Mapquest review for iPhone: Is it going in the right direction?

AOL's Mapquest is one of the most popular online mapping services, second only to Google Maps. It comes with dozens of useful features - including looking up nearby businesses and step-by-step navigation - but is Mapquest for iPhone a worthy replacement for Google or Apple Maps?

Great for current traffic coverage

Mapquest features a traffic overlay that shows you where there are light slowdowns or heavy traffic (represented by yellow and red, respectively). So, you can get an idea of what parts of town you should avoid, or whether it might be better to just wait an hour to leave.

You can look up road incidents to see if there are any lane blockages or stalled vehicles taking up space on the road.

Mapquest is connected to city webcams, too. So, you can get a real-time view of the roadways ahead and check on any potential slowdowns that haven't been reported yet.

Transportation comparison is very useful

When you look up directions to a location, you're offered the ability to compare transportation options. You can see how long it will take to drive or walk to your destination. Plus, you can look up fares and wait times for Uber and car2go for alternative transportation.

Unfortunately, there is no option for public transit, even in big cities like San Francisco.

Easy to look up nearby businesses

Mapquest uses layers to provide you with information about nearby businesses. You can choose from hotels, food, gas stations, grocery stores, and more. You can show multiple layers at once and add more layers to your options, like rental cars, malls, and airports.

You can manage the layers by adding, removing, and reorganizing the list to show your favorites first, which is useful if you tend to search for particular types of categories more often than others.

Local business listing is abysmal

Although the nearby business layer feature is convenient, it is also poorly populated. For example, when I looked for grocery stores nearby, it showed me three liquor stores, but not the Safeway that is less than a mile away. It also included an oil company as a grocery store.

Another example: when I searched for music venues, it listed a bunch of businesses with "venue" in the title (including the Internal Revenue Services), but not a single actual music venue, not even the 18,000 seat amphitheater in a neighboring city.

No alternative route option

When I drive to San Francisco, I like to check the various driving routes because sometimes, even though a route is 10 miles out of the way, it might take less time than the more direct one. Mapquest for iPhone doesn't offer alternate routes. It only shows the most direct option.

Doesn't estimate future traffic conditions

When preparing for a future trip, I like to know how early I should leave to deal with rush hour fluctuations. Mapquest has a feature that allows you to change the date and time that you plan to leave for a trip, but does not provide time estimates based on average traffic conditions.

A drive to San Francisco from my hometown, for example, could take anywhere from one hour and 40 minutes to three hours and 30 minutes, depending on the time of day I leave. Mapquest doesn't offer any information about how traffic, on average, affects drive time.

Should you download Mapquest?

The short answer is no.

Google Maps has nearly all of the same features as Mapquest (like trip planning online and route stops), but also provides more and better information.

Apple Maps has pretty much the same features as Mapquest, but has a better looking, more coherent interface.

I'd recommend going with one of the two alternatives above. Or, you could try Waze, which is a great social-based mapping service that focuses on user-reported traffic conditions. It makes figuring out drive time practically an exact science.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).