FORTUNE -- Use an iPhone with iOS6? Then earlier this week may have been serious cause for celebration. That's when Google (GOOG) released Google Maps for those devices. The app arrived nearly three months after Apple (APPL) officially launched a version of Maps for the iPhone that swapped out Google's mapping data for the company's own efforts. Sure, it may have had bells and whistles like a new 3-D Flyover feature, but as I discovered during my iPhone 5 review, the thing that really mattered -- namely, directions -- proved downright problematic. Users reported issues like missing streets or mislabeled buildings, and in my own case, I was steered the wrong way twice.
So it's no surprise that in less than 24 hours, Google Maps became the number one free app in Apple's App Store. Of the 16,000-plus users who rated it, over 13,000 awarded the app five stars. One user review summed it up simply: "Now my iPhone can be useful for basic things... like directions." Is it perfect? Well, no. Because Google Maps isn't the default mapping application on the iPhone anymore, users can't ask Siri to help lead the way or easily import the addresses of their phone contacts. But Google Maps has many other things going for it. Let us count the ways:
Cleaner design. For a company that adheres to a strict philosophy of clean and simple design, Apple Maps can actually appear somewhat cluttered next to Google's effort. While it may be helpful sometimes to know if there's a nearby Pottery Barn, in some cases all those restaurant and shop icons showing up in Apple Maps gets in the way of quickly reading street names.
Public transit directions. Google Maps includes public transit directions; Apple Maps doesn't. (Enough said.)
Street View. Perhaps less useful for some, Street View nonetheless remains a cool perk for those moments when say, I want to know what a store front, restaurant, or office building looks like before I actually get there. For Google, it's the result of more than five years worth of work: of cars -- and sometimes, even tricycles and snowmobiles -- capturing images and stitching them together. And unless Apple assembles a similar herculean effort on this front, Street View will likely stay a Google Maps-only feature.
More efficient search. At times, looking up places proved much quicker on Google Maps. When trying to suss out the address for Mission Chinese Food, a very popular San Francisco restaurant, Google Maps figured out what I was looking for within in two clicks when I simply typed "mission chinese." Searching for the same place via Apple Maps in the same way was downright confusing. The app offered up no less than 10 different places, highlighting a different nearby restaurant instead.
Better directions. Period. Let's face it: thanks to a multi-year head start, Google Maps is simply more thorough and more accurate than Apple Maps, something which has been proven time and time and time again. For its part, Apple recognizes it has some serious work to do: CEO Tim Cook apologized to customers via letter last September for the "frustration" experienced, and Senior Vice President Scott Forstall, the exec directly responsible for Maps, was reportedly asked to resign. So until Apple catches up, Google Maps will be the go-to navigation app for many users -- myself included.
Excerpts from Tim Cook's Bloomberg Businessweek interview
FORTUNE -- We always knew that Steve Jobs was going to be a tough act to follow, so I suppose his successor should be forgiven if he came across in his NBC and Bloomberg Q&As Thursday as painfully sincere and even a little schmaltzy -- something the more cynical Jobs always managed to avoid.
The big PR coup in both interviews, of course, was the news MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 7, 2012 7:15 AM ET
The former Apple VP who built 18 generations of iPods and 3 of iPhones breaks silence
FORTUNE -- We don't know what kind of legal constraints have prevented former Apple (AAPL) senior vice president Tony Fadell from speaking to the press about the circumstances that led to his departure in 2008, but apparently he felt it gave him enough wiggle room to talk to the BBC about the man who reportedly MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 29, 2012 5:46 AM ET
Also: Windows head Steve Sinofsky gets ousted; Apple giving out more employee perks?
Murder suspect John McAfee: I'm innocent [WIRED]
McAfee, 67, is the prime suspect in a murder discovered Sunday morning in Belize. Convinced that he'll be killed if he's taken into custody for questioning, the millionaire antivirus pioneer has gone into hiding somewhere in the Central American nation, where he moved in 2008 to retire. Starting at 10:30 this morning, Belize MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 13, 2012 5:30 AM ET
Also: PayPal lays off hundreds; Steve Ballmer's new mission for Microsoft.
Inside Apple's major shakeup [FORTUNE]
Indeed, as Hurricane Sandy barreled toward the East Coast, a worsening storm embroiled Apple too. Suffice it to say that even as Apple's stock-market valuation has made the company the biggest in the world, these past few months haven't been Apple's finest. Little by little, mistakes that, taken in isolation, might have seemed trivial have added MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 30, 2012 12:25 PM ET
How some techies are breaking a fashion taboo; RIM 'seriously' considered switching to Android.
Apple's secrets revealed at trial [THE WALL STREET JOURNAL]
On Friday, Scott Forstall, a senior vice president who oversees the software used on the company's mobile devices, testified that as early as January 2011, an Apple executive advocated that the company build a tablet with a 7-inch screen. Apple has generally disputed the appeal of devices smaller than MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Aug 6, 2012 12:42 PM ET
The head of iPhone and iPad software sold 64,151 shares Friday worth $38.7 million
FORTUNE -- Scott Forstall took home a chunk of change Friday.
Taking advantage of Apple's (AAPL) relatively high (but not record) share price, the company's senior vice president for iOS software -- someone often mentioned as possible successor to Steve Jobs and Tim Cook -- sold 64,151 shares at prices ranging from $601 to $605 to clear $38.7 million MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 2, 2012 6:41 AM ET
He wasn't particularly fond of the name, recalls co-founder Dag Kittlaus
Three weeks after his Siri app was approved for sale on the App Store, Dag Kittlaus was told to expect a call from Apple senior vice president Scott Forstall. The phone rang:
"Dag, this is Steve Jobs."
That, according to NetworkWorld's Yoni Heisler, was the beginning of the chain of events that led to Apple (AAPL) buying Kittlaus' company for $200 million and making MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 28, 2012 12:25 PM ET
The senior VP's chief weakness, writes Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, is his naked ambition
He's young (43). Comfortable on stage (played Sweeney Todd in high school). Has serious nerd credentials (Stanford, NeXT). Shares Steve Jobs' obsession with detail (keeps a jeweler's loupe in his office to check every pixel on every icon). And the division he heads -- mobile software -- drives nearly 70% of Apple's (AAPL) income.
"He's a sharp, down-to-earth, and talented MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 17, 2012 5:29 AM ET
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"Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo). We all don't get it." -- Google engineer Steve Yegge in a reportedly leaked blog post. (Silicon MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 13, 2011 3:30 AM ET
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