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Google Maps on iOS at last: go ogle it! Featured

Google’s long awaited Maps app has arrived for iPhones at long last following Apple’s iOS Maps flap, and while iPads must wait a bit longer for a dedicated app,  iPhone owners have Google Maps data restored into a native app at last.

Google has finally launched a native version of Google Maps for iOS in the App Store, fixing the Apple Maps deficiency by replacing it with Google’s.

It works on iPhone 3GS models though to the iPhone 5, and from iPod Touch 3rd gen onwards, all running at least iOS 5.1 or better, nicely giving those who aren’t yet on iOS 6.x a chance to also go ogle this Google’s native app maps move.

iOS users still cannot set a default mapping app, unlike Safari which at least lets you choose between Google, Yahoo, Bing and Baidu while not giving you free rein to set an independent default either.

Even so, a native Google Maps app is enough, restoring at long last what was so abruptly taken from one hand despite the other benefits iOS 6 delivered to the other in return.  

Now we see Google’s implementation of turn-by-turn voice guided navigation that Google Maps has had on Android for years.

There are also “cards” of information on the location you’re heading to or looking up in Google maps, giving you access to all kinds of useful, relevant information: directions, Street View with an old/new twist and a series of other photos if they are available, contact details, opening hours, a web site link, and a whole series of Google user reviews, with Google welcoming all feedback and location updates.

Google also urges you to sign in sign in with your Google ID, letting you save destinations and locations and other integration while Google collects even more information about you, with your permission.  

Both Google’s and Apple’s iOS mapping apps bring even more competition to great apps such as the AUD $14.99 Metroview with full offline GPS mapping capabilities that can give you great spoken speed limit alerts and discreet speed and safety camera warnings even without first inputting a destination in a type fo "co-pilot" mode, and the excellent free Telstra WhereIS mapping app which uses Telstra’s own excellent Sensis mapping data.

Then there’s an alternative like AUD $1.99 GPS Navigation 2 app from Skobbler, using the amazing people OpenStreetMap data as the people-powered source for regularly updating information from local sources, analysing it for quality before updating its own maps soft launching not long ago in Australia to challenge the world’s private mapping companies. It's No.1 in Germany and the UK, and is in the top 3 GPS navigation apps in the US, showing that a people powered mapping solution is more than viable and a growing alternative.

However, Google Maps for iOS is here, and challenges other location and business review apps more than ever, something Google’s been brewing for a long, long time with its Local and Places initiatives, delivering a new source of reviews, a new way to see them and a new place to make those reviews and comments.

Then there's Street View. It's available as you remember it, but now with with a brand new mode. Press a button with two arrows circling each other in the bottom left hand corner of the Street View image to lock the your position.

Once you do, you can move the iPhone around in the air to see the image instantly move and change as though you were there and turning around to get a good 360 degree look at the spot you’re in. It’s a great effect that Google introduced with its very first Android G1 model back in 2008, as one cool little differentiator from the iPhone.

It’s a great way to familiarise yourself with a location before you go there, in a way that only Street View offers – even letting you see inside businesses that have let Google’s Street View cameras through its doors.

It helps you plan your own déjà vu, rather than have it be a potential glitch in the matrix, and it’s a comforting feeling when you go somewhere new yet feel like you’ve been there before.    

Apple’s Flyover in its own Apple Maps app is definitely cool. It’s fun to “fly” around various amazing locations around the world, but it’s far more limited than Street View data and doesn’t replace on the ground imagery.

Whether Apple will ever provide this level of street level detail in its own mapping is unknown. It would take a lot of work for Apple to do this itself and/or with its mapping providers, just as Google has had to do for itself.  

Once you’ve downloaded the free app, installed it and run it for the first time, you’ll come across a notification that the software is in beta and potentially inaccurate that makes you agree to acceptance of, Google specifically stating in bold: “Google Maps Navigation is in beta. Use caution.

After this, the apps states: “Please keep your eyes on the road and obey applicable laws. Do not manipulate this application while in motion. Directions may be inaccurate, incomplete, dangerous or prohibited. Traffic data is not real-time, and location accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Accept or Cancel is your choice. 

Google’s own announcement was at its official blog, noting the worldwide demand for Maps’ appearance on iOS, and its pleasure at finally being able to announce its availability in the App Store.

The company talks up various features of its dramatically improved and sharper-looking Google Maps experience, especially when compared with the previous Google-maps-powered iOS maps experience, available free in over 40 countries and in 29 languages, which is also an impressive feat.  

Full details from Google on its announcement can be read here.

Google's own Google Maps for iOS presentation on YouTube is embedded below.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks, including stints as presenter of Ch 10’s Internet Bright Ideas, Ch 7’s Room for Improvement and tech expert on Ch 9’s Today Show, among many other news and current affairs programs.