The Google-powered maps for the iPhone and iPod Touch have been a mainstay of the iPhone OS since its inception. With the iPad, the maps app gets some subtle new features.
More importantly, and perhaps harder to convey in words, is the fact that the screen real estate afforded by the iPad transforms the app from a squinting approximation of a map into a full-fledged map replacement. Holding it in my hands, I couldn't help feeling a little like Dr. Evil, plotting my course for world domination.
There are a few things to know right off the bat. First, all versions of the iPad include an integrated digital compass, which the maps app can use along with Wi-Fi triangulation to approximate your location and orientation.
Also note that you'll need to invest in a 3G-capable model if you really plan on utilizing the iPad as a proper "Where the heck am I?" kind of map. Not only will the 3G-enabled iPad ping nearby cell towers as an additional means to determine your location (along with Wi-Fi signal triangulation), but the hardware on the 3G models includes extra assisted-GPS hardware, providing a true GPS experience that you can't get on the Wi-Fi only iPads.
Technical details aside, what's so special about maps on the iPad? Well, as the hands-on video at CNET TV demonstrates, the map's street view mode feels all the more godlike on a nice, big, capacitive touch screen. With the screen nearly three times the size of the iPhone's, you can literally see the steam coming off a cup of coffee, or in the video's Lombard Street example, you can see an enthusiastic tourist giving the thumb's up. In short, street view is much more impressive on iPad than it is on the iPhone, though no more practical. Contrasted with a comparable laptop screen, iPad's capacitive touch screen makes the experience feel like spinning a digital globe. It's fun. … Read more