Posts Tagged ‘Navigation’

‘Google Maps’ Gets Enhanced Search and Navigation Features, iPad Compatibility

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

google maps iconGoogle Maps for iOS got a major update yesterday that makes the popular mapping app compatible with the iPad and adds several new navigation features. The 2.0 update hit the App Store last night and is free to download.

Here’s the full list of what’s new in this version:

  • New design for iPad
  • Enhanced navigation including live traffic updates and incident reports
  • Explore: A new way to browse and discover popular local places to eat, drink, shop, play and sleep
  • Simple 5-star ratings and reviews from friends, plus expert Zagat content
  • Great deals from your favorite brands with Google Offers
  • Indoor maps with walking directions for malls, transit stations, airports and more

This update makes Google Maps a compelling alternative to Apple’s own Maps app for iPad users. With the furor over the errors in Apple’s Maps app last year (many of which haven’t been corrected yet in my personal experience), Google is certainly keen on keeping iOS users invested in its own map data and related services. If you haven’t yet downloaded Google Maps, it’s definitely worth a go if you’ve been unimpressed or even led astray by Maps.

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‘Coverage’ for iPhone and iPad Shows You T-Mobile’s LTE Network

Friday, April 5th, 2013

T-Mobile USA began offering pre-orders for the iPhone 5 today prior to the official launch of the device on its network on April 12. T-Mobile is offering some unique payment plans for Apple’s flagship smartphone along with some straightforward and competitively-priced plans compared to other US carriers.

If you’re tempted to switch to T-Mobile but want to check out its network coverage where you live, work, or travel compared to your current carrier, check out Two Steps Beyond’s Coverage app. Coverage just got updated to version 2013.4 and now includes T-Mobile’s LTE and 1900 MHz networks so you can see just how well a shiny, new, unlocked iPhone 5 will work for you.

The great feature about Coverage is that you can choose to view the coverage maps of multiple carriers at once so you can truly do a comparison if you’re looking to switch networks. Of course, coverage maps aren’t always accurately indicative of the quality of the call and data coverage you’ll actually experience in a given area, but it’s a good start that can help you with the decision to switch.

Coverage costs $2.99 and is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and requires iOS 5.0 or later. Two Steps Beyond has been very good about updating the app regularly to reflect the most recent carrier coverage maps so you can rest assured you’re seeing the latest data.

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Notable New Apps and Updates: Capture for YouTube, Letterpress, Navigon, StreetPilot

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Apple will be closing down the App Store for the holidays soon and app developers are clearly working hard to push out updates and new apps before then. In particular, Google hasn’t been resting on its laurels following the release of Google Maps last week (which was downloaded over 10 million times in its first two days in the App Store, in case you were wondering how popular it is) and has released Capture, an app for YouTube that lets you easily record, edit, and upload and share your videos. Capture hit the App Store yesterday and is free to download.

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Letterpress, the word game released by Tweetie developer Loren Brichter that debuted in the App Store in October, has received a major update that adds a neat new feature: the ability to share replays of your finished games on the web. You can seen an example here.

I always get a kick out of developers who get creative with the description of what’s changed in an update and Brichter managed to make me laugh out loud with his for version 1.2:

  • Share Replays! Now you can tweet, post, email or just hoard links to your games and show off yer skillz! (Requires iOS 6)
  • CHRISTMAS is a proper noun. It’s not allowed. Bah humbug.
  • Loads of little tweaks.
  • Improved dictionary.
  • Handle orientation changes on iPad better.
  • Clarified the “prefix” rule in the How To Play. Apparently the word “prefix” means something different to programmers and grammar geeks! The rule is actually really simple; it has nothing to do with roots, stems, definitions, moon cycles, or Latin derivations. It boils down to: no words found at the beginning of a previously played word. Easy.
  • People read these. Neat. If I were smart I’d monetize all over your eyeballs.

[applink url=”–-word-game”]

Garmin’s Navigon and StreetPilot navigation apps received an update today that adds iCloud synchronization to keep your favorites in sync across multiple devices and Foursquare and Glympse integration. Glympse is a location sharing service through which you can share your current location with anyone via email or text message for a period of time you specify. There’s a free Glympse app in the App Store if you want to check it out separately.

The Navigon and StreetPilot apps are also on sale now for 25% off their regular prices through January 7. Garmin has dropped prices lower than this in the past though usually only around Black Friday after Thanksgiving. If you really want to save a few more bucks you’ll probably need to wait until next November. Otherwise, go ahead and get them now before the prices go back up on January 7.

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For a list of all of Garmin’s StreetPilot apps, click here. For a list of all of Garmin’s Navigon apps, click here.

