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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 09/26/2012

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: Which is better for getting around D.C. region?

I hate getting lost. I have every ADC map book for the D.C. region, a Garmin GPS, an iPhone and an iPad. I turn to them all for help, at various stages of desperation.

Before I leave to review a reader’s complaint or visit a work zone, I check Google Maps for the directions, the time estimate and the street views.


The new Apple Maps application is demonstrated in New York on Sept. 20, 2012. Apple released an update to its iPhone and iPad operating system on Wednesday that replaces Google Maps with Apple's own application. Early upgraders are reporting that the new maps are less detailed, look weird and misplace landmarks. (Karly Domb Sadof - AP)
Apple just made my routine a bit more difficult. Installing the new IOS 6 operating system on iPhones and iPads replaces Google Maps with Apple Maps.

Maybe this is mostly a matter of getting used to a new thing, or awaiting some updates in the mapping software. But I’m not ready to be happy about this.

In her Sept. 20 review of IOS 6, Post technology reporter Hayley Tsukayama wrote that the Apple app pulls mapping results from TomTom and other listings from places such as Yelp.

“The Maps app still lacks the depth and polish of the Google app that it replaced,” she wrote. “The app’s mocked-up street signs that let you know your next direction are pretty, but with a small font that’s hard to read at a glance. So even if you have the directions read out to you, it’ll be hard to get back on track if you miss it.”

The Yelp stuff is nice. I’d probably use it when visiting another region, but not around the D.C. area. (In my job, I see a lot more of the outside of buildings than the inside.)

My main interest is in routes and time travel estimates. (A note about time estimates: When I speak to a community group, I like to start off by describing my route and tell them how much time Google Maps
estimated it would take. The time estimate usually gets a laugh.)

On Tuesday, I drove to the 11th Street Bridge project office on the west bank of the Anacostia River, just north of the bridge. My usual route takes me south on D.C. 295, then across the bridge.

I compared the directions on Google Maps and Apple Maps. On many points, they were even. There were three suggested routes, with turn by turn directions and time estimates.

Overall, though, Google was better, at least for now. Two reasons:

1) I like Google’s multi-color display for traffic. The roadway goes from green to black, depending on the severity of congestion. Apple Maps shows a dotted red line marking badly congested areas. In the D.C. area, we assume our roads will be congested. We want to know how congested.

2) The Google Map was up to date about my D.C. 295 route. Over the summer, the District Department of Transportation opened a ramp from southbound 295 directly onto the bridge. It’s one of the biggest improvements in the region’s transportation system this year. That doesn’t show up yet on Apple Maps. The Apple route still would have me drive south of the bridge, then loop back around onto northbound 295 to take the bridge entrance ramp.

The Grid Spouse pointed out to me that I can still have Google Maps on my Apple devices. All I had to do was find Google Maps in the Safari browser, tap the arrow at the top for a menu, then tap “Add to Home Screen.”

It’s still early for comparisons, but what’s your experience with these forms of electronic mapping and directions?

(And I should point out this: I won’t take a cell phone call while driving, let alone fiddle with a map program. I will listen to the audio directions, but won’t stare at a screen.)

By  |  10:44 AM ET, 09/26/2012

Categories:  Driving | Tags:  DC transportation, Apple Maps, Google Maps, iPhone, iPad, GPS

 
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