The veil has been lifted on the most exciting new features coming to iOS in 2012. As predicted Apple have taken action to step away from Google, leaving their reliance on the company’s location services behind in favour of their own, brand new, in-house maps application, Maps.
Maps brings a whole host of additional features to mapping services on an iOS device, but how does it differ from the other options out there and more importantly, is it better?
Although Google Maps (for iOS) and Android Maps share the same underlying location technology, they opt for a somewhat different visual feel and user interface. Both use the same warmer colour palette of oranges, yellows and browns, however Google Maps utilises bolder lines and stronger fonts, giving a more defined look to the application.
Google Maps’ user interface also wraps both the top and bottom of the screen, compared to Android Map’s single top bar, more minimalist in its execution as a result of hidden menus accessible via means of the OS’s menu key.
Maps offers a more refined evolution of its predecessor’s UI, with what appears to be a new typeface to both the old iOS and current Android versions of the maps, complete with a redesigned logo. The UI features a single top bar, not unlike the Android equivalent (but with very iOS styling, naturally) and a location button at the base, next to the new 3D feature.
With Apple’s acquisition of C3 Technologies, the company has been able to take on Google at the 3D mapping game. An early look at the underlying technology gave us an indication of just where Maps might have been headed, but Scott Forstall showed off the full extent of the new application’s 3D potential. Offering amazingly high fidelity rendered buildings and structures around major cities across the globe, the ability to fly through city streets fluidly is impressive. The feature, dubbed ‘Flyover’ is almost identical to the one Google has promised is coming in a future update to Android Maps.
In its current state, Android Maps by comparison, is locked in with multiple layers of information such as traffic and satellite views. The terrain option does allow for basic 3D topology, but it’s vintage technology in comparison to the level of 3D support Maps now demonstrates. In comparison to the previous Google Maps on iOS 5, Maps is a world away, particularly as 3D mapping, or any such 3D overlay wasn’t even an option.
Turn by turn directions
Another new addition for iOS users, with the exception of 3rd part apps like those produced by Navigon or Tom Tom, is turn by turn navigation. Android users have had this luxury as part of their native maps application since 2009 and it’s one department iOS users have no doubt considered as somewhat of a sore point.
Siri now makes an appearance too, allowing route guidance and destination searching hands free. The interface for the turn by turn navigation is unlike any other similarly purposed app out there, including the Android Maps equivalent. No doubt a welcome and long-needed addition that makes iOS 6 that much more potent.
Free navigation might well be a step up for maps users on iOS, but one department where the new application still falls behind is Offline Maps. The ability to locally store maps when out of range of data network or WiFi signal is a trait still unique to Android’s native maps application and another aspect the average iOS pathfinder will no doubt scowl over. We can only hope that Apple have considered introducing support for the feature and will do so when iOS makes the jump to 6.1.
iOS 6 has brought a number of enhancements to Maps and Apple have ensured that it is far more capable than its Google Maps-based predecessor. Other than the impressive 3D structures and topology demonstrated in Flyover and the final introduction of turn-by-turn navigation there are a number of smaller features that make it a serious competitor to Android’s Maps.
Yelp integration features heavily, allowing users to access reviews on locales and venues they might be headed, a traffic update service with anonymous, real-time incident reports which looks noticeably different to either of the other Google-based Maps applications is present and the ability to operate the app from the lockscreen all provide this app with some serious location-based clout. We look forward to trying it out when iOS 6 becomes readily available later this summer.