Google Maps with Street View on iOS: What it can and can't do

Google finally tosses disgruntled Apple users a bone with added Street View on the Google Maps Web app, but it's not exactly the same as the Maps app that used to be in iOS 5.

Google Street View via Safari on the iPhone 5. Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Sad about your beloved iOS 5 Maps app getting nuked in favor of Apple's new Maps app ? Do you miss Street View? Well, Google's come to the rescue to some extent, via its maps.google.com Web app, which launched Street View functionality today .

For iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad owners, using the Web-based version of Google Maps is as easy as visiting maps.google.com and then choosing to add an icon-shaped hot link directly to their home screen. So, what does it do? Well, besides having transit directions (already available on maps.google.com), the newly added Street View opens a separate window with panoramic pictures of city streets, and little navigation buttons for moving around in them. The Web app works in both Safari and Chrome on iOS.

Here's what you can and can't do.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Yes, you can move down city streets virtually for a little stroll...but it's choppy. All you have to do is follow the little directional arrows to get around, but the panoramic views load more awkwardly.

It's easy to look around, but Street View images are distorted. You can drag your finger to tilt the view around, but the panoramic photos are now fixed 2D images, versus being curved to create a 360-degree view. That means that some parts of some streets get permanently bent into odd shapes.

You can't zoom in. So far, it looks like you get one view only, and no double-tap-to-zoom for greater detail.

You can't just drop a pin. Instead, you click on an establishment already on the map, and if you can see it in Street View a small person-shaped icon appears on the bottom right of the Web app. Street View then opens in a separate window.

Are there gaps in data? A few earlier reports from outlets such TUAW are saying that there's some missing Street View data that's in the regular Google Maps app. I haven't encountered that yet. But, now that this is being crowd-tested by millions of people, odds are that, if that exists, it'll all get ironed out soon enough.

While it's nice that Google threw in some Street View love to help iOS 6 owners out, this is hardly a robust application. Hopefully this means a Google Maps app on iOS will come sooner rather than later. But, it's nice to have Street View back, even in a small capacity.

Distortion in a panoramic image of the CBS building I work in. Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

How have your experiences been?

 

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