I think it’s safe to say at this point that we’re well past the idea that Apple Maps needs a lot of tender, love and care before it’s a practical Google Maps alternative. Apple may be trying to get ahead of the game by telling the world they are “working hard to make the experience even better,” but there is still no question that Google Maps is proving to be a missing link in iOS 6.
While the absence of Google Maps is notable, the iOS App Store has plenty of incredible Maps alternatives that can fill a gap until Google submits their own iOS Google Maps app. Here’s the top alternatives.
Waze is a free crowd-sourced GPS navigation app that has won an incredible number of positive reviews thanks to its strong social community. Add in alerts to upcoming police speed traps, accident alerts, traffic reports and excellent voice-guided navigation and you’ve got one of the best Maps alternatives available. The free price doesn’t hurt of course, but this is one Mapping solution worth paying for. In fact, even in iOS 5, I found myself turning to Waze far more than I relied on Google Maps for anything that wasn’t a local trip.
Of course Waze is has some imperfection, inaccuracies can be accidental or otherwise and there could be a lack of up-to-date information if not enough people are updating it. Waze can be pretty much an ideal mapping solution, but the reliance on others for detailed time-sensitive information can be disconcerting.
Even after Garmin’s acquisition of Navigon in 2011, it arguably remains one of the top Navigation solutions on the iPhone. Navigon, like it’s TomTom and Garmin rivals are full-fledged mapping solutions that can contain pretty much an entire GPS unit within an app. Navigon just upgraded its family of apps with public transit directions, and “last mile” navigation for walking to your destination after parking your car a ways away. This is a great feature as the parking position of your vehicle is remembered and the app provides pedestrian navigations which is a terrific addition, albeit one that might be unnoticed.
Navigon USA is on sale for $39.99 for a limited time, though you can buy cheaper options like Navigon just for the eastern or western parts of the US for $24.99.
Ok, so let’s just get this out-of-the-way as TomTom powers some of Apple’s new Maps data, though the onus isn’t on TomTom itself. TomTom is a veteran name in GPS navigation and that gives it a lot of “street cred” and works wonderfully for short trips or both road trips. With correct voice prompts and routing, a huge selection of points-of-interest and a $19.99 per year HD traffic plug-in that is said to be among the best in the maps biz, this is an excellent alternative.
TomTom USA is now available for $49.99.
The name MapQuest likely needs no introduction as it was the Google Maps of Maps before Google entered into the map game. It’s free, and provides turn by turn voice navigation, but it relies on a lot of same data that Apple Maps users are having trouble with, so use MapQuest with caution. Still, for a top-down navigation solution, MapQuest is great for pedestrian directions, and features live traffic cameras and local gas prices.
This is definitely one Maps app that we would install, but only along with a full fledge alternative.
One of the most compelling Maps alternatives, Scout is gaining traction thanks to some well placed marketing offering one year of free Scout Plus which includes 3D turn-by-turn voice navigation, offline maps, lane assist, speed traps and red light camera alerts, cheapest local gas pricing and more. Powered by TeleNav, another top name in the GSP navigation business, Scout is an upcoming competitor to the GPS crown on the iPhone.
Scout is a free app, with Scout Plus priced at $9.99 per year, or monthly for $2.99.
Google Maps In The Browser:
So here’s a workaround that let’s you “keep” Google Maps on the iPhone, in a roundabout way. It’s definitely not an elegant solution, but a workable one that’s dampened only by the framework of the browser. Still, in a pinch, Google Maps in the browser will get the job done, it’s just not our go-to solution. You can always add a shortcut to the home screen, but it’s still not a solution we’d recommend completely relying on.
The Best Of The Rest:
This is just a recap of some of the best map solutions available on the iPhone, but by no means is a complete list. CoPilot, Garmin, and Magellan all offer terrific solutions for the iPhone with the latter two names being staples in the GPS industry. All three are steady performers, with Garmin and Magellan being as feature rich as both the Navigon and TomTom solutions. Garmin offers an amazing amount of point of interest searches as Magellan highlights one touch navigation to favorite destinations.
Our primary hope is that Apple will bulk up its Maps app in short order, making it at least as full fledged as some of the other maps alternatives. Given that most apps including restaurant and travel programs need some sort of mapping program for point of interest lookup, having the default Maps app open every time is troublesome if it’s not reliable. Without the option to substitute default apps ala Android, we need Apple to step up to the plate rectify this situation fast.