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Google Maps for iPhone

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Google Maps doesn’t have an offline mode for the iPhone. There is no way to cache maps and use them when you don’t have coverage. This is unfortunate, as it could create problems in remote locations, often when people need maps the most. The Android version offers the capability to cache maps, if the user chooses to do so. Apple Maps for iOS 6 automatically caches map data for offline usage. In fact, it stores a whole continent of map data, available offline, due to its efficient vector-based maps. Google Maps is also vector based, but apparently Apple has a more efficient format, allowing more data on the device.

There is no iPad version of this app yet. I expect it to be released soon. One can use the iPhone version on the iPad, but it is not the best user experience. Mapping apps are used mainly on smart phones, due to their portability.

The Google Maps app does seem a bit sluggish. I find it to be slow when dragging, tilting and zooming. When I compare this to Apple’s iOS 6 Maps app, the difference is obvious. iOS 6 Maps is fluid and responsive. I am hoping these performance issues can be ameliorated in future releases. Google’s app is quite usable. Most people will be searching for destinations, not dragging through the interface. However, the UI performance of Apple’s Maps app is far superior. This is surprising, because Apple doesn’t always make the best iOS apps. Some are amazing, such as GarageBand. Many are appalling, such as Music and Reminders, although the latter has improved.

With all of the map apps available for iOS, one may be wondering which one to use. I agree with the NY Times — Apple and Google are not the best mapping platforms for navigation. Most people are using these apps for driving directions, but there are better options. While fanboys and the techbloid media have been beating up Apple Maps, most mapping applications have deficiencies. When I started the Google Maps app, I was presented with this screen:

Google Maps for iPhone disclaimer

Furthermore, if you search for “Google Maps errors“, you will find myriad shortcomings, including a recommendation to swim across the Atlantic Ocean to reach Europe. They’re just trying to be cute, of course. An error in Google Maps back in 2010 caused Nicaragua to invade Costa Rica!

Controversy and hype, much like antennagate, gets eyeballs on websites and advertisements. Many blogs and content sites are no better than tabloids. It’s a sad truth that hype and distortion are quite profitable. The tremendous success of the iPhone 5 has many competitors anxious to take the wind out of Apple’s sails. Both Motorola and Samsung have launched ad campaigns specifically targeting deficiencies in Apple Maps. This has created a perfect storm of the new “antennagate”, now called “mapocalypse”.

The recent news of half-a-dozen iPhone users being stranded in Australia has augmented this furor. The reality is that in Death Valley, California, there are signs informing drivers not to rely on their GPS navigation unit. This seems like common sense. In 2009, a boy died in Death Valley due to reliance on GPS navigation. According to NPR, this information was incorrect in TomTom and Google Earth. (continue…)

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