With Apple's own mapping service still the butt of internet jokes and apparently trying to kill Australians, the arrival of Google Maps for iOS should be good news for anyone who needs to find somewhere fast. Is it?
There's only one way to find out...
Google Maps for iOS vs Apple Maps: accuracy
Let's start with what really matters: there's no point in having a pretty map engine if it directs you to Burkina Faso when you're trying to get to Birmingham. While we found that both apps performed perfectly when asked to take us to particular addresses,
Apple failed badly when it came to locating places such as businesses, shops or pubs: for example, Apple's mapping data includes outlets of Our Price, which went out of business in 2004, and our local M&S appears twice - both times in the wrong place.
As you can see here, most Apple errors affect businesses, unless someone's hiding TK Maxxes in suburban gardens.
In most cases the errors are relatively minor, such as large shops being pinned to housing estates rather than the retail parks those estates back on to, but such errors do appear to be the rule rather than the exception. With Apple, the chances of finding a particular business in the right place seems to be roughly 50/50; with Google, it's 100%.
Apple does accept map corrections, but it's taking its time fixing them: we notified Apple of several errors and omissions back in October, and they're still wrong or missing.
Google Maps for iOS vs Apple Maps: interface
Are you sitting down? In a complete reversal of how things are supposed to work, Google's interface is miles better than Apple's. It's much nicer to look at, and its beauty isn't just skin deep: start typing a business name or address and autocomplete kicks in, with superb results.
For example, we wanted to search for a nearby restaurant called Andiamo: Google had it as the first option by the time we'd typed "Andi". You then get a little panel at the bottom of the screen telling you how long it'll take to get there, with a little icon you can tap to get driving, walking or public transport directions; if you slide the panel up you get additional data such as Street View, contact details and any reviews.
Here's Apple's problem in a nutshell: Google autocompletes it, Apple doesn't know it exists. Google first here, Apple second.
There's another slider on the Google app, this time from the lower right side of the screen: pull that across and you can bring up traffic information, public transport routes, satellite view and even Google Earth (if you have the Google Earth app installed).
Traffic and transport information depend on where you live - your reviewer lives just outside Glasgow, and live traffic information stops a few miles out from the city centre; however, Google Maps does know where the nearest bus stops are and what services stop at them - but where it's available it's very useful.
Going back to iOS Maps after using Google's apps feels like travelling backwards, if not in time then at least in location awareness: searching for the same local restaurant, Apple decided that "Andi" was probably Andijan, which is in Uzbekistan.
Typing the whole name did find the restaurant, but unfortunately not the one half a mile from our house: Apple directed us to identically named sister restaurants, 15 and 21 miles away respectively: an old-data problem again, as our local restaurant is a few years newer than the others. Like Google there's traffic data for major routes, but unlike Google there's no public transport information.