Google Maps lands on iOS with turn-by-turn satnav

13 Dec 2012

Google returns to the iPhone with voice-guided satnav and other new features

The Google Maps app has officially returned to iOS with a host of new features, including turn-by-turn satnav.

Google Maps was abruptly ejected as the default iPhone/iPad mapping app with the arrival of iOS 6 in September, and replaced with Apple's widely panned Maps.

Today, Google Maps has returned as a free standalone app, and includes several new features. The most significant upgrade is the inclusion of turn-by-turn satnav, which Google has previously reserved for its own Android handsets.

The satnav includes live traffic data, although it merely presents users with a choice of routes with estimated travel times before the start of a journey, and doesn't automatically reroute users according to live traffic conditions, unlike paid-for apps such as TomTom. Other advanced features such as manual rerouting, night driving mode and - crucially - downloadable maps are also absent.

However, the voice guidance does read out street names, and users who sign in with their Google account can save their home and work addresses to save having to bash in postcodes or addresses ahead of each journey.

Google Maps satnav

Google Maps also provides directions for pedestrians and public transport, which includes Tube, train and bus routes here in the UK.

Google's app addresses the biggest problem with Apple's Maps: reliable search for local venues. In our brief tests this morning, Google Maps accurately identified a selection of local destinations, including searches for "Dennis Publishing", "Debenhams Brighton" and "Drusillas" zoo.

By contrast, Apple Maps slightly mislocated Dennis Publishing, returned no results for "Debenhams Brighton" and located "Drusillas" in Texas, rather than Sussex.

Venue searches also return an index card displaying the full address, a shortcut to call the venue, estimated driving times and Street View photography.

Google Maps venues

Maps SDK

Google has also released an SDK that will allow other developers to embed Google Maps into their own applications.

The SDK allows developers to alter the map view so that they can include features such as traffic data or use different 3D camera angles. Developers can also launch Google Maps using customised URLs from within their apps, allowing users to locate a store, for example.

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