Apple’s alternative to Google Maps, included with iOS 6, has been disappointing to many users. From the little information errors and graphical glitches to the lack of public transportation within the app, the default mapping software is nothing to boast about. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, apologized for the many lacking functions and erroneous information, saying that the more people use it, the better it will get. Until then, what should users do?
The App Store now has a section dedicated to good Maps alternatives, though the apps in its page aren’t all as amazing as Google’s mapping system on Android. Since there’s more to look for, I ventured into the depths of the App Store and found a few appealing pieces of software. There are apps for everything, not just mapping and navigation, so keep reading to check them out.
Google allows for free use of its maps in an iPad’s Web browser. The problem is there are several limitations and the performance is bad. IZE’s Maps+ isn’t a Web browser though, it’s a client. That means you get public transportation times, correct street names and other amenities of Google’s service in a nice simple user interface. There is no Street View, however, and that’s a big turnoff for a lot of people. If you seek this feature, the Web app is your best bet right now.
Maps+ is free, but has limitations on pin bookmarks, track recording and other advanced features. If you need these, an in-app purchase unlocks them for $2.99. This client offers a decent amount of functionality and hopefully it gets updated with more features (Street View, for one) in the future.
Price: Free (limited)
Requires: iOS 4.3 or later
Developer: IZE Ltd.
Street View is, as I said before, one of the most important features of Google Maps. It lets users see the store they’re going to visit or check on a potential new home. There are a lot of uses for Street View, but iOS 6 doesn’t take advantage of them by default. Live Street View, an app developed by Tim Broddin, is the best Street View experience available on iOS — better than the Web app. It enhances everything Google has built to become more attractive and usable.
There’s compass integration so you can turn with the device in hand to navigate. Bookmarking is a handy feature if you like to keep favorite places on hand. Overall, the little popover Street View experience is much better than the traditional one because it gives space to preview before going into fullscreen mode. For $0.99, this is the best way to bring back Street View on iOS 6.
Requires: iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Tim Broddin
Finding bus routes and other means of public transportation in iOS 6 can be especially troubling since Apple’s app only recommends you download an app for the job. In that case, why not get a good one, right? Transit, developed by TapOne Technology, is a minimal, yet fully functional solution. It can check the bus, train, subway or ferry to find what routes you should take from home to work or another destination. You can put in custom departure times to plan as well.
Once it’s found the bus or other means of transportation that you’re taking, the app will provide a list of directions for getting to
the destination. It’ll probably have you walk a few blocks, depending on where the stops are, but at least that saves you a few dollars. The app also provides an estimated departure and arrival time for longer commutes. For free, you can’t ask for much more.
Requires: iOS 6.0 or later
Developer: TapOne Technology Inc.
Most people use maps for traveling, whether they’re looking for somewhere to shop or a place to stay. Once they’ve reached their destination though, it’s time to book a hotel, or at least find one. Hotel Tonight provides a beautiful way of doing so with its unique interface and wide range of features.
An important thing to know is that this app doesn’t support every city in the U.S. There are a lot on the list, and it’s always growing, but right now the list has a few cities around the country — most likely the ones you’ll visit. The international cities include Edinburgh, Toronto, Liverpool, Amsterdam and a few others. There are also airport codes if you just landed. In light of that though, this app is the niftiest way to browse for hotels and it’s worth using if the city you plan to visit is on the list.
Requires: iOS 4.3 or later
Developer: Hotel Tonight Inc.
Last, but not least, is a powerful GPS app. IOS 6 Maps aren’t bad at navigation, but they only let you do one thing at a time when in the app. With something like MotionX GPS HD, multitasking (in the app, not in iOS) is fully supported. There’s a compass, experimental NOAA maps, speedometer and a bunch of other tools.
The most notable of this app’s offerings are the statistics. Why are they so special? They tell you your average MPH, elevation, ascent and descent, and more. Information is valuable to some users — it can tell them how well they’re driving and how they can improve their average speed. I have nothing against the navigation built in to iOS 6, this is just the best GPS experience available on an iPad. If it’s what you seek, the price is low for now.
Requires: iOS 3.2 or later
Developer: Fullpower Technologies Inc.
Is That All?
You could browse the App Store for days: there are a lot of great apps out there. Yelp helps find ratings on businesses; Waze is a different type of navigation; and Bing maps can be useful. I’ve provided five of the most helpful for iOS 6 users, but do you have anything better? Let us know in the comments!