Goodbye Google Maps, Hello Heartache
For many people, the Google Maps application has become an integral part of using an iPhone, helping to plan routes and find unknown locations with little difficulty. It is nearly as essential to navigating the world by mobile means as calling a business to get directions used to be. So when Apple announced a couple of months ago that it intended to replace Google Maps, which previously came installed on all iPhones, with their own software, it's no wonder that users were up in arms. After all, the free service is one of the most helpful and frequently used apps for smartphones and tablets. But could this move be a blessing in disguise? Or will it simply put people out? Here are a few facets of the issue that mobile users should definitely consider before sending in their hate mail. Okay, so there's a lot to recommend Google Maps. For instance, you can use it any city to find your way, whether you're poking around your hometown or traveling for business or leisure. It provides up-to-date maps that will almost always get you to the address you specify by the shortest route. But let's be honest here: this application may be the most widely used, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. This app is pretty much a one-trick pony. You put in your location and your destination and it shows you the route. Sure, it's handy, but does it give you more information about road closures or accidents? Does it offer alternate routes (unless you happen to go off course)? Can it help those using other types of transportation (like cyclists or mass transit commuters)? To date, the answer to these questions is no. But the big question on everyone's mind is whether Apple can do a better job. At the moment there are several alternative apps available on iTunes for download and they offer a variety of solutions for drivers looking to get from point A to point B. Some, like MapsBuddy, are designed to help you find businesses near your current location. Then there are apps like TransitTimes Portland, NYC Subway, and GoMetro (for Los Angeles) that are city-specific and help users to take advantage of public transportation. You could also get real-time traffic information and data concerning construction along your route with Inrix Traffic. And of course, you can always utilize the Uber or GetTaxi apps (or hit up www.nobletrans.com) to order a car. Some of these apps are free and some require payment, but all are incomplete when it comes to giving you the information you need to effectively navigate a city. Of course, the idea behind taking Google Maps off the iPhone desktop is to offer alternatives. And although Apple is looking to introduce their own solution, there may already be a great option out there. MapQuest from AOL may be the nearest equivalent to Google Maps, providing step-by-step directions to any location you specify. It also includes features like live traffic updates (and in some cases access to traffic cameras along your route), a search function to find businesses in your area, walking directions, and even comparisons of prices at area gas stations. So it provides a lot more than Google Maps. And hopefully some other mobile developers will see this ousting as an opportunity to create better options for iPhone users. Otherwise the result could be a lot of grumbling and perhaps even a mass exodus to Android.