Google Maps 2.0 for iOS review: Now with Explore, traffic, and iPad support

It's finally here; Google Maps has been updated with proper iPad support. OK, so it goes beyond just iPad support, it includes all the cool stuff Google talked about back at Google I/O in May. But, since we've all seen Google Maps on the iPhone before, this time out we're going to take a look at both the new stuff, and how it looks on the iPad.

The tl;dr version on the iPad front is pretty simple. It looks identical to Google Maps on the iPhone, only on the bigger display. OK, so there's more to it than that, but essentially that's what we're looking at. That's a good thing too. Google Maps got its interface re-design underway first with the iOS version back in December 2012, so we're already pretty familiar with the overall look and feel. The main visual change is that the slide out menu with the different viewing options now pulls out from the left, and not the right as before. Otherwise the main view is just a map, and a search bar. As it should be.

Public transit, routing and navigation work just the same as they do on the iPhone, but take advantage of the larger screen. So, your route information will overlay the map, which will also show a line representing visually the described route. Navigation is just navigation, but bigger. Also new to navigation is real-time traffic information, and live re-routing. I've not had chance to take it out and find some traffic yet, but early reports suggest it's pretty good, though one UK user told us that the traffic was shown on the wrong side of the road! Public transit information gets a real boost with the move to the iPad, as you get a really nice looking card based interface with all the relevant information about your stop or station.

Explore is something new to Google Maps, and it's supposed to help you find great stuff around you. Initially it didn't show up for me, so if you don't see it, don't fret, it will show up. Eventually. When you tap the search bar, Explore shows up pretty much top of the list. You get categories for eat, drink, shop, play and sleep. Each one then breaks down into each categories, such as popular with tourists, local favorites and so on. It's actually pretty slick, and when you select a place, you then get to see the new Zagat infused information and reviews.

Reviews has the same card based interface as transit locations, with maps, photos and street view spliced in with a healthy dose of user reviews, along with the chance to write your own. Content from the Google owned Zagat is also built into the reviews area of Maps, but it'll probably be used like Tripadvisor; you always look for the one-star review.

Indoor mapping is also new to iOS in version 2.0, as is Google Offers integration. Indoor mapping works just like regular mapping, only for selected locations such as shopping malls, airports, public transport stations, all with walking directions and a floor picker where required. Indoor maps also ties in with the release of the updated Google Maps SDK for iOS, giving third-party developers the opportunity now to include them in their own apps.

Generally speaking then, Google Maps 2.0 is pretty impressive. Google has squeezed some good new content in there, as well as making it available now for the iPad. There are some negative points though that need to be addressed. First is performance; it's pretty janky at times. For example, opening the slide out menu on the iPad is nowhere near smooth, likewise with zooming in from time to time. Not counting for rendering, just the movement of zooming in is pretty bad at times. It's more jarring though that a simple slide out menu also suffers the same. Also, offline maps; at first glance there is no option to cache offline maps. Actually, there is, but it's not the most user-friendly experience, and we'll be covering that in a separate how-to post on the site.

The good

  • iPad compatible, finally!
  • Explore is well done, and has plenty of content
  • Reviews are nice to have in the same place as searching for a location
  • Traffic information in navigation is welcome, and long overdue!

The bad

  • Kinda, really janky at times
  • Offline maps aren't obviously available, poorly executed

The bottom line

The new stuff is great, and some of it – traffic in navigation in particular – maybe long overdue, but still a welcome addition. Maps on iPad is great to have, and some of the design elements are excellent, just as we've come to expect from Google. But, it's janky to use at times which isn't good, and we've come to expect so much better from Google's iOS apps. If that gets fixed, and offline maps becomes more accessible and user-friendly, Google has a definite score.

Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Reader comments

Google Maps 2.0 for iOS review: Now with Explore, traffic, and iPad support

12 Comments

The new traffic information is fantastic.

Another change is that turning off location reporting seems to be one level deeper in the menus now, if I recall correctly.

Sent from the iMore App

After all the boasting that Google was better than Apple, I am disappointed...Street view in Japan is appalling...Way out of date...Well over a year out of date...and info too is missing...I don't know why so many people are Google fans...I find Apple products, even with their shortcomings, are far better. I think, with the advent of ios7, native apps will be far improved so we will be able to ditch many of the non native apps.

Street view is hard to keep up to date, you know. It's not like Google can have the cars driving around every street in the world all the time to keep it up to date :)

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After reading Richard Devine's comment, I have checked street view again in Japan and much of the street view is at least TWO years old...Two years is far too out of date
...and the search area for finding cafes is woefully out of date and lacking...I live on an island that has NINETEEN Starbucks...Not one is listed in the cafe section....You don't need to cruise around in a car to list Starbucks in the cafe section.

It's just as out of date where I live. A car we sold 3 years ago is still shown outside our house. Just saying it's hard work mapping the world you know :)

...and it doesn't run on iOS5..so if you've been holding out to hold onto built in maps..but want to test drive this to see if you can move to iOS6...you're out of luck.

From Slashgear:
"Although Google isn’t mentioning it directly, we tried the “OK Maps” offline caching Easter Egg that was initially included on the Android version – zoom to the area you want to access offline, then type “OK Maps” into the search box – and it still works. No telling whether Google will include a more easily-accessed option, as it did after Android users complained vocally."

It works, pretty awesome!!!!

Sent from the iMore App

As I put in the review, we'll have a separate how-to post for that so it doesn't get lost in this post for folks who might be new to it down the line :)

Though, I disagree on your point of it being awesome! It doesn't cache large areas, even the full city of London map I couldn't cache. If you're a visitor to London, you might want the whole city and not just bits of it. And it's janky as hell when you don't have an internet connection, or so I think anyway!

The icon is odd (or at least different than other apps). I can't quite figure it out... raised on the bottom?