Google Maps is back on iOS, but this time as a standalone app. You'll find it doesn't look like it did on iOS 5, due to Google having complete freedom with the user interface and design. As such, using Google Maps on iOS is going to feel a bit familiar, yet like a completely new experience.
To install Google Maps on iOS, you'll need to be using an iPhone (3GS and newer), iPod Touch (fourth and fifth gen) or an iPad running at least iOS 5.1. If you're using one of the above devices, download Google Maps for iOS from the App Store. It should be noted, Google Maps is not built for the iPad, so you'll be running the iPhone version of the app should you download it.
- The first time you launch Google Maps you can sign into your Google account. Doing so will keep any searches you do in Google Maps on your computer or your phone to stay in sync. For example; you can look up directions to a restaurant on your computer before leaving the house, then pull it up on your iPhone by tapping on the search field.
- After you've signed in, if you've elected to, you'll see the main map screen. The search bar is at the top, with a directions icon and a profile icon on the far-right side of the bar.
Along the bottom is the location icon. Tapping on it once will reveal your current location, a second tap will activate compass mode. You'll also see a three-dot icon along the bottom of the screen, tapping on it reveals the different layers you can activate for Google Maps.
- Select the profile icon and you'll see two shortcuts to your home and work addresses. If you've already added the addresses to your Google account, tapping on either item will start voice guided navigation to the respective location. If you haven't added the addresses, tap on the listing to search for the address. To view the rest of the Settings for the app, select the gear icon on the profile page. In the settings you can edit Home and Work addresses, view search history and send feedback to Google.
- When you search for a business, results will be represented on map by small red dots. Tapping on a red dot will reveal the name of the venue, and give you an estimated time of arrival using navigation to that location. You can either swipe left-to-right (or right-to-left) across the venue information to view the next result, or tap on the three line icon in the search bar to view the results as a list.
When a venue's information is shown along the bottom, you can swipe up to reveal more information for that venue, as well as Street View. Swiping down will take you back to the map view.
- You can begin navigation a couple of different ways. The first is by selecting the directions icon in the search bar. The second is by selecting the navigation icon when viewing search results. The icon will default to your last navigation method. But don't worry, once you tap on the icon, you can change it before navigation actually begins.
- Once you begin navigation, you'll receive voice instructions along the way. And don't worry about leaving your screen on and killing battery during the journey. Google Maps will still provide you with directions with your iPhone locked, complete with notifications on your screen of the next turn or step.
Google Maps may be the life-saving app some iOS users had hoped for, or it may just be another app hidden in a folder for a rainy day. Either way, until Apple allows iOS users to set default apps, using Google Maps as your main mapping app may create more work for you. Whenever you click on a link to an address or venue, be it in an e-mail or Safari, Apple Maps will be opened and used. Copying and pasting an address, as of right now, is the only way to get it into Google Maps.