Google Maps Finds Its Way to the App Store

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

If you’ve been led astray, in Australia or elsewhere, by Apple’s revamped Maps app in iOS 6 and hoped for a native Google app to take its place, your wish has come true. Late last night, the search giant released Google Maps in the App Store and you can download it in all its direction-giving and traffic-information-showing glory right now.

If you’re familiar with the pre-iOS 6 version of Maps, you’ll notice that the interface of Google Maps bears little resemblance to its Apple-packaged predecessor. However, it packs in the same features plus a few more. Traffic and street views are still present but Google Maps is now graced with turn-by-turn voice guidance, a feature that Google has offered for some time in the Android version of the app. It also includes public transportation directions, which Apple left out of its own Maps app in iOS 6.

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Since Google Maps is free, you can get it now yourself without making a dent in your bank account. There are few not-so-obvious tips and tricks that may be helpful. First, shaking your iPhone will prompt a feedback submission form to pop up where you can report a map error or give general feedback on the app (you can turn this off in the app’s settings). Second, tapping on the icon with two arrows in the bottom left corner in street view mode will let you pan around simply by moving your iPhone (because using your finger is just so passé now). Third, swiping from right to left with two fingers will reveal the menu that toggles traffic, public transit, and satellite map views.

Right now, Google Maps is for the iPhone only and does not have an interface optimized for the iPad’s larger screen but The Verge heard that this is in the works. Google also admitted to David Pogue of The New York Times that this iOS version is better than the Android version.

I used Google Maps this morning to help guide me to a local coffee shop (the things I do for work!). Voice guidance worked well if a little less chatty than I’m used to with Apple’s Maps or Garmin’s Navigon. Since I trust Google’s map information more than Apple’s, I do wish I could get Siri to default to Google Maps for directions instead, though I prefer the deeper 3D view offered by Apple’s Maps over Google Maps when viewing driving directions.

There isn’t any advertising in Google Maps yet so you won’t be bombarded by marketing as you search for businesses and get directions. But as long as Google doesn’t go overboard with ads, Google Maps will be hard to beat as a free alternative to Maps that packs in more features and more comprehensive and reliable data overall.

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Australian Police Advises Mildura Visitors to Avoid Using Apple’s Maps App [UPDATED]

Monday, December 10th, 2012

As pointed out by our sister site, MacRumors, the local police of Mildura in Victoria, Australia are warning visitors to avoid using Apple’s Maps app in iOS 6 due to poor directions that have left motorists stranded. Maps has apparently led some to a national park that’s over 40 miles away from the actual location of the city of Mildura.

Tests on the mapping system by police confirm the mapping systems lists Mildura in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park, approximately 70km away from the actual location of Mildura.

Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the Park and temperatures can reach as high as 46 degrees, making this a potentially life threatening issue.

Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception.

The article goes on to state that the police have contacted Apple to flag this issue.

Apple has taken quite a bit of heat for inaccuracies in its mapping data when Apple moved away from Google’s mapping solution with the debut of iOS 6. The criticism was so strong that Tim Cook issued an apology in late September, promising to make the app better.

I haven’t seen corrections to any of the inaccurate information in Maps that I’ve reported (you can find instructions on how to report errors here) but hopefully Apple is indeed working diligently on these and all the other myriad issues that have been pointed out in the past few months.

There are many alternatives to Apple’s Maps, several of which we highlighted in this article. My personal favorite from that list is Navigon. Also worth a look is newcomer Sparkling Maps, which uses Google’s map data and provides turn-by-turn voice guidance at the bargain price of $.99. Though no matter which app you use, check your directions against another reliable source so you don’t get stranded in an unknown location where help may be hard to find.

UPDATE: The Guardian reports that Apple has fixed this issue, removing the listing for Mildura within the Murray Sunset National Park.

Nokia Joins the Map App Fray with ‘HERE Maps’

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

If you, like many others, have not been pleased with Apple’s Maps app in iOS 6, you’ll be happy to know that Nokia is getting in on the maps action. Late last night, Nokia released its HERE Maps app for iPhone and iPad, bringing Navteq-based map and POI data to the App Store.

HERE Maps provides most of the basics if you’re a fan of the pre-iOS 6 Maps app that used Google’s data, including a satellite map view, live traffic information, step-by-step navigation directions, and public transportation guidance. Going beyond this, HERE Maps lets you save map sections for offline use later, which could be handy if you’re traveling internationally and don’t want to incur data roaming charges. Turn-by-turn voice navigation is also on board, though only for walking directions.

As a former Nokia smartphone user, HERE feels familiar with the standard Nokia font and color palette to me. The map images and text aren’t very crisp on the iPhone 5’s retina display though the offline feature is certainly a boon. It’s definitely a contender if you’re looking for an alternative to the built-in Maps app in iOS 6 (in addition to several other apps listed in our round-up).

