New Google Maps for iOS brings vectors, transit and navigation features

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Google's newly released standalone Google Maps app for iOS users brings new features and a familiar look along with new technology previously only available on the company's own Android platform, providing iOS users with a more credible alternative to Apple's own new iOS 6 Maps app than Google's existing web app.

Google vector maps for iOS

The new Google Maps uses vector imaging just like Apple's Maps, resulting in a similar information scaling that incrementally displays new data as you zoom in. Like Apple's Maps, Google now presents live 3D building models that appear only when you zoom into the block level.

Previously, Google Maps on iOS 5 and earlier (or via the company's very limited web app) loaded bit mapped tiles incorporating a static view of building outlines. The older maps also could not be freely rotated, and text labels were fixed at specific zoom levels.


Google Maps iOS


Source: Google via iTunes


While Google had earlier incorporated a vector-based maps presentation in its Android app, it could not force Apple to use this data in the Maps client bundled with iOS. This allowed Apple to launch its own Maps app this summer with the first vector based maps seen on the platform.

Vector-based maps can be highly efficient, allowing users to freely roam offline much further than the bit mapped tiles Google serves over the web (and in previous incarnations of Google Maps on iOS).

Apple's own version of Maps seems to present and cache more mapping detail for automatic offline use, and currently appears to load new data in the background faster over a slow connection. However, the new Google Maps is a marked improvement over Google's earlier bitmapped editions (and in particular, over the company's web app).

After zooming into San Francisco and then Berlin, Germany, and then taking the app offline, Google Maps was still able to navigate some street level maps in both cities without a data connection. However, maps of the surrounding area (and at other zoom levels) were not as clear or complete as Apple's Maps.

The features of Google Maps for iOS are now closer inline with the company's Android app, although both versions still include the same place name errors, with many businesses located in the middle of the street or identifying the wrong location (as will be detailed in our upcoming segment on local data and points of interest).

Flyover features delegated to Google Earth

Another significant omission in Google Maps is support for 3D satellite images similar to Apple's Flyover. Rather than incorporating its own Google Earth data into the new Google Maps app, the company simply links to its existing Google Earth app.

Apple's Maps presents Standard street maps and Satellite image maps (or a Hybrid combination), each with a 3D perspective option (at least on newer iOS devices that can support the 3D features, such as the iPhone 4S or newer).

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The new Google Maps similarly offers 3D perspective with grey building outlines just like Apple's Standard mode, but only shows satellite views in flat perspective, just like Apple's Maps do in areas where Flyover isn't available (and as Android's Maps+Navigation app does). While both apps show mountain landscapes in topographical 3D perspective, only Apple currently incorporates 3D satellite building models in major cities supporting Flyover.

To see a similar Flyover-like view of 3D buildings, you have to exit Google Maps and launch Google Earth (available as a link within the new app). However, Google Earth images are much older than Apple's Flyover, and contain many of the same imaging bugs that critics bewailed regarding Apple's Flyover at its launch.

In Google Earth, the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge appears to have a layer of pavement running underneath it (below), for example, while Apple renders the landmark correctly in iOS 6 Map's Flyover.


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And the connecting Doyle Drive highway, which has been under construction for years, is still shown pre-construction, depicting closed ramps and old bridges as still in use while none of the newly completed roads and tunnels are even visible in Google Earth's version of 3D maps. Apple's Flyover maps show the same areas correctly with more up to date 3D images, more comparable to Google Map's new but flat satellite images.


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Google Transit

For cities where Google presents useful transit data, the new Google Maps offers integrated transit lines and stop information. Apple's Maps present only sporadic metro stop markers and must rely on third party transit apps to calculate routes.

Apple's approach provides users with more options to obtain route information (useful in cities where Google presents incorrect or no transit information), but lacks the simplicity of Google's integrated app.

As AppleInsider previously detailed, Google provides excellent transit data in some cities (such as Portland, Oregon, where Google Transit got started), provides fair information in others (unreliable Muni arrival times in San Francisco, no bus or tram data in Berlin outside the major U-bahn and S-bahn routes) and nothing more than metro stops in others (Google provides no transit data in Paris or the rest of France, for example).

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Google Transit still delivers (below) the same nonsensical transit routing for Berlin we detailed earlier (above), because it doesn't incorporate transit data for most of the city's public transit vehicles.


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With both Google Maps and Apple Maps, iOS users can now pick which approach works for them in the location they are navigating. Google provides detailed station and route information in Japan that Apple's Maps lack, for example, while in other cities Apple and its third party helper apps can calculate transit routes Google Maps doesn't.

Google Navigation

Also new in Google Maps for iOS is the company's turn by turn driving directions, which were previously kept as an exclusive feature for Android. Apple developed its own driving directions for iOS 6 Maps, with voice guidance and route timing based on live traffic data.

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With Google Maps, users now have multiple options for driving directions. In initial testing, Apple's version appears slicker, with rich looking 2D or 3D map images tailored for driving.

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Google's presentation is simpler, but clean and easy to read, with larger directional information. Both present route options with estimated driving times.

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Google warns users that its driving directions are in beta, nothing that "directions may be inaccurate, incomplete, dangerous or prohibited," adding that "traffic data is not real-time, and location accuracy can not be guaranteed."

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The company's warnings appeared aimed at deflecting the kind of sensational reporting that has dogged Apple's Maps, including a recent report that detailed how authorities in a bleak desert area of Australia have beseeched the global public not to go looking for a small town blindly using Apple's formerly incorrect directions, for fear they might drive into the desert with no food or water and limited gas, with full confidence in a GPS app to shield them from any sort of unforeseen consequences of their poor planning (something people have been doing for nearly a decade prior to the release of Apple's Maps).

