Google Maps for the iPhone

(See updates at the bottom)

Original text (December 2012)

Google Maps for the iPhone was made available on the App Store last night. I donwloaded and have reading commentary and playing with it since then. This blog post will be updated as I discover new things.

• Reviews and Commentary:

 David Pogue (New York Times)

 Dan Moran (MacWorld)

 Jacqui Cheng (Ars Technica)

Andy Ihnatko (Chicago Sun-Times)

John Gruber (Daring Fireball)

Adam Engst (Tidbits)

Expect more to be added if I find interesting additions

 Two issues with the new Google Maps for the iPhone are that it doesn't use your contacts (neither Apple's or Google's [see update below]) in searches and that Siri can't activate it. Jacqui Cheng's review at Ars Technica  showed a way to do the former:

"...if you go to Apple Maps and type in your contact's name, then press the transit button, Apple will list out Google Maps as an app that can provide directions..."

I have extended that to use Siri as an entry point:

Trigger Siri and say "Guide me to 'x' USING TRANSIT". After Siri gets a location for 'x', you will be presented with a list of transit routing apps including Google Maps. Select Google Maps and you will now see a list of proposed routes via you last selected mode. You can select one of the choices or change the mode and get a new list. 

While it involves some selection, there is no actual typing involved.

The key to both of these is that Apple Maps has farmed out transit routing to other apps but is kind enough to let you easily open them from Apple Maps.

• I took navigation out into the world this afternoon. My car is a 2004 Prius with factory Bluetooth integration for phones, one of the earlier implementations of that feature. Unlike Apple Maps, Google Maps does link up to the car audio system, interrupting whatever else is being played, and issuing directions over the car's speakers. Unfortunately, the link is not fully established before the app tries to speak. Thus the beginning is cut off. "Your destination is on the left" becomes "ination is on the left".  So it looks like I'll be turning the phone's Bluetooth capability off when using this app for in car navigation.

• The Street View Implementation is quite nice. Pull up the location at the bottom of screen and ctap the picture from Street View. Tap the circular icon at the lower left (so that it turns blue. Now turn in place and the picture will revolve with you. Tap the icon again and you can rotate the view with your fingers.  One issue I had was returning from Street View to the map. Tap once so that a location information bar appears at the top; tap the arrow on the left and you're back at the map.

• One annoyance that I have had is with dismissing dropped pins. You drop a pin by tapping and holding at a location. You would think that tapping and holding on a dropped pin would remove it. Sometimes it does, but other times, it simply drops a new pin a few pixels away. I suspect that a future release will be coarsening the detection of a held tap so that it can be easily removed.

Update (March 2013): Google Maps can now use Google Contacts.

Update (August 2013): It's been a while since I last updated this.  There have been a few changes for the better and I've had some more user experience:

• Partially answering one of my complaints above, I was shown how to mute voice guidance. Once you have started route guidance, you can tap on the 3 verical dots at the bottom of the screen and choose a 'Mute Voice Guidance ' button.

• Using that setting, it was no longer annoying to actually use Google Maps for active guidance--so I tried it. When using the phone in my car, it conveniently sits in a cupholder in the console between the front seats. In that position, I found that, unlike Apple Maps, it was difficult to check instructions with a quick glance. So using Google maps for active guidance would still be a greater distraction than I think is safe.

* The IOS app was recently revised with some interface changes that make it easier to use. Also, it is now fully-fuctional on an iPad rather than just being a blown-up phone app. However, although some of access to instructions have changed, the reasons for not using it for active navigation still apply. However, it is now my 'Go To' route planning app.

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