(Photo : iTunes Store)
The Google Maps update - which is a huge improvement over the old version - is now out for iOS devices, and finally offers native iPad support. The web-based version is also now open for Google users.
The Google Maps team has been hard at work overhauling Maps for desktop and mobile. The update to Maps on both platforms is such an upgrade from the old Maps that it might as well be a whole different platform. And now it's out for Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, with a native tablet resolution that iPad owners will appreciate - no more fuzzy text on the scaled-up iPhone version of Maps.
Last week, Google rolled out the new Maps app to Android smartphones and tablets, but only now do iOS users finally get to appreciate the powerful new update (how's it feel, iOS users, to actually get an app after it's available for Android?).
On top of that, the new Maps web platform, which until now has been available for sneak peeks only by signing up for an invitation, is now out for anyone with a Google account (though I previously wrote about how you could try out the new Google Maps, before it was public, using Chrome and a relatively simple cookie hack).
On both mobile and web, Google Maps is far easier to navigate, and the user interface is a lot cleaner and clearer. On both platforms, Maps uses an "info sheets" (information cards) system that takes up less screen space and consolidates facts about places of interest into an intuitive, flowing display system. On the web, the cards show up discretely on the upper left-hand side of the screen, providing transit information, addresses, Street View pictures, shared photos, restaurant reviews and ratings, and other handy information (as well as ads).
On mobile, the information cards work the same way, except that they slide up from the bottom - at first, providing just the basic information and navigation options for a given location, but then expanding with an up-flick of your thumb to give other details like hours of availability, Street View photos, the location's website, and top reviews. No more back button pressing to get back to the map, which makes the app much, much easier to use at a glance.
Other changes include an easier review system. Since Google acquired Zagat, it's nice to have their information on restaurants, bars, and attractions integrated into Maps. However, Zagat's 30-point scale can be a little confusing if you're not aware of it. So Google has changed to a simple five star rating system, and includes a little Zagat "badge of excellence" icon if it's highly recommended by the reviewing company.
The only hangup for iOS users, according to Wired, is that the new rerouting feature for Android hasn't made it to iOS, though Darren Delaye of Google UX says that it will be there "soon." Even with the missing navigation rerouting system, Google Maps for iOS is better than the most obvious alternative for iPhone and iPad: You know - the maps app that features distorted landscapes and impossible navigation instructions (which can be spoken to drivers by a voice named Siri)?
You can go to the iTunes store to download Google Maps for iOS.