Now that Google (and Nokia) have released their own standalone maps clients for iOS, AppleInsider can continue its detailed comparison of Apple Maps and other mapping options for local search, driving directions and traffic data.

Introducing iOS 6.0 Maps
Using Maps Offline
2: Maps and visualizations
3: Transit directions
4: Map labels & local search
5: Routing & traffic
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 154
    Fanboy piece much.
  • Reply 2 of 154
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    Was this what Apple wanted Google to do in the first place before Apple yanked it?
  • Reply 3 of 154
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member
    Having played with Google Maps all morning, it's a massive improvement over Apple Maps in London.

    [IMG]http://forums.appleinsider.com/content/type/61/id/17754/width/200/height/400[/IMG]

    Look! It has the correct symbols for Underground, Overground and National Rail! And it shows the routes of the lines. And it's intelligent enough to prioritize train stations over "Dave's Bar & Grill" when zooming out.

    I'm a happy customer right now.
  • Reply 4 of 154
    Screw Google. Who want's your privacy invaded? People have already complained about Google's location services figuring out your likely home and work locations.
  • Reply 5 of 154
    The best map app ever, love you Google!
  • Reply 6 of 154
    cgjcgj Posts: 276member


    Okay, how do you use StreetView on the iPhone 5?

  • Reply 7 of 154
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,718member


    Hopefully that'll shut up all the Fandroids masquerating as disgruntled iPhone users (but I doubt it).

  • Reply 8 of 154
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lightknight View Post



    Fanboy piece much.


    You want to come to a party?


     


    Google Maps:-


     


     


    image


     


    Apple Maps:-


     


     


    image


     


    btw to get some idea of the scale the Google map is around 80 miles by 40.

  • Reply 9 of 154
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CGJ View Post


    Okay, how do you use StreetView on the iPhone 5?



     


    Choose a location and flick up on the bottom panel. 

  • Reply 10 of 154
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CGJ View Post


    Okay, how do you use StreetView on the iPhone 5?



     


    You see in my previous post how Google maps has that ad for a real estate agent in a suburb on the other side of town and the earlier post showing an address in London, well you swipe that area at the bottom of the screen up.

  • Reply 11 of 154
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,437member


    And courtesy of TheVerge "A two-finger swipe to the left will bring up a menu with toggles for traffic and satellite view (there's also a small button on the lower-right). From anywhere within the app, a shake will bring up an option to send a report to Google detailing some problem with the map or with the app itself."

  • Reply 12 of 154
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,437member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


     


    You see in my previous post how Google maps has that ad for a real estate agent in a suburb on the other side of town and the earlier post showing an address in London, well you swipe that area at the bottom of the screen up.



    Supposedly the new Google Maps for iOS doesn't display ads. Is that report incorrect Hill60?

  • Reply 13 of 154
    So an article about Google Maps returning to iOS is a thinly veiled excuse to demonstrate how brilliant Apple Maps is.

    I'm really glad that Apple Maps doesn't render a pavement under the Golden Gate Bridge, but when you're in the UK and it is incapable of finding any local businesses you search for then it's not much fucking use to me. iOS maps is terrible in the UK.
  • Reply 14 of 154


    The way I look at it, IOS users win.


     


    Apple kicked out Original sucky Google Maps, and Google has to respond with a better app to compete with Apple Maps.


     


    IOS users have Apple and Google maps apps to choose from.  Both will try to outdo each other and IOS users get better maps app.


     


    Apple kicking out the original google maps = correct move.

  • Reply 15 of 154
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,718member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


    You see in my previous post how Google maps has that ad for a real estate agent in a suburb on the other side of town and the earlier post showing an address in London, well you swipe that area at the bottom of the screen up.



     


    That's a "feature".

  • Reply 16 of 154
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,718member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    Supposedly the new Google Maps for iOS doesn't display ads. Is that report incorrect Hill60?



     


    image


     


    Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

  • Reply 17 of 154
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,437member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by John.B View Post


     


    image


     


    Denial isn't a river in Egypt.



    So you're seeing ads in your use of the new Google Maps app then?

  • Reply 18 of 154
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    Supposedly the new Google Maps for iOS doesn't display ads. Is that report incorrect Hill60?



     


    Look at this screenshot:-


     


     


    image


     


    I wonder how First National Real Estate is there?


     


    Is it an ad, you decide.


     


    Three of their offices are shown by the looks of things, handy to know if you want to buy or sell a house but nowhere near where the actual location is (Off the lower left corner of the map, if you look closely at the top right corner of the ad, you'll see a faint letter 'o' as in the last letter of 'Minto'.), it's more than the distance from the centre of a national park in Victoria to Mildura as it takes less than 1 hour 9 minutes to drive forty miles.

  • Reply 19 of 154
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,437member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


     


    Look at this screenshot:-


     


     


    image


     


    I wonder how First National Real Estate is there?


     


    Is it an ad, you decide.


     


    Three of their offices are shown by the looks of things, handy to know if you want to buy or sell a house but nowhere near where the actual location is, it's more than the distance from the centre of a national park in Victoria to Mildura as it takes less than 1 hour 9 minut tes was a current screen shot.drive forty miles.



    Thanks Hill. I saw that earlier but wasn't certain it was a current screen shot. 'preciate the clarification. 


     


    EDIT: One other question Hill. Did you swipe up to access more information (such as additional location details, Streetview, etc)  to get that "ad" to display or did it appear on the main screen simply by requesting directions?

  • Reply 20 of 154
    lerxtlerxt Posts: 184member
    This article has me laughing my ass off! I bet Tim Cook used Google Maps to get home today....
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