I lost all patience with Apple’s Maps app when it directed me to the middle of a state park when it should have been taking me home.
The turn-by-turn directions, supposedly the saving grace of the troubled iOS 6 Maps app, work wonderfully — but they’re only as good as the information you put in them. And Maps, in conjunction with Siri, had decided “home” was in a park with the same name as my street, six miles away. (Bafflingly, it got the directions right on the second try.)
It was time to test the emergency backup option — maps.google.com on the iPhone’s browser. Ever helpful, Google has started telling everyone who visits that site how to turn it into an app-like shortcut on your home page:
Because if you’re expecting anything like the Google Maps iPhone app we knew and loved in iOS 5 and previous releases, you’re going to be disappointed. Here’s what the maps.google.com interface looks like:
Those four icons at the top of the screen? In order, here’s what they do: take you to your present location; take you to a separate ‘directions’ page; also take you to a separate ‘directions’ page; and take you to a list of other things you can do.
To refresh your memory, here’s what the old Google Maps app looked like:
The interface was smoother, the search/directions distinction clearer, and neither needed to take you to a separate page. It was much easier to turn a search into directions. Maps were sharp and looked great on the Retina screen (the maps.google.com alternative is low-res and blocky by comparison).
With a bit of futzing with those “extra” features, I was able to get the maps.google.com replacement to add a traffic layer — but again, it looks thicker and blockier. It was also harder to scroll around the screen, and impossible to drop a pin anywhere.
I found myself having to reload often, rather than look at a featureless grey grid. Reloading ain’t easy: maps.google.com takes up all of Safari’s screen real estate, so you can’t just hit the reload button.
Oh, and those directions? No way you’re getting them one by one, the way the Google Maps app used to do. The best you’re getting is a list of turns, or one map that shows the entire route. And you can’t view both at once.
I can see some scenarios where the maps.google.com applet will come in handy — for example, when you need transit directions. I’ll keep it around for further tests on that score, but there are already a host of apps that give you transit options.
Have you tried maps.google.com on an iPhone? Let us know your experience in the comments.