Courtesy of the Second Ave. Sagas Instagram account comes a screenshot from my iPhone. I awoke on Thursday morning to find that Google Maps — and with it, native in-app integration of transit directions — had returned to Apple’s iOS mobile platform. iPhone and iPad users could once again turn to the market leader in digital mapping and directions.
When Apple announced iOS 6 a few months ago, they made headlines with the decision to torpedo Google Maps in favor of an in-house solution, and the in-house solution was an unqualified disaster. Location searching was inaccurate; directions were wrong; and the lack of transit had many advocates wringing their hands. Google Maps returns transit to the mapping app with a smooth interface to boot.
Writing in The Times on Thursday, David Pogue wrote a glowing review of the new app, and he highlights the public transportation piece:
Along with driving directions, Google Maps gives equal emphasis to walking directions and public transportation options.
This feature is brilliantly done. Google Maps displays a clean, step-by-step timeline of your entire public transportation adventure. If you ask for a route from Westport, Conn., to the Empire State Building, the timeline says: “4:27 pm, Board New Haven train toward Grand Central Terminal.” Then it shows you the names of the actual train stops you’ll pass. Then, “5:47 pm, Grand Central. Get off and walk 2 min.” Then, “5:57 pm, 33rd St: Board the #6 Lexington Avenue Local towards Brooklyn Bridge.” And so on.
Even if public transportation were all it did, Google Maps would be one of the best apps ever. (Apple kicks you over to other companies’ apps for this information.)
It may, of course, strike some as silly to focus so much on a map app on one mobile platform, but iOS is one of the leading platforms. By omitting a native integration of transit into their app, Apple could subtly influence people’s behavior. Google, on the other hand, includes information for around one million public transportation stops, and Google makes it easy to get transit directions. Thus, it encourages transit use. The return of a Google Map application, available in Apple’s App Store, is a welcome one indeed.