Google Maps for iOS auto-dimming is driving users crazy

Undocumented feature dims the screen between directions to save battery, but it's having unintended consequences.

CNET

The latest version of Google's Maps software for Apple's iOS includes an undocumented feature that dims the screen between navigation instructions in order to save the battery, but instead it's driving users batty.

The feature was designed to save battery life between navigation directions, something that can be very useful during long trips when an iPhone is not plugged into a power source. In fact, Google quietly added the feature inside of an update nine weeks ago after users complained that the initial version of the software was slurping up too much juice on road trips.

Users have since turned their wrath on the fact that the dimming feature hides important, at a glance information like the estimated time of arrival, and how far until the next turn. Worse yet, the brightness setting carries over to other functions like incoming calls, and requires users to lock, then unlock their device to return to their normal setting.

Reviewers have come down on the app hard as a result, with nearly 500 one-star reviews out of the current version's 1,670 ratings. That's a stark contrast to the overwhelmingly positive 4.5 out of 5 stars rating the software has earned overall since its launch last December:

CNET

The dimming feature has existed on the Android version of Google Maps since 2011, though Google quickly provided a way for users to disable it after users complained. There's no such option in iOS. CNET has contacted Google to see if it plans to offer a similar setting in the next update, though the company did not immediately return a request for comment.

A way to turn it off -- on Android.
A way to turn it off -- on Android. CNET

Turn by turn navigation is the main feature of Google's Maps app for iOS, and something that did not exist in the Google-powered maps software that shipped on iPhones, iPads, and iPods before last year's iOS 6 . The very feature, which gives drivers spoken directions, was said to be a sticking point in negotiations between Apple and Google to bring the feature over to iOS, eventually leading Apple to make its own mapping software.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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