I updated an iPhone 4S in a hotel room in Grand Rapids, Mich., that night and was immediately impressed. It was a nice touch to have turn-by-turn directions narrated by Siri, the familiar female voice from Apple's virtual-assistant feature.
Then I started hearing the complaints.
I agree with many of them. The Apple app didn't show as many businesses and landmarks as Google's. Some appeared in the wrong location or were mislabeled. The Apple app didn't offer public transit directions, something crucial for New Yorkers like me. A friend I was visiting toward the end of the two-week trip immediately complained that the app looked different as she pulled it out for the first time.
Head to head, the Google app for Android, which I used on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and a Galaxy S III, outperformed Apple's version in many respects:
— Google's app typically told me about turns a second or two quicker. Sometimes, I didn't hear from Siri until I got to the intersection, two lanes away from where I needed to be to make a right turn.
— I got better navigation on private roads with Google. At a shopping mall, Google guided me along the right driveways to get to JC Penney, while Apple got me to the general vicinity. Google also got me to the front door of my hotel in Ann Arbor, while Apple got me to the entrance of a complex that included other hotels, a gas station and retail stores.
— In Akron, Ohio, Siri had me turn left to get on a highway, while Google's app properly instructed me to take a ramp on the left. In Indianapolis, Google knew about a service road alongside Michigan Road, while Siri assumed I was on the main road and would have had me crash into a Chinese restaurant. In Charleston, W.Va., Siri told me to head northeast, as if I had a compass, while Google just told me to turn left.