HERE Maps is a free download and requires iOS 4.3 or later. It’s compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and is optimized for the iPhone 5’s larger screen to boot.

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‘Quick Route’ Melds Google Places Data with Turn-By-Turn Navigation

Monday, October 15th, 2012

If you’re running iOS 6 on your iPhone and still really, really miss Google’s map information in the revamped Maps app, you’ll be happy to know that the search giant is reportedly working on its own app to make available in the App Store. As pointed out by our sister site MacRumors over the weekend, iOS developer Ben Guild posted some screenshots of what is reportedly an alpha build of Google’s upcoming iOS maps app and notes that it’s optimized for the iPhone 5’s larger screen, super fast, and more.

While you’re waiting for Google’s own maps app to hit the App Store, you can check out Excited Pixel’s new Quick Route, which uses Google Places data and provides navigation guidance for driving, walking, biking and public transportation. It still uses the raw map image data from Apple but the business listings themselves come straight from Google, showing more search results than Apple’s own Maps in the quick tests I’ve done so far.

Quick Route looks a little busy with it’s dual-pane layout to show your current location and your destination but it can make keeping track of where you are and where you want to go easier if you’re in an unfamiliar area. Though it doesn’t offer voice guidance, it will automatically track your location and move on to the next step as you make progress along your route. A pull-to-reroute feature lets you get an alternate route on the fly if you make a wrong turn or want to avoid a part of the original route.

Quick Route requires iOS 5.0 or later and is optimized for the iPhone 5’s larger screen. It’s on sale at a special introductory price of $2.99 so snap it up now if you can’t wait for Google’s own official maps app but still want access in a native app to all of Google’s business listings.

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Public Transportation Apps to Supplement Maps in iOS 6

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Last week we listed several alternatives to Maps, an app that Apple has redone for iOS 6, moving away from Google’s version to use its own mapping technology and earning criticism for inaccurate map data as a result. Since then, Apple has gone as far as acknowledging the problems with Maps in an open letter from CEO Tim Cook, in which he promises that the company will continue to “keep working non-stop” until Maps is better.

One feature that was present in Google’s version but is missing in Apple’s Maps (and is not mentioned as forthcoming in Cook’s letter) is the ability to provide public transit directions. While the little bus icon at the top of the page is still there as an option to select the type of navigation guidance you want, tapping on it simply pulls you to a list of any apps you already have on your device that can help, followed by a list of apps in the App Store you may want to check out.

If you’re in a major city, chances are there are several apps that you can choose from to give you the guidance you need. Here in Boston, I had the chance to try out several on a recent outing in the city. Here’s my starting point and the public transit apps Maps suggested to me:

To get a route from North Station to a hair salon near Northeastern University, I opened each app straight from Maps so the start and end points were already defined. I first tried out Tapone Technology’s Transit – Directions with Public Transportation and here’s what it showed me (click to enlarge):

I was first offered four routes to choose from. Each route listed had a total travel time and distance noted though there wasn’t anything else to help me choose a route I preferred. Choosing one that at least used the subway system, I was then shown a map overview with the ability to step through the instructions using the pane at the bottom of the screen. I could also see a written overview of the entire route by tapping the Overview button in the top right corner.

Transit also lets you set a reminder to start your journey if you’re planning this trip for the future, as well as email all of the instructions in case you need to share them with someone else. Transit is free and ad-supported with an option to review the ads with a $.99 in-app purchase.

Next up was The Transit App by Samuel Vermette, which offers a pretty but confusing interface and provides you with a map overview of the suggested routes right away. Here’s what it showed me for the trip to my hair salon:

Dismissing the route by tapping on the X in the top right corner––an action which makes me feel like I’m closing out the route selection altogether––actually displays the breakdown for the selected route. Unfortunately, The Transmit App does not provide you with actual step-by-step directions for any route so it’s best for those already familiar with the area. And you’ll need to subscribe for $.99 per month or $4.99 for one year to see more than three routes for any trip.

Next on my list was Embark. Embark offers several apps in the App Store for the different cities it covers and I tried the one for Boston, of course. The first view you get when getting into Embark straight from Maps is a list of multiple possible routes organized from by departure time. Tapping on a route brings you to a screen that shows the step-by-step details for that selected route. For steps that require walking, you can tap on the entry in the details list to get to a map view, though it doesn’t give you any explicit guidance on the map for these.

Last up was HopStop, which gives you a list of possible routes right away, like Embark. Tapping on a route gives you step-by-step instructions with a button at the top so you can easily access a map overview.

