‘Googe Maps‘ – those two words have been giving a certain fruity-named Cupertino company nightmares for the past few months. Ever since Google Maps were dropped from iOS (of which they had been an integral part since its inception), iOS users had been clamouring for their return, thanks in no small measure to the less-than-effective replacement mapping, which became the subject of just about every nasty wisecrack in tech town.
Well, after a lot of speculation, Google Maps are back on iOS,or to be more accurate, the iPhone (no HD version for the iPad yet, alas). Is it just a coincidence that their return comes shortly after Nokia unleashed its own ‘Here’ app for OS? We know not. What we DO know is that the app is in fine fettle. Google Maps comes with no price tag (as on other platforms) and is a 6.7 MB download. And one thing that has not changed about it is its turn of speed – it had got our location worked out within seconds of its launch. All right, so we were in a very central location, but in terms of load and locate, it remains one of the fastest mapping apps we have seen.
The look of the app is largely similar to what we remember, being a mix of yellow, grey and green in basic mode, and with layers for traffic, public transit information, satellite imagery and even a link to Google Earth, which opens up in the Google Earth app on your device. Navigation is very much in place too – you can opt for directions on foot, by car, by bus, subway, train or tram, depending on the options available. And you can also specify if you want a route with fewer transfers (switching between different transport systems) or one which involves the least amount of walking. You can also ask the app to avoid highways and tolls. Search can be done through the search bar on top of the app, and results are shown with details of how far the place is from your location, contact details and in many cases (especially in the case of eateries and cafes), user reviews.
Routing worked pretty well for the most part – in voice as well as text – although re-routing is not really as good as Nokia’s Here app. Google Maps did ask us to take U-turns and get back to the initial route when we went off it. Another area where the mapping offspring of Nokia and Google clash is in traffic – and once again, at least in the area we tried it out, we found Here coming off a bit better. That said, Google did a whole lot better when it came to showing lesser-known places – Lal Ji Tailorsand Matching Point, for instance, in the heart of Delhi.
Yes, it does have its rough edges. We like not the fact that it is not available for the iPad, and well, we would have liked offline navigation or the option at least to download some areas (as in Nokia’s Here app). Some parts of the maps also seem dated – they did not show a couple of the new cafes that had sprung up in Delhi over the past two months. But these are minor quibbles in face of the overwhelming relief at having our favourite navigation and mapping app back on iOS.
Should you download it? It’s fast, it’s free, it makes iOS’ default maps look like something that Columbus used (he thought he was in India when he arrived on American shores, remember?)…do you STILL need to ask?
Available from: iTunes App Store