Apple’s new “Maps” app: It’s about time

When Apple releases its new iPhone 5 this fall it will also be releasing its new operating system, iOS 6.  The new OS will have a several new features, one of which being Apples new Maps app, which will replace the Google powered Maps app that’s been used since the original iPhone was released back in 2007.

This new map app actually looks pretty useful and very appealing to the eye.  It’s going to have a new 3D option and a “flyover” view that lets you look down on where you are, or searching.  “Maps uses a vector-based engine that keeps text crisp, graphics clear, and panning and zooming smooth and responsive,” according to the Apple website.

Probably the best feature about this new app is the ability to do turn by turn navigation with spoken directions, in 3D view along with real-time traffic information.  While you’re driving, as you approach a turn, Maps speaks directions so you don’t have to keep looking down at your phone to see what to do and what turn to take. In addition, the screen turns into a 3D perspective view of the road ahead. Large signs and arrows superimposed over the image show you which way to go and how long it’s going to take to get there, even if your screen is locked. As you approach a turn, the camera angle changes to show you where to go, and if you miss a turn, don’t worry, Maps automatically reroutes you and updates your ETA.

I think the coolest feature about this Map app is the idea of real-time traffic information.  As you’re driving, real-time traffic information is taken into consideration and is calculated and alters your ETA. Maps gives you details on what’s causing a backup, so you can tell if there’s a major accident or just a temporary slowdown, and if traffic’s bad and backed up, Maps offers alternative routes to save you time.

It’s about time that Apple gets in the game with this new Map app.  Before this update, people had to go to third-party apps to get voice turn by turn navigation or real-time traffic updates.  I use the free MapQuest app for directions but I also use another third-party app for my traffic, and by that point it’s to late and I’m already stuck in traffic with no way out.  It only makes sense for Apple to dramatically update their Map app, especially because so many people use their phones now as their navigation systems.  Why go out and buy an expensive Garmin for $200 when you can just use your phone, which most people have on them at all times anyways.  Yeah sure you can go and buy an expensive map app in the App store for like $40, but if you’re like me I’d rather keep the $40 in my wallet and deal with a crappier third-party map app, as long as it gets me from point A to point B.

The old Map app wasn’t terrible don’t get me wrong but it was a dinosaur compared to other third-party map app’s that are available.  Since I got my iPhone 4, I’ve been using the free MapQuest app to get me from point A to point B as my primary source of directions, mostly because it was free and did the best with voice turn by turn navigation, and has really gotten better with updates.  The standard Map app however is useful and accurate and a good backup when the MapQuest app would give me problems.  Not only was it a good backup but it’s walking directions are really good.  When I go to NYC for the day and need to figure out how to get somewhere, I just use the map app’s walking directions to help lead me to where I needed to go instead of dealing with a real map of the city or getting a third-party map app of NYC.

Whether this new update will be as good as it sounds and how well the turn by turn voice navigation with real-time traffic information works is yet to be determined.  However, when the new iOS 6 comes out this fall, out of the many new features that will be available in this newer OS, I think this new Map app upgrade is going to be one of the best things Apple ever decided to update.

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