iOS 6 review

It's evolution rather than revolution - but Siri's superb

iOS 6 review
Round 6 for iOS - so what's changed?

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

We feared the worst: with Apple giving Google Maps data the boot in favour of its own, we half expected an app that was just great in America and utterly useless in the UK. We were wrong, but that's not to say Maps is without its issues - and people have since its launch taken to the web to express their displeasure at the new app.

The app uses data from TomTom, including free live traffic information - something you have to pay extra for in TomTom's own iPhone app. The UK maps are generally very good, offering turn-by-turn navigation that Siri can read aloud if you wish.

Most of the app's problems appear to stem from a lack of maturity compared to Google's offering, combined with some missing features. Results based on imprecise locations are frequently poor.

'Stansted' in Google Maps gave us London Stansted Airport during testing; in Maps, a village in Kent. 'Luton' in Maps gave us a village in Devon whereas Google Maps more sensibly defaulted to the large town near London. These problems are endemic, although locations are generally found correctly when you enter more information, such as a post code.

iOS 6 review

Local search is also extremely variable. Restaurant reviews from Yelp are integrated but are typically sparse or unavailable entirely if you live in a rural area.

Business locations are peppered with errors, such as occasional American spellings (for example, "Exhibition Center") and mapping glitches, such as the one that identified our local Italian restaurant as a Sainsbury's supermarket 15 miles away.

The experience smacks of a lack of testing, and it's not good enough for a feature Apple boasted was best-in-class rather than a beta that required a ton of crowdsourcing for errors.

There were other aspects of Google Maps we missed. Apple's offering fails to distinguish between road types. In Google Maps, you enjoy blue motorways, green major routes, orange A roads, and yellow B roads; in Apple's world, major routes are orange and everything else is white. For visual route planning and at-a-glance sanity checks regarding your current location, this can be a blow.

iOS 6 review

The Maps app also doesn't have Street View, but the iPhone 4S/iPhone 5 and recent iPads get Flyover View's 3D models of cities. When they're available they're often superb, but they're not widely available yet: for example, London's there, but most other major UK cities aren't.

Also, although Apple makes a good effort to display cities in 3D, some buildings and monuments occasionally look like they've been left in the sun too long and have melted. From a purely navigational standpoint, they're also less generally useful than Street View.

Another missing aspect is public transport, for which you now need an app - Apple offers no replacement whatsoever.

Where Maps does work nicely is as an affordable alternative to expensive turn-by-turn car navigation apps or hardware. With an iPhone securely mounted on the dashboard, you get a very nice experience, with clear directions and fast rerouting if you miss a turn.

iOS 6 review

It's not perfect - tiny interface elements mean you'll need to take the phone out of any cradle to adjust anything - but we found the accuracy fine on a number of car journeys. These included ones where we specifically tried to get lost, in areas with many recent road changes, some including obscure Scottish roundabout systems. We also reckon the in-car experience pips that of Google Maps, although Google's app is superior as a navigation aid when on foot.

It's worth noting that Maps isn't a standalone app but an underlying system for iOS, and so it also affects apps such as Find My Friends. However, despite our grumbles about the visual display of the maps, we're not so fussed when we're checking whether someone's on time for a meeting as opposed to travelling to such a meeting ourselves.