Home Tech A day on the road with Apple’s maps

A day on the road with Apple’s maps


I am possibly the only iPhone 5 owner who hasn’t had something to say about the new Maps.app. I’ve read of endless problems in pinpointing locations and criticism of poor content compared with the old Google maps. So today I was not hopeful when I decided to use the new turn-by-turn directions for a fifty mile car journey out of London.

Normally I would choose TomTom on the iPhone but today it was Maps. I fully expected to have to switch back to TomTom half way through the journey but I was surprised and delighted by the accuracy of Maps.app and by Siri’s excellent commentary.

The new app loads quicker than TomTom and seems to update faster and more reliably. The directions were very clear, although I was surprised by the frequent use of street names in preference to road numbers. Dr.Drang of Leancrew.com made this very point a couple of days ago and I have to agree with him.

This emphasis on actual street names is welcome in built-up areas where it is useful to be told to turn left on to, for instance, London Road rather than just “turn left now”, but it can be confusing on the open road where route numbers are what we are used to.

As an instance, travelling between Central London and the A3 motorway, I was on one direct road, the A316, but Siri would insist on using the actual road names, Twickenham Road, Great Chertsey Road (and several more), as they changed along the length of the route. This change of name happens a lot in Britain, less so in the USA. I would prefer it if the name of the road could be preceded by the road number.

Once out of Greater London, however, Siri seemed to change preference to road numbers and I settled down to an uneventful trip to my destination. The house number in a long road was found precisely. I was very impressed. I really hadn’t missed TomTom.

Maps is not a fully fledged satnav system and you do get more facilities with a dedicated application. TomTom on the iPhone offers speed-limit warnings and a frequently updated database of speed cameras, an essential tool for anyone travelling on Britain’s over-snooped highways.

TomTom’s graphics can also be more informative, particularly the depiction of overhead motorway signs which give a much better indication of lane choice than you get with the relatively spartan Maps.app.

On the other hand, I actually prefer Maps.app’s graphics and colour scheme. It is restful and uncluttered and gives you all the important information. I also prefer Siri’s narration and I really do like the spoken street names, despite my comments earlier.

If you need car-bound satellite navigation occasionally, the free Maps.app will definitely get you there in some style and, from my experience, reliably. You will not feel short changed in any material way. Much to my surprise, I really do like Maps.app as a car navigator.

by Mike Evans, 11 October 2012