You might have heard that Apple’s new maps application is widely being seen as… a bit of blemish on the otherwise glowing aura of the iPhone 5. There’s even a Tumblr dedicated to mocking it already in existence.
So I borrowed a friend’s iPhone and I tried it out. And… well… let’s just say that I will be providing everybody I know using an iPhone with detailed and precise directions to every event I’m holding from now on. Because they’re going to need them.
I wasn’t expecting Google Maps level of quality, and at first, the app looks good. It seems pretty straightforward, even competitive. But use it a little bit and its problems quickly become apparent.
First of all, there’s no public transit directions. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. If you want to use public transit to get around, hope you’ve got a friend with an Android phone because otherwise you’re screwed. Directions in general seemed to be a serious problem: as I tried to take the iPhone around a few locations in the major city I live in, it kept giving me less than ideal routes, especially on foot.
Secondly, it was terrible at pinpointing my actual location. Granted that Google Maps is not necessarily superb at this either, but I had an Android at my side and it was more accurate than the iPhone ever got. Not helping things was the fact that Google had just overhauled Maps, so that any addresses I entered previously were saved on my phone already. It really underscored how ultimately more usable and more detailed Google Maps was compared to Apple’s version.
Not all of these problems will be there forever. I expect Maps will get a hell of a lot of updates in a very short span of time. But I don’t think that Apple’s maps will ever be as usable, up to date, or detailed as Google’s. Google is a search engine, and Maps is one of their crown jewels; Apple is just paying TomTom for data.
I’m honestly not sure why Apple took this enormous step backwards. I’m assuming one of two things happened: When the contract was up, Google demanded a lot more money, or Apple deliberately snubbed Google. Regardless, they’re doing their customers no favors and I have a sneaking suspicion that when Google Maps comes out for iOS 6, it’ll be a big hit.