Apple’s decision to drop Google Maps in favour of their own iOS 6 Maps app left the company wide open to negative feedback. Whilst their own app looked good on the face of it, the reality of actually using it became a nightmare as users were faced with wrong turns through erroneous data and complete towns and cities missing altogether. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple was forced to make a public apology along with a promise to clean up the mess left by the app. Google themselves are working on a new iOS 6 Maps app but, in the meantime users have been left without a decent maps app on their phones. Mr Cook himself urged users to download alternative mapping solutions from the app-store or go direct to Google or Nokia and use their web-based ones. So let’s take a quick look at the short-term solutions he suggested and see whether they are reasonable alternatives.
1. Mapquest is one of the veteran mapping systems, being widely used in the 90’s. Their iOS Maps app works reasonable well, providing turn-by-turn and voice directions. Data is accurate but you do need to know the exact address of your destination to get the best from it. Points of interest are accurately displayed on the map on request. It has 2 minor downfalls in that it does not provide directions for walking or public transport and it is a little blurry on the higher resolution iPhones.
Download from iTunes . Link
2. WAZE is one of the more popular Maps apps as it is highly intuitive and very user-friendly with sharp easy-to-read graphics.. Much of its data relies on crowdsourcing, meaning that users are responsible for pinpointing accidents, traffic jams, police speed traps and camera amongst many others. And, once you input the event on the map it broadcasts it to everyone else using the system. It supports turn-by-turn and voice direction is accurate, even down to rerouting drivers int eh event of road hazards. One downfall is the lack of support for walking and public transport directions.
3. BING is a standalone app from Microsoft. Unfortunately it is neither the prettiest or the cleverest of the Maps apps, struggling to find the John Hancock building in Chicago when asked to. Its interface is nondescript but fast and, by all accounts driving directions are accurate if you have an address. It does support walking and public transport as well as driving directions and also voice directions.
Download . iTunes Link.
4. Google Maps are available for download in HTML 5 format and are a decent alternative whilst we are waiting for their new iOS Maps app to show its face. It’s not as smooth as the iOS 5 version but it does provide accurate directions for walking, driving and public transport, an accuracy that is synonymous with the Google Maps name. Unfortunately it doesn’t support voice directions but it does provide street level mapping and street views.
5. Nokia Maps also offer HTML 5 mapping which, like Google Maps doesn’t support high-resolution displays very well. However, switching off satellite view can improve this a little. Map directions are accurate and POI’s are easily pinpointed as their data is taken from reliable sources such as Lonely Planet. Like Google it provides live traffic views and it supports driving, walking and public transport directions.
These are the top contenders for alternative free Maps apps and, although they are all pretty good, none of them match up to the connection between Apple’s user interface and Google maps data. Still, they are pretty decent alternatives and will fill the gap until either the new iOS 6 Maps app from Google becomes available or Apple fix their maps, whichever comes soonest.