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14 Dec 12 Google Maps Android v Google Maps iOS: The side-by-side comparison

Google Maps for iOS has finally launched, and
it is no surprise that it is vastly superior to the utter failure
that is Apple Maps. As good as it is, though, Google’s version of
Maps for iOS6 is quite different from its Android counterpart in
ways big and small.

Rather than port a quick-and-dirty Android doppelganger over to
the App Store, the Google Maps team designed a uniquely iOS
interface and experience. For that reason, some features native to
the Android app don’t end up in the iOS version, and some
interactions you’ll experience on the iPhone 5 are completely
different than anything you’ll see on an Android handset.

Google Maps for iOS was literally hours old when we set out to
see how it stands up against Google Maps on Android.

On the whole, we’ve got to say the iOS version of Google Maps
looks nicer, but as far as features go, the Android version wins
hands down.

The interface
Both versions of Google Maps operate smoothly, and they look
slick, modern and decidedly Googley, but there are some major

Google Maps on iOS uses the same general color scheme we’ve seen
on Google’s other iOS products Google+, Google Search and Gmail –
that is, clean dark-gray text on a white background. Frankly, it’s
far prettier than Apple Maps’ UI, and more elegant than the Android
version, too.

At the top of the app in iOS is a search box, with icons for
directions and your user profile. Tap into your profile and, if
you’re logged into your Google account, you’ll find recently saved
and shared addresses, the ability to list your home and work
addresses, tutorials and help. Very convenient.

At the bottom, iOS users will find directions, a button to
activate navigation and a three-dot tab that, with a tap, exposes
layers such as traffic, public transit, satellite imagery and a
link to open whatever location you’re looking at in the Google
Earth iOS app.

The general layout is similar on Android, with a few exceptions.
While Google Maps on iOS places the search box up top, the Android
version uses a magnifying glass icon at the bottom to activate a
search box up top. Instead of tapping a tab to expose layers of
data, Android uses a layers icon at the bottom of the interface,
next to search and an icon to bring up local businesses. The
three-dot icon shows up on Android’s bottom menu too, but serves a
different function: exposing the app’s settings, help, the ability
to clear the map and the option of saving a map for offline use.
Offline maps aren’t even offered by Google Maps on iOS.

Turn-by-turn voice navigation
Android users have had turn-by-turn navigation for ages, and
Google’s voice navi is among the best in mobile. But until Apple
Maps, iOS users were largely left behind. Now they have something
beyond Siri’s
hit-or-miss instructions
. Google Maps on iOS has the same high
quality voice turn-by-turn directions Android users have been
enjoying. Now, Google Maps does caution that its Navigation service
on iOS is in beta, and traffic data isn’t yet real-time — it’s
still in beta on Android too.

Even so, we found the directions to be up to snuff in our
testing thus far. There is one difference however: Google Maps on
iOS doesn’t offer voice navigation while walking, and it does do on

Bike directions and public transit
While the iOS version finally brings public transit directions
back to the iPhone, another big complaint with Apple
— no bike directions — remains unfulfilled. Lame.
On Google Maps for Android, you’ve got essentially the same bike
route interface as on the web: solid green lines for roads with
bike lines, dotted green lines for bike-friendly roadways, and Maps
routes you through to your destination.

As for public transit, both apps let you optimise your route by
transit mode (bus, subway, train, or tram/light rail) and best
route, fewest transfers, or less walking. These options are hidden
under an Options button in the iOS interface, and are more clearly
displayed on Android.

Google has defined online search for more than a decade, and
nobody does it better (Sorry Bing!). And search in Google Maps on
both Android and iOS is a breeze. Both apps offer text-based
predictions as you type, and both deliver these suggestions and
largely the exact same search results with blazing speed, as long
as you have a solid Internet connection.

Local business listings
On both iOS and Android, local business listings are provided by a
combination of Google’s local search and Zagat listings (Google
purchased Zagat in
). On the other hand, Apple Maps pulls business listings
from Yelp. Your preference will likely be determined by which
ratings service you use more to find the nearest burrito joint. If
you’re into Zagat, you’ll be pleased with its integration on both
iOS and Android as they’re largely the same — offering the
address, hours and phone number of a business, as well as any
reviews, photos and mapping directions. If the business is on
Google Maps Street View, there’s a link in both apps that gives you
the option (when available) to see both the outside and inside of
an establishment.

The one major difference between Zagat integration in the two
apps is advertising. On Android, Google adds related ads among
Zagat listings. On iOS, you’re ad free — for now.

Street view integration
Street View, the 360-degree panoramas of the outside (and
increasingly, inside) of businesses, appear on both app versions.
The exact same photos and data grace both apps. But oddly, we found
that when searching for the same locations on iOS and Android, and
tapping our way into Street View on both platforms, we’d end up
seeing a different Street View viewpoints of the same locale. One
other minor difference: Street names are rendered in white with a
dark grey outline on the iOS app, and in dark grey with a white
outline on Android. Neither is that much better than the other,
just different.

Finding friends and family
You’re out, grabbing a beer by your lonesome at the local pub.
Hey, maybe a friend is nearby and you should hang out together
instead. Apple has Find My Friend (which nobody we know uses) to
find iOS-using friends and family members who also broadcast their
location using the app. Google has Latitude (which nobody we know
uses) and it does the same thing. But on Android, Latitude is built
directly into Google Maps. You still have to opt into the service
for it to work, though. On iOS, it’s a separate app.

If you’re going to stalk friends and family, stick with Path and

Wikipedia integration
One more thing that Google Maps on Android has that it’s iOS
counterpart lacks is Wikipedia integration. On Android, users can
choose to add a layer over the top of the map they’re looking at
that provides Wikipedia entries for locations such as businesses,
public parks and historical sites. It’s not quite a killer feature,
but it’s cool, it’s helpful, and if you’re a tourist or just
someone who wants to get to know their hometown, it’s a lot of fun.
There’s nothing quite like it on iOS, or any other Android mapping
app. Hopefully Google brings this feature over to iOS in the


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