The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

October 7, 2012

Review: Apple's maps app lets you follow the voice

— FREMONT, Ind. (AP) — Apple's new maps app came out the day I started a 2,243-mile road trip through four states. As complaints about it trickled in and Apple's CEO apologized, I was left wondering whether people were using the same app I was.

Although it's not flawless or as good as Google's maps app on Android phones, Apple's new offering on the iPhone got me where I needed to go — for the most part. I know many people will disagree with me, but I even find it an improvement over the old app on iPhones because I now get voice navigation and automatic re-routing.

I've used Google's Android app since it was released three years ago. I don't own a car, but I travel a lot. The app has proven crucial in getting me to unfamiliar territories in New England and various Southern states from Arizona to South Carolina.

Google brought to the phone the spoken-aloud, turn-by-turn directions once limited to GPS navigational devices from Garmin, TomTom and others. Make a wrong turn, and the app automatically updates with new directions. Best of all, it's always been free.

Until last month, Google was also behind the free, main maps app on iPhones.

But that one didn't have voice navigation or automatic re-routing. Driving with it meant swiping through pages of on-screen directions. A friend missed a train in May as we overlooked a step and went the wrong way on a highway, ending up back where we came from. A drive from Ann Arbor to Lansing, Mich., took 17 steps, each with its own page. After Step 9, I had to pull into a rest stop to memorize subsequent steps and avoid an accident.

Apple wanted voice directions, too, and figured the only way to get it was to build its own maps app and bump Google from its perch as the default offering. It partnered with TomTom and shipped the iPhone 5 with the new app. A software update out Sept. 19 made it available on the iPhone 4S and the cellular versions of the latest two iPad models.

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