As I stated when iOS 6 was first released, map data has to work properly because of its intrinsic relationship with, well, all aspects of life.
A lot of people bemoaned Apple having dropped Google maps, because Google has been developed over many years, whereas Apple’s maps were a version 1 product. Google has also been much praised about the accuracy of its mapping data, as a result of, among other things, the fact the Google sends people out to check the mapping data.
I expect Apple will continue to improve their mapping data, and find the UI of their app to be good. But like most, we need the data to be accurate. Even Victoria Police in Australia has made specific warnings about trusting Apple Maps in navigating to the town of Mildura due to inaccurate map data.
When Google Maps was released for iOS, I was keen to try out the app to see if the app would give me the best of both worlds in terms of accurate data and a simple UI.
So I downloaded the app, and yesterday tried it out to navigate from Parramatta in Sydney’s west to a major shopping centre called Castle Towers. Castle Towers is a major centre that has been open since 1982, and is even home to one of the 7 Apple Stores in Sydney.
Google Maps’ UI was great, and it took me seconds to work out how to plan a route, and start the turn-by-turn navigation function. I really like the turn-by-turn experience, with clear information on the next turn, and (where appropriate) information about immediately following turns. In short, I like it, and can see this app replacing TomTom as my major navigation tool.
The app got me close to the shopping centre, but not to it. In fact, it told me I had arrived when I was in a leafy surburban street about 2 blocks from the centre. Not knowing the centre, I didn’t realise it was two blocks behind me, so I drove further down the street. A check of Google Street View in the Google Maps app showed me that there was no shopping centre there! (see photo)
So while nowhere as serious as the Mildura incident, the hallowed Google Maps failed me on its first usage, and it failed to find a major complex that is far from a recent addition.
After leaving Castle Towers, I set a course to visit Tamworth in regional NSW, a major town about 5–6 hours from Sydney. The app worked brilliantly, and tracked time and distance extremely well. In fact, it seems to estimate time a bit better than Apple Maps.
Plotting a trip home from Tamworth, Google Maps tells me it will be 5 hours 42 minutes, whilst Apple Maps predicts 5 hours 14 minutes. I bet that even in perfect traffic, 5:42 will be a best case scenario.
Google Maps will probably be my go-to app for turn-by-turn navigation, based on user experience, turn-by-turn functionality and overall better map data. I like the app, but will keep using the Apple Maps app as well to see how it improves.