So the first great thing about Google’s new Maps is the underlying data. Hundreds of Google employees have spent years hand-editing the maps, fixing the thousands of errors that people report every day. (In the new app, you report a mistake just by shaking the phone.) And since 2006, Google’s Street View vehicles have trawled 3,000 cities, photographing and confirming the cartographical accuracy of five million miles of roads.
You can sense the new app’s polish and intelligence the minute you enter your first address; it’s infinitely more understanding. When I type “200 W 79, NYC,” Google Maps drops a pin right where it belongs: on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Apple’s Maps app, on the other hand, acts positively drunk. It asks me to clarify: “Did you mean 200 Durham Road, Madison, CT? Or 200 Madison Road, Durham, CT?”
...for a 1.0 app, created in the space of only a few months, Google Maps for iPhone is an astonishingly powerful, accurate, beautiful tool. For millions of iPhone owners, it’s a drive in the right direction.
I tried the new Google Maps out on two drives today. The app worked great. Interface is much more appealing than Apple Maps. I love how, after entering a place you want to go to, you can swipe through the turn by turn directions, getting a preview of where Google Maps is taking you.
Apple Maps can't do that. I don't believe even Navigon can, and I've been an avid Navigon user. This allows me to get a heads-up on my entire route before setting off.
Google Maps also is intimately tied in with the whole Google ecosystem. For example, it finds local restaurants much better than Apple Maps does. I easily located "Marco Polo Global Restaurant" here in Salem.
Once found, Google Maps gave me driving instructions, address/phone, link to web site, menu, street photo and some interior photos, reviews by many people, and more.
After using standalone Garmin GPS devices for many years, which gave me an irritating "recalculating... recalculating" when I missed a designated turn, one of my key tests for a turn-by-turn navigation device is how it handles alternate routing.
Navigon just goes about its business and carries on with a revised set of directions. So does Apple Maps. And thankfully, so does Google Maps. I purposely drove by my street on my way home. Google Maps instantly came up with a new set of turn by turn directions with no shaming, like Garmin did.
Here's an unexpected bonus: my Mini Cooper radio only uses Bluetooth for phone calls. I can't play music from my iPhone over the radio system without plugging it in via cables. Irritating, since our Chevy Volt (which my wife mainly drives) can do that.
But when I started off on my first Google Maps driving test, I heard a female voice utter directions over the Mini's speakers. Simultaneously, the display screen said something like "phone call for [my number]." The message showed only as long as the Google Maps turn by turn direction did.
Somehow Google Maps taps into the iPhone's bluetooth feature in a way that makes my Mini Cooper think it is receiving a phone call. So even though I was listening to Sirius satellite radio while driving around, whenever Google Maps gave me a new direction, the female voice interrupted the station I was listening to.
This is what I'd hoped Navigon and Apple Maps could do, but I was disappointed. I'm happy that I can now put my iPhone in a windshield mount, without plugging it in to anything, and hear turn by turn directions over my Mini's speaker system.
Yes, Google Maps needs a cellular connection to work. At least, I assume it does. But I've got Navigon as a backup to use in remote areas (Navigon stores its maps on the iPhone itself.) For general use, the Google Maps app is going to be my preferred turn by turn navigation app.
The price is eminently reasonable: free.