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Apple Maps review: Apple Maps

The Apple Maps app finally has functional turn-by-turn directions and (mostly) nice-looking 3D city views, but was it at the expense of every other feature?

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
3 min read

Coming as a part of iOS 6, the Apple Maps app has received a lot of bad press for good reason. Out of the gate, Apple's replacement for the Google-powered Maps app in iOS 5 has a lot of problems. Simply put, this app is not an upgrade over the last version of Maps.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps

The Good

<b>Apple's Maps</b> app finally has functional turn-by-turn directions with voice. 3D Flyover views are very impressive in supported cities.

The Bad

Generic search terms bring up inadequate results. Many locations we tested lack details. Flyover produces strange visual bugs when browsing some areas. Public transit directions are no longer part of the app.

The Bottom Line

Apple Maps now has functional turn-by-turn navigation and gorgeous 3D Flyover features, but lack of public transit directions, shoddy details on maps, and distorted 3D views in some areas make this app mostly unusable until there's an update.

Turn-by-turn directions
One feature that many people have been waiting for on iOS devices is now here in Apple Maps: turn-by-turn directions with voice. Using the Siri assistant as its voice, the app performed adequately in our testing on the streets of San Francisco. It delivered us to the place we wanted to go, and the voice directions gave us plenty of time for turns with few problems. The app had some hiccups when it came to rerouting, attempting to send us back to our original path rather than giving us a route on the new direction we were traveling (though it corrected itself soon after). It also had a problem with the difference between two contiguous streets with slightly different names (e.g. Broadway and West Broadway) -- a small difference, but important when you're traveling in a new city. Still, the turn-by-turn directions performed well overall, but that's not all there is to a mapping app.

Location search and map details
Where the Apple Maps app is lacking are in search and map details. In our testing around our offices and when viewing well-known landmarks, we found several locations that turned up almost no details, where Google Maps showed much more useful information. As an example, a plan view of the San Francisco International Airport showed only the three main terminals, where on Google Maps you get shops, restaurants, services, and even an interface element that lets you switch floors within the terminal. The app also doesn't do well with generic searches like "coffee" or "pizza," giving some results, but nowhere near what you see on the Google-powered maps in iOS 5. We often don't compare an app directly to another in a review, but in this case, Google Maps is what was on the iPhone in iOS 5 so a direct comparison is fair.

Apple's Maps app (pictures)

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No guidance for public transit Another feature lost with the new Maps app is trip planning that includes public transit. Where you used to be able to get directions with the option of viewing the best route via bus, train, or otherwise in iOS 5, in the new app you're only given a list of apps currently in the iTunes Store that might help you. This is a huge oversight because a large number of people use public transit (or they should) and leaving these features out of the app means environmentally responsible travelers are out of luck.

3D Flyover
The 3D Flyover mode is another new feature in iOS 6 and it is definitely impressive if you're looking at specific cities. The app has several areas modeled in full 3D, letting you swipe to fly over buildings or use a two-finger gesture to rotate, and it looks beautiful with smooth frame rates even on last-generation devices. But the feature is not without serious problems. When looking at some areas, visual bugs such as airport runways with bumps like a roller coaster and streets that startlingly drop off vertically are only a couple of many examples where the new feature falls short. I also wonder how much you'll actually use the feature beyond showing off to your friends.

The Apple Maps app is the company's first effort at creating a maps app, so I didn't expect it to be perfect, but I also didn't expect it to have this many problems. As much of the information is crowd-sourced (with user-driven information from Yelp), the app should get better over time. With all the bad press, there's no doubt Apple is working right now to update the app, but until it does, people who have updated to iOS 6 have few mapping options. While there has been talk of Google making a standalone app for iOS, it's unclear whether you'll be able to get a Google Maps app on your iPhone in the near future. Unfortunately, as is, Apple Maps is not an improvement over the previous Google-powered app and you might be better off using a third-party maps app or Google's Web-based offering through your phone's browser.

Watch this: Maps on the iPhone 5: A First Look
Apple Maps

Apple Maps

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 5Interface 6Performance 5