Ask LH: What's A Good Replacement For Apple's Unreliable New Maps App?

Dear Lifehacker, I just upgraded to iOS 6 and I'm liking most of the new features. However, the new Maps app is terrible. Is there a good replacement that won't send me driving all over the place?

Sincerely,

Three Left Turns

Dear TLT,

You're right — Apple's new Maps app doesn't seem to work that well in a lot of places. Everyone's results are going to vary, of course, but if you're looking for alternatives with a little more pedigree you have some great options. It really depends on what you use Maps for, and how much you're willing to spend. So, let's break it down a bit by the type of Maps user you are.

Get All The Features Of Apple's Maps (But Better)

While the turn-by-turn navigation in Maps works really well, the maps themselves aren't that great. If you just want a simple voice navigated maps app that works properly, we really like Waze because it's free, does traffic updates, has a great location search, and plenty more (pictured on the right).

Waze doesn't feature the lovely maps used in Apple's version, nor does it have the (not particularly useful) 3D views, but as far as navigation is concerned, it works really well. The bonus is that location search also works a lot better and offers more results than Maps. If you don't mind paying for an app, Navigon does a great job of navigation and has integrated Google business search.

Get Transit Directions And Public Transportation Schedules

If you rely on public transportation for getting around town, Maps isn't going to do you any good. When you tap on the bus symbol in Maps, you're taken to a screen where you can download new apps. Even when you have one of the suggested apps installed, Maps kicks you out and sends you to another app for your directions.

Solutions for public transit woes vary depending on where you're located because there isn't a catch-all, great public transportation app that covers the entire country. The good news is that Maps is (kind of) smart enough to suggest apps in the location you're in.

Get Google Maps Back (Sort Of)

Of course, what many people really want is good old Google Maps back. It wasn't without its faults, but the fact it integrates driving directions, up-to-date maps, biking and walking directions and a robust business search, it's very much missed. Chances are Google will release their own version of the Maps app soon, but for now you can at least use the web version pretty easily.

  1. Open up Safari on your iPhone and head to https://maps.google.com/.
  2. Tap the export button in the bottom menu bar.
  3. Tap "Add to Home Screen".
  4. Name the icon and tap "Add".

Now you get a direct home screen shortcut to the mobile version of Google Maps. It's not as good as a real app, but it does provide all the features of the original iPhone app in one easy place.

Make Apple Maps Better

If you actually enjoy Apple's Maps app (it is nice to look at after all), you can contribute to making it better. You can do this in one of two ways. First off, you can report problems with mislabeled streets, satellite images, directions, or other problems:

  1. From the Maps home screen, tap the curled page on the bottom right side.
  2. Tap "Report a Problem" (right above the large "Print" button).
  3. Select Your problem, add any comments, and send it off.

The other problem with Maps is the fact it gathers most of its business data from Yelp and that means it's missing a lot of locations. You can add locations in the process mentioned above (in the Report a Problem screen, tap "Location is Missing" and drag the purple pin to the address you want), or add locations directly in Yelp so they show up. Whether you're a small business owner, or you just want to make sure your favourite restaurant is in Apple Maps, adding it to Yelp will eventually get it into Maps.

That should do it. For a lot of people, Apple's move to its own mapping system has caused some serious problems, and the lack of transit directions is a big bummer even if you only use public transportation on rare occasions. The above methods will get you rolling in style again, and should keep you from making too many bad turns.

Cheers,

Lifehacker

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Comments

    Or just get a Nokia Windows Phone (or indeed ANY Windows Phone 8 device in ~6 weeks) :P
    http://www.wpdownunder.com/?p=6412 (Maps compared)

      Now that advice is hardly going to help someone who has "just upgraded to IOS 6" - now is it.

        Yes it is, a valuable lesson. THINK before you buy. ;)

        Yes it could. They've upgraded - it's no good, So they can go and get something else.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    Or just get any Android device - there are plenty to choose from just as good as the iPhone.

      This is wrong, most of them are BETTER just a few are "just as good" ;)

      Do you hunt down articles about other phones just for the purpose of saying "Get an Android -- it's better"?

    I have found Whereis to be a great navigation app. Cheers :)

      I will second this with the added bonus that Whereis has unmetered data on Telstra 3G.

      It does the job -- and now has Jennifer Hawkins giving directions, in the most recent update...

    "It's nice to look at after all". Ummmmm no. Unless its direct satellite view it's awful. My iPad 3 using maps vs my Android maps, for the time being, android maps every time.

    I use NavFree http://www.navmii.com/navfree/?country=AU
    Has Google search, turn-by-turn navigation, voice guidance, and is linked to the OpenStreetMap community to fix & improve the maps

    Its got potential.. Google maps wasn't all that great when they started it as an idea.. Then they had a whole team dedicated to making it what it is. Apples maps will never be as good however after a year it will be a lot better.

      Matt, you are one hundred percent correct.

      The question remains then, why are we forced to use something that everyone admits isn't to the same standard?

        That is a good question. And the only answer (more an opinion) is that I think Apple wants to do away with google maps and have something to call their own. I'm sure apple doesnt want to pay licensing fees to a company that is in competition with them. But why go through all the work that google did when they can let the user do it for them?

        It seems that the Apple Maps is, at the moment, a blank canvas. Give it to the user as the only option and it will force (some of us) to report an improvement. Do that over time and for Apple, it has become a cheaper alternative than pitting a dedicated team.

        I have some doubts about this though. Didn't Apple buy out a company that specializes in mapping a while ago?

    For place data, you could use foursquare (www.foursquare.com) which has a very comprehensive place database worldwide - Yes even in North Korea.

    Search for NavFree in the app store. Works great and it's free!

    If you REALLY needed it, you can jailbreak, then dump the maps app from an iOS 5 IPSW, then dump it into your system applications folder on your iOS 6 device. :P

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