The brand-new Google Maps iPhone app has arrived to a world overwhelmed with excitement, and we have Apple's iPhone 5 mapping disaster to thank for that. Within hours of its launch last night, the iOS navigation software made its way to the top of the free downloads section in the iTunes App Store — with over 8,000 reviews, it has a five-star rating already. The techies give it no less love. "It's free, fast and fantastic," wrote The New York Times's David Pogue, before going on to explain all the things that make Google's maps better than Apple's. Specifically, it has better data and design, as TechCrunch's Drew Olanoff and The Verge's Dieter Bohn explain in their reviews. But not only is Google's fantastic app a step up from Apple's mess of an app, it also represents a giant leap from the already beloved Google Maps app — you know, the one that came preloaded on iPhones before Apple nixed it for its own, buggier version. And while it's easy to malign Apple, maybe we should take this morning to thank the company. Because without their sad-sack product, would Google have made these updates in the first place? Herein, a comparison of Google's native app and Google Maps for iOS:
Better Public Transit Directions
Google didn't just give us our subway directions back—a feature Apple Maps doesn't have it all—it made them much, much better. The old Google Maps app (pictured below at left) would overlay directions over a street map without any indication of how the subway lines ran. The new version (pictured at right) is full of colorful routes and connections.
And whereas the old Google Maps app hid alternative routes, the new app offers various options for public transportation — just like the desktop version of Google Maps has for months:
Better Overall Design
The new design took old Google Maps, mated it with Apple Maps, and gave us the sleek design your see above. The previous app had a kind of cluttered, overwhelming look to it. Apple Maps provided a cleaner interface, but that was partly because it didn't have all the Google data to crowd up your phone. The new Google app has that more modern design and the information we need.
Also, the user interface didn't work too intuitively on the old Google Maps. Getting from the map screen to the menu involved clicking the little dog-ear icon in the corner of your screen (pictured below at bottom left) — and Apple adopted that familiar toggle for its app (pictured below at middle). The new Google app, however, forgoes that icon for a swiping deal, which makes sense: In place of the dog ear are those three little dots (pictured below at bottom right) for traffic, transit, and satellite views.
Better Ways to Find Street View
Getting to the Street View version of your desired location used to require searching for that place, then clicking on the familiar orange man (pictured below at left). In the new Google Mapps app, there is a very big, very explicit "Street View" widget. Although finding that part of the menu does take a little figuring out: just swipe up on the address at the bottom of your screen, as pictured above at right, to get to the view pictured below at right.
The Verge's Bohn claims that Google's new iPhone app works faster than its Android app. It does seem to move around faster than the previous version of Google Maps, too. But it's hard to tell.
Old Google Maps had sponsored links and such, the new one doesn't—yet. "We wanted to nail the main uses cases, and get an app out as soon as possible," Daniel Graf, director of Google Maps told Bohn.
Still, Some Issues...
It's not all perfect. The app told someone American was in Australia, but the hashtag #googlemapsgate has about five tweets. And of course Google Maps doesn't work with Siri like Apple Maps does. Nor does it have offline compatibility or indoor directions. But old Google Maps didn't have any of that stuff anyway. Overall, the new Google Maps app isn't just an upgrade over the abhorred Apple Maps — it's out-Googling Google, too. So thanks for sucking, Apple.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.