One, two, three… everybody breathe a collective sigh of relief. After much weeping, crying and gnashing of teeth over the replacement of Google Maps with the oh-so-hated Apple Maps, the navigational security blanket has returned. Thank you Google! (for those of you who couldn’t care less and happen to have no issues with Apple Maps, the download is optional so don’t worry about it)
Fortunately for those who loved the old Google Maps app, the new one is much the same. While Google claims to have started from scratch with this one, the most talked-about addition seems to be the turn-by-turn directions –the previous exclusion of which is rather ironically the feature that Apple claims as the reason for migrating away from Google’s mapping product to begin with.
Of course, the other notable addition to the app is Street View –a Google Maps feature previously unavailable in the mobile version. Street View offers “360-degree panoramas of places around the globe” while also allowing you to “inside more than 100,000 businesses worldwide.”
For those who use Google Maps extensively on other devices and desktop machines, the biggest advantage is the sync capability that gives you access to your your saved searches, directions, and favorite places.
An initial hands-on test-drive of the new Google Maps app enables me to tell you that the biggest advantage is speed. While I wouldn’t have described the Apple Maps app as slow, it pales by comparison to Google’s app. My maps history was available and easy to review (showing me dozens of places I didn’t even remember looking up) and even in the middle of Saskatchewan, Canada, the turn-by-turn directions were accurate and excellent.
Much like Apple Maps, the features available will vary by region. While I did have Street View available, Traffic reports and Public Transit details are not enabled in my region.
You can download Google Maps for the iPhone now for free from the App Store; an iPad version is promised but not yet available.