Google Maps for iPhone full review
Google Maps Search on iPhone
One area that Google Maps clearly has the advantage over Apple Maps is in search. Search is big problem for Apple Maps. We assume because Apple doesn't have the back-end search data (the BigTable three-dimensional mapping) that Google has; and hasn't spent years analysing data.
The results show. We're currently sat in the office opposite the British Library (a fairly sizeable building and institution). If we type just British Library into Apple Maps it brings up the British Ballon Museum in Southampton. Google brings up Google Maps. You can find what you want in Apple Maps, typing in British Library London brings up the correct result, for example, but Apple is obviously not as intuitive at returning the most-likely correct result as Google.
Google Maps profile
Another neat touch is that you sign in to Google Maps with your regular Google ID. This means you can view your Search History, set Home and Work locations, and add Favorites (these synced instantly on our testing). It's neat to be able to access your Maps search history and favourites from your desktop usage on the iPhone.
Google Maps vs Apple Maps: accuracy and content
There have also been plenty of reports of data inaccuracy in Apple Maps, and it's clear that Apple initially had a problem with its cartography. Apple has vowed to work on this and we can see cartography fixes as we go.
As recently as 10 December the Australian Police issued a warning against using Apple Maps application as it showed the city of Mildura near the Murray Sunset National Park when it is actually located 44 miles away.
In terms of content (bars, restaurants, businesses, and so on) we noticed the Apple Maps app was surprisingly sparse upon launch but has started to fill up in London and other major areas around the world.
Apple Maps is getting better, but there's no doubt in our mind that Google Maps is probably the more accurate of the two. We'll do detailed cartography testing as we go on, but Google's heritage mapping solutions simply means its had more time to spot and fix any errors and inconsistencies. There's no way Apple can get around this other than by plugging on with its updates and improving as it goes.
Perhaps more importantly, is the perception in people's minds that Apple Maps is now inaccurate, and that Google Maps is accurate. It's a trust issue. These kinds of perceptions, especially when so highly publicised are hard to shift. We do remember quite high profile stories mocking Google Maps for its inaccuracy when it launched, and Google clearly worked over time to improve the image of Google Maps. Maybe Apple can do the same, or maybe enough people will just use whatever Maps service is installed by default.
Google Maps: step-by-step navigation
Another neat feature is that Google Maps, along with the new Apple Maps, offers turn-by-turn navigation. This was apparantly the sticking point in the license between Google and Apple that made Apple ditch Google Maps and go with its own product. It comes with a warning that the service is still in beta, and that you should pay close attention to your surroundings. We're not sure if this is just Google hedging its bets against any reverse-backlash or whether it's . Our preliminary tests seemed fine.
The step-by-step interface is slightly less clear than Apple's Maps implementation, which is actually fairly important when you're just glancing at a map while driving a car. It does, however, have voice feedback.
What Google Maps doesn't have is Siri integration. Siri is turning out to be more and more useful for in-car navigation, and although it's still not as good at understanding us as we'd like, the idea of being able to issue voice commands to your sat-nav system while driving is exceptionally appealing.
We need to spend a little more time pitting Google Maps verus Apple Maps in terms of step-by-step navigation before declaring one system definably better than the other. On the whole it's a good implementation, and one good thing that's come out of the whole Maps fiasco is that you now have access to not one, but two free apps that offer a comprehensive satellite navigation solution, for free, on your iPhone.
Remember that Apple Maps driving is powered by Tom-Tom, which has always been our preferred sat-nav app on the iPhone, so we think it may well have the edge when it comes to step-by-step navigation.