The moment I downloaded Google Maps for the iPhone it blew me away. One moment I was trudging across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and next strolling along Oxford Circus in London.
But then, of course, Google would have mapped the US and the UK very well. No wonder there were 10 million downloads the day it was launched. I wondered what the app had in store for us in India. I decided to give it a try.
I open Google Maps on my iPhone as I leave office and am pleasantly surprised to see my exact location marked on the map. The top right hand corner shows me two icons, the route and a man’s head and shoulder. I press route and enter ‘home’. Three icons appear giving me driving directions, available public transport and how I can walk home in one hour 23 minutes if I choose to.
I choose the bus icon. My phone tells me I need to walk, take the Metro from Chandni Chowk, take a bus and walk again to reach home. It gives me the time it will take me depending on the route I take, but without the current traffic situation factored in. If I choose to go by car it shows me different routes. The blue marker on my map changes with the route.
I had entered my office address and home address as soon as I downloaded and installed Google Maps from the App Store. This is easy to do. From the main screen touch the icon with the man’s head and shoulder on the top right of the screen. Touch the gear icon to enter setup. Everything is clearly displayed. There is no confusion or clutter. To avail of this feature you will need to sign in with your Gmail ID.
This is the wonder of the new Google Map app for iPhone, which comes with a sleeker, cleaner look and a much improved GPS. Earlier this year when iPhone 5 came out with iOS 6 everyone was disappointed that Google Maps, a built-in feature of earlier versions of iPhones, was left out. Especially when the alternative, Apple Maps, was so bad that Apple had to issue an unprecedented apology. Everyone expected that Google would soon come out with a new app, which they eventually did and released in December.
The fantastic thing is that Google took this opportunity to redesign and revamp the Google Map app so much so that it is even better than Google Maps on Android phones. Why would Google have an app for iPhone that is even better than the one on Android phones? It’s because of ‘co-opetition’. Google is not a hardware company. It develops software that it wants more and more people to use. And Apple offers a huge platform with its many devices.
The other day I searched on Google Maps for a restaurant serving Chinese food. The location results were displayed as red dots across the map. I just touched the icon that offered a list view on the search bar and my results were displayed in a list from which I could choose the exact location. While going there I was startled when my iPhone started giving me turn-by-turn directions. I never expected this feature to work in India.
The list view helped me to choose the restaurant I wanted from several choices, but there is another way of doing it. You can stay with the map and swipe the title card at the bottom of the screen to the left or right. Swiping brings out other dining options. Swiping up brings out more information, which may even include a phone number. The ‘info sheet’ provides photos and other relevant information. There is another neat feature. Usually you pinch and zoom out with two fingers while holding the phone in the other hand. In case your hands are occupied, just tap twice on any point on the map and it will be magnified.
Google Maps gives you Metro and train timings too. It also gives you direction to the stations. Why did Apple introduce its own maps then? Google had withheld the most crucial feature of voice prompted turn-by-turn navigation, which was available on the Android platform. Now with that included, Apple Maps has become redundant.
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