One of the best features in iOS 6 is the improved Apple Maps app. This app replaces Google Maps on the iPhone when users install iOS 6, and brings modern maps with navigation to the iPhone.
The iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS all receive this update today, but the best features like Flyover and navigation are only available on the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5.
Read: iOS 6 Feature Roundup
Apple Maps in iOS 6 are still a work in progress, but for most users the experience using Apple Maps will prove worth the upgrade.
Using the iPhone as a GPS replacement on iOS 5, with Google Maps is worthless. In iOS 6, Apple ditches Google and adds voice guided turn-by-turn directions. This delivers a navigation experience on par with most dedicated GPS solutions and in my testing quite close to Google Maps for Android.
With the new map solution, users can listen to directions from Siri and the map automatically tracks progress on the iPhone screen. On iOS 5, users need to manually move the location or advance directions. So not only is there no audible warning a turn is approaching, users must then take their hands off the wheel to advance the direction by tapping on a small target. Maps on iOS 5 is useless to me, so I never opened the Maps app on my iPhone.
With iOS 6, the experience is vastly improved. iPhone users can now use the built-in Maps app to get navigation directions while on the go. As an added benefit, users can ask Siri for directions and the service will open the Maps app and start navigation.
Flyover and Satellite
In iOS 6 the Apple Maps app doesn’t use data from Google, instead it switches to several new data sources, adding richer satellite imagery in some areas and a 3D flyover view for select cities and landmarks.
In my town the Apple Maps satellite images are on par with Google Maps, and in some cases offer a better view of the location. The ability to rotate the map in iOS 6 allows for better directional views of the location, even when 3D Flyover mode is not present.
Users that want visual flair will want to check out Flyover mode. This is only available in select cities and around select monuments, but where it is available it is impressive.
In the image below, compare looking at the San Francisco downtown area in iOS 6 Maps with 3D mode on the left and iOS 5 Maps on the right.
During navigation I don’t want to bother with skyscrapers popping up in my view, but while exploring a city, sharing a national monument with a child or just trying to get familiar with a new location, the new Apple Maps app with Flyover is a nice addition.
Apple Maps Issues
Apple Maps isn’t perfect. Apple removed support for Transit directions in Apple Maps, and is pushing users to third-party transit apps in the App Store. So far this list remains empty.
Another issue that could prove problematic is the lack of some streets on the map. My street, in a 8-year-old sub development is not listed even though it shows up quite nice on satellite imagery. When I moved in a year ago Google Maps did not show my street on Maps, but I was able to submit a correction. I already submitted a correction to Apple using the Apple Maps app, so I am waiting to see how long the update process takes.
Users that run into these issues can turn to a third-party maps app like Waze. This app includes crowdsourced data to keep maps up to date and route around construction.
One of the biggest things missing from Apple Maps is the business markers that Google includes in Google Maps. This data overlays the information for local business on the map. In Apple Maps, only select businesses and stores with Yelp reviews make the cut.