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iPhone users longing for an app with Google Map data can now rejoice. The Google Maps app has launched for the iPhone. The new app features turn-by-turn, spoken navigation. It is a suitable GPS navigation unit for most people. If you live in an area with great coverage, smart-phone based navigation is a viable option. However, with the lack of offline functionality, you may run into problems if you are in a remote area with no coverage. This is often when you need a map the most. Google Maps is free, and definitely worth using.
Don’t throw out your GPS Nav unit or Thomas Guide just yet. In the wake of half a dozen people being stranded in Australia by iOS 6 Maps’ inaccurate data, the media and authorities have advised travellers to keep printed, published maps on hand, especially when travelling in remote locations. Such mishaps occur quite often, however, the notoriety of Apple Maps and blogosphere hype have raised an important point — don’t rely solely on GPS navigation.
Google Maps for the iPhone offers many of the features you would expect. The app can find your current location, search for locations, and generate turn-by-turn, spoken directions. You can browse the map by dragging your finger and zoom/pivot by pinching/rotating. Optional layers, such as satellite view, traffic, and public transportation can be added to the map. One can also report problems with Google Maps directly within the app.
There are some features that go beyond other mapping applications. Google Maps has Zagat reviews, although just the rating and a blurb. While most mobile apps don’t have this, the GPS nav system in my automobile has had this for some time. Google Maps features Street View, which allows the user to see locations from the perspective of the street. This is a convenient way to look for landmarks in unfamiliar territory. If you have a Google account, your web and smart phone searches will be synchronized.
Google Maps is missing a few features offered by other mapping apps. Voice recognition is absent from this version. I would expect this to be available soon, as it is a convenient way to interface with a mapping app. It would be a smart move to integrate the Google Search with Voice app, such that asking for directions will launch this app, if installed. However, built-in voice recognition would be much easier to use. Siri will not work with Google Maps. Any request for directions will open Apple’s Maps app. I don’t expect Apple to change this. (continue…)