in the new Google Maps app, but it seems to work well enough for most people. We’ve downloaded and installed the app and it’s worked seamlessly on our iPhone.
9. It has a very familiar color scheme and design elements.
Google took its time to completely redesign Google Maps for iOS. While it looks cleaner, everything from the color scheme to user interface has been carried over from the Android version.
10. It drops much of what made Google Maps great on Android devices.
Google was forced to make concessions in its design when porting the app over to iOS because Apple doesn’t allow third-party developers to modify the standard user interface of its mobile operating system. Among other things, this means Google can’t set custom button styles and has to replace Latitude and Buzz with separate apps. It also did not port Street View or Transit directions into one app that you can download from the App Store like on Android devices.
This is not the app I wish Google had made. It’s a “good enough” effort by Google, but it doesn’t leave me with much hope that the company will be able to give iPhone users an experience comparable to its Android version anytime soon. As was the case when Apple introduced its own Maps application in iOS, there are trade-offs that come with using a native built-for-iPhone app. Google Maps is just one of those trade offs, and will have to do until the company devises a way to make iOS work for them like it does for Apple.