We'll include a couple of examples here, and we're sure that you have your own, but there are many to choose from (remember when we tried to search for Union Square?). On a local level, both apps were able to locate a restaurant in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood, but only Google got it on the street corner. As another example, CNET's Dong Ngo had his own problem earlier this week when he searched for a business on Front Street. Here again, Google Maps got it right, but Apple misdirected him a few blocks away. Outside of the Bay Area, Apple Maps somehow put the Oregon Capitol building in Madison, Wis., and wasn't able to find the not-so-small community of San Bernardino, Calif. Perhaps it confused the city with San Bernardino County, but there's no excuse for placing it in a very uninhabited region of the Mojave Desert.
After finding a location, an expanded info sheet at the bottom gives you the hours for restaurants, and a phone number if you need to make a reservation. And though it's not immediately obvious, you can swipe among results without going back to the map. If you sign in with your Google account, you can save searches so you have them handy for later. You also can see Google reviews or Zagat reviews if it's a restaurant. Unlike on Apple Maps, we're perfectly comfortable not having to interact with Yelp.
The biggest new feature in the new Google Maps for iOS is turn-by-turn directions with voice. Now, when you search for an address, the app displays several routes in a list before you set off. But it also has a route options button near the top that lets you choose to avoid highways or avoid roads and bridges that require a toll. Once you select your route, Google Maps shows it on the map with the estimated time it will take to get there at the bottom.
To start turn-by-turn directions with voice, simply hit the Start arrow in the lower right to get a 3D view of your route. As you drive or walk, you will be given audio directions for when you should make every turn. In our early testing, the app didn't miss a turn, and was capable of rerouting if I went off course. In other words, the experience is the same as you'd get from Google Maps on a computer. In a previous CNET comparison between the Apple Maps and the Web version of Google Maps, Apple did a decent job with turn-by-turn directions mostly, but Google was better. And now with an iOS app offering the feature, we expect that a lot of people may use Google Maps exclusively.
Urban dwellers will welcome the return of integrated transit and walking directions on a mapping app. Apple's decision to skip that feature remains inexplicable; users should never lose a feature with nothing to really replace it. The experience is the same as what you got before, which is to say, accurate and easy to use. See our previous evaluation of the feature for the full story. We wrote it based on the Web version of Google Maps, but the idea is the same.
The latest version of the Google Maps app released in March adds a few more useful features. The app still doesn't integrate with your handset's contacts list as Apple Maps does, but it does let you access contacts saved in Google. Simply sign in to your account and you'll be able to search for a friend's name. Google Maps will recognize the contact information (if you've entered it), and give you directions to that person's house.
The app also makes it easier to find nearby places in the latest version. When performing a search, you'll now see icons across the top where you can find local food, coffee shops, bars, and gas stations, but a button on the right brings up a longer list of categories. It's not a big change, but having these common search terms will come in handy when you're visiting a new location. Another minor change to the app is the capability to view distances in kilometers as well as miles.
If you haven't downloaded the Google Maps app yet (and, seriously, why haven't you?), do so now. Even if you don't think you'll use it that much, download it and let it sit on your phone. It's free, after all, and you never know when you might need it.
This is mapping done correctly. It's accurate, chock-full of information, and easy to use. At this point, it beats any competing offerings by a mile (pun intended) and it's our go-to choice for navigation on an iPhone. Sure, the lack of a dedicated iPad app is disappointing, but it's still the standard that Apple needs to study closely. So, have you downloaded it yet?
New features coming in summer 2013
At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, the company announced several changes and updates to Google Maps for mobile. A new Zagat experience with enhanced restaurant cards will give ratings and more information about locations than before. A new Offers experience lets you quickly save vendor offers so you can have them handy to use later. Google Maps will now find live traffic data notifying you of accidents on your route and offer new routes as traffic conditions change. A new Explore experience on tablets makes suggestions for food, activities, hotels, and interesting locations in your current area. We have not had any hands-on experience with the changes, but we will update this review when the new version of Google Maps becomes available.
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