Google Maps – Finally Arrives In The App Store

4.5 Overall Score
Usability: 4/5
Design: 4.5/5
Duration: 4.5/5

Same great Google map data, search, and street view | Voice guided navigation | Vector tiles

Doesn't connect with iOS | No offline mode | Turn by turn navigation view rudimentary

After a very long drawn out process, Google Maps has finally arrived in the App Store, and it comes with the full feature set everyone wanted all along. You probably know by now, but Apple decided to go separate ways from Google regarding Maps, so they removed the stock Google Maps app in favor of their own Apple Maps in iOS 6. Apple Maps are feature rich, but the international map data leaves enough to be desired that Tim Cook had to apologize for Apple Maps. Apple definitely wanted to remove Google’s stake on the iOS home screen, but was asking Google to provide voice guided turn by turn navigation & vector tiles, but Google wouldn’t do that without some concessions by Apple. Maps were coming from Apple, but the pace may have been slower if Google would have provided updates to the barebones Maps app in iOS 5.

All of it has lead to today with Apple Maps the stock resource in iOS 6, and the brand new Google Maps app in the App Store. Google Maps for iOS includes the same great map data and local search results you’re familiar with, but everything else is brand new. The biggest new addition is voice guided turn by turn navigation with a crisp voice to give you directions along the route. The voice guidance view shows the same Google maps art style, but with a bird’s eye view, though the map itself is still flat. When using turn by turn direction in Apple Maps, the 3D camera view appears with the scaled buildings around your route.

The navigation does provide great results, though they’re no different than the Apple Maps route in our testing. Since we live in Southern California where both maps excel. In addition to voice navigation, the map view and satellite view have new vector tiles rather than graphical tiles, which means the vector tiles can be zoomed in and out without loading, which isn’t the case for the graphical titles from Maps in iOS 5. The Google Maps design is extremely familiar with nice and clear map depictions. The app also includes transit directions, and great live traffic data, and you can activate these options with a two finger swipe to the right.

The interface is another highlight of Google Maps for iOS as everything is simplified, and clear, similar to the new Gmail 2.0 update. Your iPhone screen is filled with the map, with just the top search bar. You can perform almost every function from the top bar, and the app doesn’t have multiple menu windows to sort through. Once you search for a place the basic details appear at the bottom of the screen, and then you can swipe up on that window to bring up the full info panel. From there, you can check the street view, photos, Zagat reviews, and activate driving directions.

The app is effortless to use, and so accessible with such an outstanding focus on the maps. Everything you’re used to with Google Maps is included with the sourced map data, great local search, street view, public transit directions, and clear routes, and now there’s voice guided navigation, vector tiles, and an extremely crisp interface. What’s not included is any of the 3D flyover views, as the app pushes you to Google Earth for those. There’s also no offline functionality, which is a highlight of the Android version, and many paid navigation apps. The biggest problem may be that now Google Maps is a third party app so it doesn’t connect with the default Apple functionalities. That means Google Maps doesn’t connect with Mail, Safari, Contacts, Siri, etc., and you will have to manually enter addresses or type searches to use Google Maps with any and every location.

Google Maps (Free, iPhone) offers up the full Google navigation package that Google and Apple wanted to provide as the stock app before multiple disputes got in the way. The Google Maps app is extremely well designed which goes toe to toe with full priced navigation apps, and GPS units, and still provides it all for free. The App Store is better with Google Maps a part of it, and while it does have its shortcomings it’s a great alternative for those dissatisfied with Apple Maps, or just looking for a great navigation app.

Is Google Maps perfect, no, but is it the best free choice out there, absolutely.


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