The latest iteration of Apple's iPhone operating system brought significant improvements to the live of travelers in many ways. Things like Passbook made air and hotel reservations easier to track and the check-in process smoother. But there was also a rather notable drawback for customers upgrading to the new platform: Maps.
Apple supplanted long-time favorite Google Maps with Apple's in-house version. It was a mess from day one. The Maps app was riddled with bugs, errors, and distorted images. As recently as this week police officials in Australia were forced to mount a PR campaign to inform visitors that the maps could potentially lead them more than 40 miles off track, leaving them stranded in the Outback when trying to locate one town. The failure even elicited a public apology from Apple's CEO.
As of this week, however, Google Maps are back on the iDevices. Google's app is now available for download from the iTunes store and is available in more than 40 countries and 29 languages. The new app features voice-guided navigation, turn-by-turn directions and information on public transit systems covering more than one million stops around the world.
Initial reviews of the new Google Maps app are nearly universally positive. The app was redesigned from the ground up to provide a new, smoother UI, faster load times, and details on more than 80 million business and points of interest. It also includes direct integration with OpenTable for restaurant reservations and details from Google+ Local integrated with Zagat's in order to better provide restaurant details to users. The integration isn't 100% complete, but it is clear that Google is going to leverage their various data platforms as they look to provide the best information to their users.
The app isn't perfect. It doesn't support an offline mode and some modes of travel aren't fully integrated (bicycling directions are notably absent). Still, it is a very solid release of a tool which should resolve many of the frustrations users have been suffering through. It's about time.