Home Subway Maps Google Maps – and transit directions – returns to iOS

Google Maps – and transit directions – returns to iOS

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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Someone December 14, 2012 - 8:02 am

Um… I have Android, so does this concern me?

Benjamin Kabak December 14, 2012 - 8:36 am

No. Clearly not. Google Maps is going to remain on Google’s own mobile/tablet platform.

TP December 14, 2012 - 8:54 am

But with this update, Google Maps on Android is arguably inferior to the new iOS version.

Jason December 14, 2012 - 9:45 am

You trollin’? Seems like iOS is now getting the functionality that we fandroids have had for like, ever?

Someone December 14, 2012 - 9:52 am

I think the iOS version of Google Maps is still as good as the Android version. (Let’s not even get started on the Apple-Android wars.)

BenW December 14, 2012 - 10:30 am

I can’t speak as to whether TP is trolling, but it sounds from the original article like the iPhone version has (finally) caught up on features (which were, yes, way behind for a long time), and has a somewhat improved UI over the current Android version. Presumably, if Google agrees that this take on the UI is better, Android will have it in a week or two, and we can stop arguing (though it’s possible they’re now feeling sufficiently spiteful about having a better maps app than Apple does that they’ll keep pushing development on the iOS version faster for a cycle or two).

Nathan H. December 14, 2012 - 3:36 pm

Nope, iOS version still doesn’t have bicycle directions.

BenW December 14, 2012 - 4:32 pm

Seriously? Huh. That’s very odd—that seems like a feature that costs basically nothing on the client side, whereas the motion-sensing street-view whizbang must have taken a lot of effort to port. I wonder why they left that out? Having four types of directions to choose between considered just too much for us Braindead Apple Zombies to handle?

LLQBTT December 14, 2012 - 9:44 am

Apple Maps is so inferior at this time. Probably in a few years it will be competitive, but the omission of transit directions, when my guess is the many iOS’ers are urban dwellers, is a huge gaffe. I mean who cares how long it takes to drive from 8th/14th to say Lex/65th. What’s the use of that? At least iOS always had (and has) HopStop.

chris December 14, 2012 - 10:12 am

Way to go, Ben. You’ve started a cell phone war on your transit blog…

But, even Google said that they now need to update their android app to be as good as the Apple app.

Regardless, thank you, and welcome back to iPhone Google Maps. You were missed!

Someone December 14, 2012 - 3:44 pm

Google will update it quickly, Google (or any other company) will never lose to a competitor on its own product.

D in Bushwick December 14, 2012 - 11:28 am

These step by step directions are seriously dumbing down people many of who couldn’t read maps in the first place.
My job involves people meeting me at various addresses and some of them can’t even find a building address without GPS telling them which building it is. That’s kind of pathetic…

Matthias December 14, 2012 - 2:59 pm

It’s fairly well-documented that over-reliance on GPS technology causes people to lose (or not develop) a mental map.



Kai B December 14, 2012 - 3:14 pm

I’ve actually gotten quite used to Apple Maps with transit directions through the Embark NYC semi-integration. Also worked well with Embark Philadelphia when I was down there last weekend.

But I guess not having to download a new transit app for every city you visit is definitely a plus.

chris December 14, 2012 - 5:23 pm

Embark NYC is a pretty amazing application though; I think I’ll still use it a lot.

stan December 14, 2012 - 7:50 pm

google maps..

– transit maps
– better search

– bloated, clumsy, ugly interface. 3-D representations of ANYWHERE are utterly useless and get in the way of helping me find the place i am looking for. i hate it and i can’t seem to stop the UI from switching to it as i zoom in. this, like satellite view, is worthless to me.
– not integrated with other apps

Someone December 15, 2012 - 12:24 am

Apple maps by comparison does not give accurate directions half the time, and the map always is confusing to look at. Even an experienced traveler like me has trouble finding directions on Apple Maps.

stan December 15, 2012 - 5:34 pm

apple maps giving wrong directions ‘half the time’ is a ludicrous exaggeration. i use it at least 3 or 4 times a week during my travels around the country and have never gotten lost. i’ll admit that for some uses, it’s not great. the search is lame and often does not place what i am actually looking for near the top of the list (google maps kills apple maps on this feature because google does search better than anybody), but for address to address, it’s just fine.

there is stuff i never use with any mapping program because i find it useless: street view, 3-D representations, flyovers. these things are just toys. the 2-D map and directions, that’s what is important.

people are falling all over themselves trying to pile on to apple for finally failing and it seems to be mostly people parroting the initial reviews. it’s lazy and boring.

Someone December 15, 2012 - 7:43 pm

There was a report in the news not a long time ago that made me question the safety of Apple Maps, Specifically, the police in a town in Australia warned tourists not to use Apple Maps to travel to a certain city, because it literally would kill them.


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