HopStop covers a ton of cities but it features ads that you can’t turn off even with an in-app purchase. I don’t mind ads in a free app but if it’s one that I plan to use a lot, I want a way to get rid of them.

In the end, all of these apps provided me with accurate directions. Of all of them, Embark is my current favorite. It’s got a dark and clean interface, is completely free (with no ads, to boot) and shows information that is most useful to me right away, and shows the official MBTA system alerts. However, it doesn’t include the bus system, which may be a deal-breaker for some.

The apps featured in this post may or may not cover the areas you’re looking for so be sure to check out the app descriptions first. Even though Apple may have let you down without any public transportation directions in Maps, many other developers are clearly ready and willing to pick up the slack.

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Coverage for iPhone and iPad Shows You LTE Network Maps for US Carriers

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Apple finally jumped on the LTE bandwagon with the iPhone 5 and while US carriers have been frantically upgrading their networks, coverage isn’t even close to complete throughout much of the country. If you’re looking to get a new iPhone but want to know which carrier offers the best coverage for your area, there’s a quicker way to do your research than digging up each carrier’s coverage map: Two Steps Beyond’s Coverage for iPhone and iPad.

We first heard about Coverage in early 2011 when the iPhone 4 hit Verizon and US users could choose from another official carrier for Apple’s smartphone at long last. Since then, the app has seen regular updates to show the most recent network coverage for all official iPhone carriers plus T-Mobile in the US with the most recent update to version 2012.9 arriving this week to include the latest LTE coverage maps.

Using Coverage is dead simple. A map view is front and center and a few on-screen toggles in the top right corner let you select the carriers you’re considering and a few more at the bottom let you choose the network type you’re interested in. You can allow Coverage to locate you via your device’s GPS receiver and easily view the coverage in your immediate area or browse around the map to check out other locations.

Click to enlarge

If you travel often and want to have an idea of the type of coverage you’ll find in various places, Coverage can be indispensable for you. Yes, you could navigate to each carrier’s website and look up their coverage map to find the same information (Coverage gets its maps directly from the carriers themselves) but it’s far more convenient to have them all in one place at your fingertips.

Something to keep in mind is that the quality of network coverage is not something that’s visible in these maps since the carriers don’t provide this information (and Coverage can’t show what the carriers don’t even share) so you may want to do some informal research by polling friends and family to check their experiences. LTE network coverage is pretty good in my area according to the map and I’m seeing some great speeds (50 Mbps down and 28 Mbps up as reported by the free app) on AT&T’s LTE network on my iPhone 5 in the suburbs but I’m sure this will vary in downtown Boston proper where there will be more people to crowd the network.

Coverage is a universal app and it’s a great value at $2.99 to have this information on hand anytime you need it. Note that you’ll need iOS 5 or higher for Coverage and if you already have an iPhone 5, its interface has been optimized to take advantage of its longer screen goodness.

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Alternatives to Apple’s Maps App in iOS 6

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The Maps app in iOS 6 has been lambasted pretty thoroughly even in the short time it’s been available to the public for laughably incorrect data (check out this collection of screenshots for a good chuckle) to a simple lack of useful information compared to its predecessor. Though I’m not a betting woman, I’d still wager that Apple is already working on improving the data in Maps and it will get better over time. However, if you can’t wait for that and need reliable maps and voice-guided navigation right now, we’ve got a list of apps for you to consider.

The alternatives to Maps range in price from free to $20 or more. Generally the most significant difference between the apps that are free/low-cost and paid among these alternatives comes down to the map data and where it’s stored. The free or low-cost apps usually don’t store any map data in your iPhone and you’ll need a data connection as you travel to keep getting maps and guidance while many of the more expensive ($20 and higher) paid apps usually bundle the map data within the app so you don’t need a data connection to get directions as you travel.

Keeping that in mind, here are some good free and low-cost alternatives:

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When it comes to paid navigation apps, Navigon’s offering tops my list over the other apps I’ve tried by TomTom, iGo, CoPilot Live, and others but they are all good choices with similar feature sets, in most cases, and are perfectly capable of getting you from point A to point B.

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Now none of these apps are integrated into iOS 6 so you’ll always get dropped into the built-in Maps app when you tap on location links in Safari, Mail, Contacts, etc. So, you’ll need to copy the address, manually open your maps app of choice, and paste it in to search or generate directions.

So there you have it. If you feel like Apple left you out in the cold with inaccurate or unreliable data in Maps when you updated to iOS 6 or got your shiny new iPhone 5, there are plenty of other choices to get you where you need to go while Apple cracks the whip on the team responsible to get Maps up to snuff. If you want to help Apple improve Maps, you can find instructions on how to submit map data corrections here.