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Google Maps: why you should switch maps apps

Maps is one of the most commonly replaced Apple apps on iOS.

It’s not that Apple Maps is in a particularly bad state these days, you understand. In fact, it’s pretty good – and its set to get even better soon. It’s just that after a huge head-start and continual improvement, Google Maps is, for now at least, just plain better.

Apple’s bitterest rival actually provided the original iPhone Maps app, right up until the launch of iOS 6 in September 2012. This is when Apple Maps launched in an infamously unfinished state, and the iPhone maker has been playing catch-up ever since.

Here are a few reasons why Google Maps continues to be a great pick for your mapping and navigation needs.

The devil is in the detail

Google Maps quite simply has better, more up to date, more detailed mapping data than Apple Maps. Numerous reports over the years have confirmed that Google Maps contains much more thorough, accurate and up-to-date information on locations.

This extends to helpful building footprints, which are completely absent from Apple Maps (and every other mapping service, for that matter). You don’t just see the shape of roads in Google Maps but, increasingly, the buildings and landmarks around them too.

More location information

Select a shop, restaurant, museum, or any other building with a public function in either mapping app, and you’ll get a comprehensive rundown of what it can provide. That includes opening times, summaries, images, user reviews and the like.

Google Maps goes even further than Apple Maps, however, with more detailed information. It tells you how busy the outlet tends to be at certain times, while very popular spots like museums have a live “busyness” indicator. The app has even started telling you how long average wait times are for a number of restaurants.

Street View

This particular piece of location information deserves its own separate heading, and it also feeds into that first point about Google having superior data. Street View is a truly magical thing.

Tap on the Street View image in a location listing, down alongside the photos thumbnail, and you’ll be able to get a 360-degree interactive view of the area by touching and dragging. You’ll even be able to double tap to move along roads, which can really help you build a picture of a route in your mind.

Offline maps

If you’re traveling to another country and your contract doesn’t cover data usage (or it’s just prohibitively expensive), you can use Google Maps “offline” for directions. Simply hit the menu button, select Offline maps, then select the area you’re visiting to download the key data.

Apple Maps doesn’t have such a feature, relying on caching data on a trip-by-trip basis.

Best for bikers

Both Google Maps and Apple Maps provide custom navigation for drivers, walkers, and public transport users. But Google Maps also includes guidance for bikers.

This is especially useful for those who live and commute in congested cities, where pedal power is often the quickest and cheapest way to travel.