They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it looks like the failed Apple Maps showed the Cupertino, Calif., company how to get there.
In just one day, Apple realized how important a maps application is to its mobile phone. When the iPhone maker replaced the phone’s reliable Google Maps application with its own homegrown Apple Maps, a torrent of complaints came rushing in about faulty directions, visual glitches and a database lacking businesses and points of interest.
CEO Tim Cook even took the rare step last week of apologizing for the company’s giant misstep. Whether Apple can rebound and actually produce a working maps application for the iPhone and iPad, only time will tell. It could take months if not years for Apple’s engineers to bring the failed app up to speed with Google’s. It’s also rumored that Google is producing it’s own iPhone app that will bring Google Maps back to the iOS platform. No one seems to know when that will be.
In the meantime, there are alternatives. Here are some viable free mapping applications for the iPhone and iPad that can help ease the pain of losing Google Maps and also guide you to where you’re going:
MapQuest • People have relied on this well-known mapping service from America Online for years, and now it’s been ported over to an iPhone application with full voice and turn-by-turn navigation.
The best part of the app is you can touch a button to see a list of nearby businesses such as restaurants, gas stations, hotels, coffee shops and more. The problem is, the listings aren’t as complete as they should be (it didn’t know the Salt Lake City restaurant Cinegrill existed for example).
The voice directions lag a little but they do a good job of finding the most direct route. The interface is simple and easy to use. It’s bare bones — the navigation map, for example, isn’t even in 3D — but the app does the job.
Waze • This popular app uses crowd-sourced information to alert its users about traffic congestion, police speed traps, accidents and road construction. It also stresses social networking so you can share your location with friends and schedule meet-ups.
It uses a cute but somewhat confusing and less-intuitive interface. For example, it doesn’t include one-button icons from the main menu for lists of businesses or points of interest.
It has a very good set of voice instructions, however, that does the best job of alerting the driver before making a turn. It also is tied in to different providers, including Yelp, Google and Bing, for search results for businesses.
NavFree GPS Live USA • The one big advantage to this free navigation app is that you don’t need a wireless connection to download the map while on your trip. During installation, you pre-download maps of individual states so you don’t have to later.
It’s also the only app in the bunch that allows you to download different voices for the turn-by-turn directions, including Snoop Dogg and British actor Stephen Fry.
The voice directions, though, are just OK because they don’t pronounce street names and instead say something like, “Turn right at the next street.”
Bing • The general app for Microsoft’s search engine has a section for maps, and it’s linked to lists of local businesses, theaters, stores, restaurants, bars and more.
It has no voice directions, though, and you can’t link it to your list of contacts addresses, but it does have turn-by-turn navigation. It’s list of businesses is probably the most complete of all the apps, and it’s all tied together by the slickest interface of them all.
Google Maps • The tried-and-true guide is in fact still available for your iPhone and iPad, although it’s the Web-browser version. Just go to www.maps.google.com on your mobile Safari browser, then turn the Google Maps bookmark into an icon on the Home screen to access it directly.
There’s still no voice navigation, but there are turn-by-turn directions that you can read. But what makes Google Maps the best is its database of businesses and points of interest, which can direct you to almost anything.
The downside to the browser version of Google Maps is it does not have Street View, Google’s feature that takes you down to an eye-level, panoramic view of each section of a street. But Google claims it will add that feature soon.
Google Earth • No matter which of the navigation apps you add to your iPhone or iPad, you have to download Google Earth as part of your must-have apps. It’s Google’s brilliant offering (it’s also available for the Web) that lets you see 3D representations of many cities. You don’t use it for directions, but it has pictures and Wikipedia entries for many buildings, landmarks and points of interest.
Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi