A closer look at Apple iOS 6 Maps and eight alternatives (comparison review)

A closer look at Apple iOS 6 Maps and eight alternatives (comparison review)

Summary: Apple's iOS 6 Maps works well for many people, but Tim Cook did issue an apology and offered up some alternatives. Let's take a closer look at Apple Maps and some of these available choices and don't forget to check out the 110+ screenshot gallery.


We have all heard the jokes about the new Apple iOS 6 Maps and I understand that many people have had problems with the software. I personally have had good experiences with iOS Maps and know that many others love the fact they now get turn-by-turn navigation for free. As soon as I heard about issues with Maps, I decided to load up several 3rd party alternatives and try out the browser app options to see if there were any I recommend you try out. I tested iOS 6 Maps, Navigon, CoPilot Live, Telenav Scout, MotionX GPS Drive, and Waze apps while also checking out Google Maps, Nokia Maps, and Bing Maps via the Safari web browser. Apple's Maps gets the job done in most cases and is FREE, but for more advanced GPS navigation needs there are some great alternatives to consider. Honestly, even the free Nokia Maps browser solution is quite good.

Check out my screenshot image gallery for a look at over 115 screenshots of all these options.

Apple iOS 6 Maps

It seems to me that many iPhone 5 owners who previously had iPhones quickly forgot how lame Google Maps really was on iOS prior to iOS 6 Maps. I have always used 3rd party apps since Google Maps could never come close to comparing to a full dedicated GPS turn-by-turn solution since Google kept all the great features locked to the Android platform. Google Maps was OK on iOS for looking up an address or finding points of interest, but it was not very useful for GPS navigation purposes. I think this is one reason my sister-in-law cannot keep talking about how great iOS 6 Maps is on her iPhone 4S. She never did buy a third party client and thus sees the immediate benefit of the new iOS 6 Maps free turn-by-turn solution.

Since Apple made iOS Maps and it is integrated into the OS, you will find that Maps is the default mapping solution when you tap an address in any other iOS 6 application so the experience is seamless. Now, once you tap to navigate to that address then you do get options to open it up in another of the 3rd party applications. One feature I particularly enjoy with Maps is the lock screen support where you can still view the status of your navigation experience with the screen locked (see a screenshot of this in my image gallery). I have not yet found any other client that supports this functionality and Apple may have this locked out from 3rd party vendors.

Like the previous Google Maps on iOS, Apple's Maps appears with a very simple user interface once you launch it. You will see the Maps application takes full advantage of the iPhone 5 long display with control of the program taking place in each of the four corners. The arrow icon in the bottom left takes you to your current location. Tapping it again turns on the compass mode so you can rotate and see the cone move to adjust to the way you are facing. The right icon toggles 3D off and on and you have probably seen the fairly dramatic Superman-view of 3D as you fly through cities. It is admittedly very cool to play with, but not that many of us fly through cities in helicopters to view these parts of buildings. I do like it for matching physical buildings with a location in the city though.

In the upper left corner you find an arrow and when you tap it another screen pops up over it to help you figure out what kind of directions you wish to setup. You can choose from automobile, walking, or public transport. Automobile navigation is the only method supported at this time so tapping the other two icons will lead you to 3rd party options. You can enter your current location and destination manually or view searching. You can tap the reverse button to return to a selected location. There is a route button to tap to get the route.

In the upper right is the bookmark button for you to view and edit bookmarks for destinations. This includes selecting contacts and recent destinations as bookmarked destinations. When you tap the dog ear in the lower right you will see the page "lift up" to reveal options to drop a pin, print your directions, show traffic toggle, list results (rather than showing them on a map view), and view modes for standard, hybrid, or satellite. You will also find settings for Maps within the Settings menu. From within this area you can set your navigation voice volume (or turn it off), select your units of measure, select the language for map labels, and select label size.

When you are using Maps you will see that directions appear on the lock screen. Directions are large and clear on the display and do a great job of giving you the next turn well in advance so you can actually make the turn with confidence. The application is fairly basic in appearance and settings (similar to what we see in things like the camera application), but gets the job done quickly and I like what Apple is doing here. I understand that data has been sketchy for many folks, but am confident Apple will work out those issues. I am not sure if we will see fully controllable offline mapping support anytime soon so I will need to keep a Nokia smartphone on hand or one of these following 3rd party clients to travel overseas and not get nailed by roaming data charges. The partial offline caching of maps that you visit is helpful in speeding up the experience though.

Let's now check out some available 3rd party GPS navigation options for iOS 6.



Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone, Reviews, Smartphones

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  • Okay Matt, one question...


    Can I make these map apps the default for iOS? If not, then it is gimped!
    • Nope, that is why I covered Apple Maps too

      Sorry, I cannot find a way in iOS to change the default mapping solution. You can copy and paste an address in to other GPS software and in some cases you do get the option to send the address to other software. As I mentioned, I find Apple Maps to be just fine in most cases.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • well


        I am not saying Apple Maps is good or bad but, the lack of ability to change the default apps in iOS is the number one reason why I will never again own an iOS device!
        • Sorry

          Get use to it, Android does the same thing.
  • Apple's iOS 6 Maps works well for many people

    That's not what I hear.
    • Try it out, it's free on iOS 6

      It's what I hear from regular users on a daily basis and what I personally experience too. I know we can believe everything we read or hear about, but the best method is to try it out for yourself, right?
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • My only problem with Maps 6.0 is...


    The smaller roads (light grey) don't contrast enough with the background (light tan) to see easily when zoomed out. Other than that it seems accurate where I live.
  • Mileage Calcs

    Had to update my mileage log the other day and used i6Maps to look up route distances. I'm in Southern California and so, other than Bay Area - LA antipathies (I kid), have fairly good expectations that the data would be good for me. Though we did hear stories and there was an apology.

    Here's what I think I noticed, the display and route calculations seemed faster, but, the switching of start and end points for new routes was noticeably snappier, as compared with the pre-iOS6 Maps. Some of this may be a perception of exceeding low expectations but a lot of it relates to vector graphics which I think means the cache may store more results as the data is more efficiently encoded.

    I'm not discounting others who have found the new Maps useless. Like essentially everything, it lies on a spectrum somewhere between sliced bread and utterly useless. Sliced bread, of course, is exactly as great as sliced bread.
  • CoPilot is my favorite


    Like Matt, I have used CoPilot ever since I had a Win Mobile 5 device. Great software and much more accurate than other systems. I also like the option to load US regions rather than all the US as this does save space. Support for walking directions is great for getting around big cities on foot. Submitted map updates are quickly included in the free quarterly updates.
  • Big step backwards on iPad


    On the iPad, for me, there was a big loss of functionality.

    As a biker, I found the terrain maps very useful to understand what I was getting into for a particular route. The new map provides no terrain view and it is not offered by Google Maps either.

    I also am interested in exploring the routes - looking ahead at various turns. The old maps allowed me to tap any of the turns and it zoomed in to that point and I could zoom out to provide the detail I want. The new app shows the list but I tapping has no effect.

    I typically do not want turn by turn navigation and that seems to be my only choice.

    Finally the maps are so empty. Lots of stuff is missing in comparison with the data from Google maps. I used that a lot to find where places to shop or eat are as I am traveling.
  • TomTom?


    You didn't mention TomTom's iPhone app at all yet I've been using that for a long time and am quite happy with it. Is it no longer available or maybe just not yet available for iPhone 5? I've gotten recent updates to mine on my 4S.
  • Regarding Maps and GPS


    A map should be a graphical representation of a geographic area including vehicular byways and human communities. You don't need to be a cartographer to read a map, nor do you need a GPS or GPS function to get from point A to point B.

    The sole criterion of a map's quality should be accuracy.
    Iman Oldgeek
  • MapQuest - free with Turn by Turn voice


    I am surprised that you did not mention MapQuest. I have used the mapquest app I think since my first 3GS iphone. It has had turn by turn voice navigation since the beginning too. And best of all, it is and always has been FREE!
    I tried Apple's maps with turn by turn, but I have gone back to MapQuest for the same reasons everyone looks elsewhere. Much more developed.
    • Great suggestion, just tried it out

      I honestly thought Mapquest went the way of AOL and haven't used their service or even considered them for years. I did go and load it up on my iPhone 5 and while it doesn't yet have an update to support the full screen of the iPhone 5 it is actually a pretty nice piece of software. I like the FREE voice navigation and ease of toggling on and off the POI categories. Great find and suggestion, thanks.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Free Turn by Turn is a Norm Elsewhere.

    Funny how free things are emphasized in the iWorld. Normally anything from them is not free.

    What's this noise about turn-by-turn? I've always had turn by turn navigation from my old devices like Nokia and now Samsung Galaxy S2 (Android Gingerbread).

    I sometimes feel that Apple fans just make noise about things which are already available freely elsewhere.
  • Clipclock

    CLIPCLOCK mobile app. is the best social hub with its new features. Lets discover and share the best video moments!!! Check it out... Here is the link: http://www.clipclock.com/download/4849
    Blue Outmost