Google Maps for iPhone is now available from the App Store, and those experiencing problems with Apple's built-in iOS 6 Maps app now have a free, proven alternative to use, complete with turn-by-turn navigation, Street View, and transit directions. So... how does the new Google Maps app stack up?
Up until iOS 6, the stock Maps app was powered by Google location data. With iOS 6, Apple dumped Google, licensed TomTom and others instead, and rebuilt an entirely new app with Flyover, turn-by-turn, vector tiles, and more. But the actual point of interest, routing, and general location didn't work very well, especially outside major U.S. cities. And it was a big problem for Apple and users both.
We've taken a look at a lot of mapping solutions for iOS from stock options to alternative paid options. Nokia also recently released Nokia HERE for iOS to give users yet another option. Many users are still very attached to Google Maps and for good reason. It's inarguably one of the most robust mapping solutions on any platform.
The new version of Google Maps for iOS comes with a lot of the features that users of older iOS versions are used to but adds some new features as well. The largest and most welcome addition is actual turn-by-turn directions complete with voice navigation. Once you've searched for a place to go you can easily enter turn-by-turn and voice navigation in one tap. You can cancel and resume at any time or view the entire route. Along the top you have the ability to quick view steps as well which will temporarily pause voice navigation. Once you're ready to resume, you can do so with one tap.
From the main voice navigation view you can slide upwards to view list details of the route. You can also mute voice navigation altogether if you'd like. If there were multiple routes found, you can view those and choose between them by tapping each individual one or swiping back and forth between given routes. This is a great feature for those times when there are detours on one route and you'd like to quickly go another way.
Unlike Apple Maps, you've also got transit directions which are much needed for anyone living in an area that heavily relies on public transit. For many, this was a deal breaker on iOS 6. Well, you've got the option back now and it functions almost the same way as it did under previous iOS versions of Google Maps. The overview of a location also gives you a nice Street View preview that you can tap on in order to view in more detail.
Users can sign into their Google account via the app in order to pull mapping information on any routes they've viewed from other Google Maps enabled devices. If you view driving directions on your Mac, they'll also be available for your iPhone so you don't have to re-enter them. You can also view a detailed history of routes and destinations under settings. These are things Google obviously was not able to offer as a native mapping solution in previous iterations.
Overall, Google Maps for iOS is a big jump forward in terms of functionality and usefulness. While many users were upset by Google data it being pulled from iO MapsS, it may not have been a bad thing. Free of their entanglement and tussles, both the built-in iOS 6 Maps and the new wholly-owned Google Maps apps are free to do what they want, as quickly as they want.
Google Maps for iOS is far closer in functionality to Google Maps for Android than ever before, and while it sucks it took so long to get to the App Store, it was worth the wait.
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iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.