Banish the map dragons: alternatives to the Apple Maps app

It was one of Apple’s biggest missteps in recent years (remember iPhone 4 antennagate?), that prompted a public apology from CEO Tim Cook. Whatever the reason was for Apple dropping Google’s mapping license, and producing their own map app using TomTom data, the result quickly turned into a public relations disaster. Though the Apple Maps app might not have been quite as bad as having to rely on the age-old mapping phrase ‘Here be dragons’, the poor search function, incorrect landmark locations and missing public transport data has made it nearly as useless for all but the simplest of navigation needs. It doesn’t help, either, that its graphical differentiation between road size is much less distinct than on Google maps, meaning that it can be difficult to navigate yourself around.


Considering how ‘mission-critical’ maps are to smartphone use, Apple’s response was rapid. In addition to Tim Cook’s apology, mobile-software chief Scott Forstall made a quick exit from Apple and in came Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, to shake things up – quickly removing another member of the maps team, Richard Williamson. The pressure’s now on for the next iOS update. In the meantime, there’s been a huge clamour for Google to introduce its own native iPhone maps app. Though it’s been pretty coy about it, an app is currently in production and set for submission to the App Store soon. While there’s been speculation that a Google maps app won’t be accepted into the App Store, this is perhaps unlikely, as it would cause a further PR storm for Apple. As this battle of the computing giants proceeds, how do we, the lowly users, get around (apart from reclaiming our old copies of the A-to-Z from the charity shop)? In his September apology, Tim Cook took the unusual step of suggesting map app alternatives:
While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.
But are these the best options? Here are a few that we’ve tested and think you might find useful. Maps+ – this uses Google Maps data and is simple, intuitive and accurate Here maps – this new Nokia map is simple, powerful and intuitive. It’s got a great search function and easy to use ‘Route’ tool. Bing – Bing features clear mapping, but as it’s not a dedicated maps app, it’s not quite as inituitive for purely navigation needs. Bookmark Google Maps – if you navigate to in Safari on your iPhone you’ll be prompted to add it as a bookmark on your home screen. Being a web version, it’s less responsive than an app. Do these wok for you? Have you got any other suggestions? Please let us know in comments.
May 07, 2014