FIMG_0021or the first time since iOS 6 was released, Google Maps is available for the iPhone. It was released 12/12/12 via the iTunes App Store. Google Maps is free to download and is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPod touch (3rd generation and above). This app is optimized for iPhone 5 and looks great.

I have had quite a bit of experience with GPS devices in the car. They have gotten me from point A to point B, sometimes via point C, but I’ve had quite a bit of success with them. Apple Maps wasn’t even a total disappointment to me because when I used it, it worked. It could definitely use some improvements and I look forward to what Apple brings to the table with future versions – especially after what I’ve seen from Google Maps.

Users are given the option to connect a Google account to the app, but it operates just fine without signing in. When you first open the app, you are greeted with a familiar map view from the former Google Maps app. From this screen, you are prompted to search for a destination. As a default, Google Maps starts you at your current location. When you search for a location, you can enter a street address or public place, like a restaurant or shopping center. If your destination is a public place or business, you have the opportunity to review the location’s information provided by Google. This could be very helpful, especially if you are looking for a place to enjoy a meal.

The first time I used this I did have some trouble figuring out exactly how to get to the destination I searched for. That was simply because when I tapped on the name of the destination, it pulled up information instead of starting the trip. To start a trip, I quickly found out, you must tap on the blue car. The next screen suggests routes for users to choose. Once you choose one, the map shows the route and you must then select the ‘Start’ icon.

IMG_0020Google Maps’ navigation functionality is superb. It has a pleasant voice and the turn-by-turn navigation can’t be fooled. I attempted several times to throw the navigation system off by taking unexpected turns and it quickly updated and gave new directions. I would say it works better than my Garmin Nuvi does for updating. Plus, it doesn’t waste voice time in saying things like, “Recalculating.”

A couple of additional options Google Maps provides are Traffic view, Public Transit, Satellite View and Google Earth. Google Earth does require an additional app download.

I live in an area that has Verizon LTE and I do get exceptional cell service. Since I’ve only used it in town, I’m not sure how well the app will work without great cell coverage. This app still provides the same #1 issue that Apple Maps does – if there is not cell coverage, there are no maps. So, in my opinion, this type of navigation is still not as good as a portable GPS or even an app that includes maps in the download. I would be concerned about what happens when you don’t have coverage.

Google Maps is definitely worth the download and very functional.