In a review of the new Google Maps for iOS, The New York Times'
David Pogue spells out the many reasons why it should be little surprise the application is so popular. Apple's public fiasco with the release of its own brand new maps application not only generated a climate of distrust among consumers. The app has also been plagued with persistent errors, while Google Maps has been reliable and incrementally improved for years. Put these two facts together and, clearly, people have been waiting for this app to arrive.
Oddly enough, according to the report and review, some at Google think the iOS app may be even better than the Maps application for Android.
"The must-have features are all here: spoken driving directions, color-coded real-time traffic conditions, vector-based maps (smooth at any size). But the new app also offers some incredibly powerful, useful features that Apple’s app lacks," Pogue writes.
Among the app's additional features are Street View, in-app walking and public transport directions, step-by-step timelines of a route, Google Earth, and a substantial database of point-of-interest information on restaurants and venues.
From a design perspective, the app is guided by horizontal swipes between steps in a route or between alternative routes, and if a user spots an error, shaking the phone will tell Google the information is wrong.
Still to come are a separate option to download maps offline, indoor maps, and a dedicated iPad app, though the current iOS app is functional on the iPad. Google has suggested these additions will be available in the near future.
The challenge to Apple doesn't stop with the app itself, however. TechCrunch reports
that Google has made an SDK available for its native iOS apps, allowing developers to power their applications using Google Maps, bypassing Apple's maps. The fruits of this option likely won't be seen until next year, however, according to the report.
It's hard not to look at Apple's simultaneous iPhone 5, Apple Maps, and iOS 6 launch -- followed by iPad mini and a fully upgraded product line -- and see how the company may have overextended its innovations all at once. The same criticism can be directed at Microsoft for debuting Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Surface, and a range of new software offerings in a very short window, likewise in an effort to challenge competitors.
It's also not unreasonable to consider the staffing shake-ups in both companies as an indication of some organizational clash amid heavy product cycles.
While it's still too early to tell how Apple's Maps will fare in the long run, it should not be lost in all the well warranted Google Maps excitement that the app is
for Apple's iOS, after all. Even Microsoft's mere consideration of Office apps for iOS
hints at the importance of Apple's mobile OS to app developers. The lesson here may just be that Apple took the consumer effect of Google's expertise too lightly in an area that arguably defines smartphone utility.