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Here's how not to lose your way, after Apple map mess

Companies are providing clearer road maps this time round, so that you don't stumble

Priyanka Joshi  |  New Delhi 

About three weeks back, Apple launched its latest operating system, iOS 6, and decided to replace Google Maps with its own maps. But, Apple’s navigation software comes with numerous defects such as incorrect directions, irritable 3D mapping, misplaced locations of villages and inaccurate searches, among others.

For instance, when we asked for driving directions from Ghaziabad to Connaught Place in New Delhi, Apple Maps failed to come up with a route. 

Searching for major landmarks across New Delhi was equally disappointing as “no results found” was often reported. On searching for Pizza Hut in Ghaziabad, the nearest location of the eatery was indicated in Haryana (in fact, the eatery has three outlets in the neighbourhood).

While we hope that Apple smoothens the kinks in its navigation software, here are some worthy alternatives to keep you going till then:

BROWSER-BASED MAPS
Google Maps

Users can still use Google Maps via a web browser by going to http://maps.Google.com. When the page loads, it prompts you to add the site as a bookmark on your home screen, which gives you one-click access to the maps. Users who liked the previous Maps apps from iOS 5 will probably feel at home with this alternative. It gives directions for driving, walking, and near-accurate search results and local points of interest.

The Google Maps webapp can be accessed with a Google account, which will give you access to “Places” you have saved in Maps. This way users don’t have to enter locations again, as they will be stored within the “Places” tab for quick access.

Google has launched a street-view feature for its mobile maps, but it is not available in India, just like we don’t have a turn-by-turn navigation yet. Also, the low resolution of web-based maps can be annoying when using the default hybrid satellite view, so its best to switch to the standard road view. We also found the response time of Google Maps on the web could be a little slow, compared to the native app that Apple replaced.

Nokia Maps
Nokia, too, gives a web-based mobile map site service for free at http://m.maps.nokia.com, which can be accessed via Apple’s Safari browser. Just like Google Maps, you can use Nokia Maps on your iOS device's Home Screen by tapping on the Options menu in Safari and selecting Add to Home Screen.

Once Nokia Maps knows where you are, searching for points of interest can be a piece of cake. During the review, we could locate local addresses, restaurant names and routes so long as the data connection was stable. You can also bookmark frequented locations like work or home to expedite navigation. These locations become a part of your live search and can be pulled up quickly. Nokia's mobile web maps do not hold up against the native Nokia Maps and Drive apps for Windows Phone devices (which also have guided driving directions, offline maps, etc), yet we have to admit its browser-based maps do a decent job on the iOS platform.

What we think of web-based maps: Web apps need a steady data connection, and this is the biggest drawback for users in India who live with intermittent data service. Also, these can't provide GPS-style turn-by-turn instructions that can be recalculated if you miss a turn.

NATIVE APPS
MapmyIndia’s Don’t Panic

Cashing in on the Apple Maps fiasco is MapmyIndia, the location-based services and maps company, with its GPS navigation app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users in India. MapmyIndia’s Don’t Panic app stores maps are offline and do not require mobile data connectivity for navigation.

The map data is very precise. In Delhi-NCR, the points of interest were correctly labelled, and inclusion of smaller grocery stores, local landmarks stood out. During review, the app could point all the local Indian restaurants in neighbourhood and also allowed to share locations via SMS, or add, rename and categorise favourite locations, automatically record and save routes etc. Using the map in Delhi city, we could see the new bypasses, restricted routes with speed limits, etc — something that even Google maps do not give us. MapmyIndia is has priced the app very conveniently. Apps with all India maps is $19.99, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi-NCR maps will cost $7.99 each.

What we think of Don’t Panic: Since the app will store map data on your device it is bound to take up space, but that’s a small price to pay for maps that can be accessed even when the data connection is unavailable. Detailed maps, routes and recognition of Indian streets, as well as local landmarks, put this map right in the forefront of all navigation apps available for Indian users.

Navfree GPS Live India
NavFree is a full, free satellite navigation app for the iOS platform. It uses map data created by a community of thousands of users round the world, so as community expands the map data expands, too (like Wikipedia). Just like MapmyIndia’s app, Navfree, too, stores maps on the device eliminating the need to have a data connection to view routes.

We found that the prime routes in Delhi-NCR were well-marked on the maps but the newer areas like new sectors, metros stations and restricted roads due to construction in NCR were either missing or wrongly marked. We liked the dedicated pedestrian navigation feature on the map, which was correct  for the routes we asked. As the data is reliant on users, maps can occasionally be incorrect or not up to date with latest points of interests. There’s an inbuilt map report tool that allows users to edit maps and report errors to the company.

What we think of NavFree GPS Live India: The app provides multiple ways to search for a destination, an attractive interface and some great navigation on well-known routes. But since it is a free app, users have to live with banner ads on the screen. A few locations and routes do appear wrongly labelled, but that can be reported and duly edited by users.

First Published: Mon, October 15 2012. 00:38 IST
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