Amid weak reviews of Apple Maps, Google offers alternative

Reviews of Apple's new Maps application are in, and they aren't great.

Apple's Maps app has been praised for its look, but criticised for its lack of native transit directions.
(Screenshot by Casey Newton/CNET)

Everyone praises the app's look and feel, but critics have said that it is inferior to the app it replaced in important ways. CNET's Jason Parker said that users will likely miss Google Maps. "Not only are Google Maps no longer integrated, but also you're further walled in to Apple's ecosystem," he wrote.

Harsher notes were sounded by All Things D's Walt Mossberg, who called it the "biggest drawback" of the iPhone 5. Daring Fireball's John Gruber labelled the app "a downgrade", and Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslavsky found that it was "too easily confused, especially in urban areas".

City dwellers are particularly rankled that the app provides no native transit directions, instead redirecting users to third-party apps.

Well, wouldn't you know it; Google is reminding people that it has an alternative. Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering for maps at Google, told the New York Times that an update to Google Maps for Android would include a host of new features, including the ability to synchronise across devices.

If you search for a location on your desktop while signed in to Google, that location will pop up as a recent search inside the Google Maps app on your phone, saving you from having to type out the address again. Previous searches will show up inside the app under the heading "My Places", and users can save various locations using "work", "home" and other labels.

Apple doesn't have a desktop maps application, of course, giving Google an edge over its rival.

The Times noted that Google's app is also better at auto-completing partial queries and allowing people to make edits using Google Map Maker.

Still unanswered is whether Google will build a stand-alone Maps app for iOS. McClendon wouldn't say.

Google could decide against building an iOS app in order to give consumers a compelling reason to choose Android devices over the iPhone. Maps has long been a competitive advantage for Google, and making it Android-only could help keep it way.

But there's a disadvantage, too. Scott Rafer, CEO of mapping application company Lumatic, noted in a blog post that Google relies on its users to get data that is invaluable for improving the maps experience.

"More than half of Google's mobile map usage is going away in the next month or two," Rafer said. "Usage makes maps better a lot faster than software does."

That's a big reason we might see Google Maps back on iOS after all, and soon.


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MitchellT posted a comment   

i dont even use apple maps, i just use google earth on my iphone!


arspoon posted a comment   

Yeah, and der, might be the reason Apple maps suddeny becomes brilliant in a couple of months.

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