x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Streets ahead with Google Maps

The Life: Dedicated iPhone users in the UAE want to know where they're going -but many are turning to Google, rather than Apple, to show them the way.

To Apple's Maps app, this is
To Apple's Maps app, this is "Khalifa Tower". Sarah Dea / The National

Dedicated iPhone users in the UAE want to know where they're going - but many are turning to Google, rather than Apple, to show them the way.

Back in September, Apple dumped the Google Maps application previously built in to its best-selling tablets and iPhone handsets. And even Apple's most evangelical converts had cause to complain.

The US technology giant replaced Google's offering with its own maps app, causing uproar among thousands of Apple converts - with some, literally, left lost.

Some interpreted Apple's move as a snub to Google, given that the latter makes Android, the competing mobile operating system.

Complaints flooded in, with users saying that Apple's replacement maps lack sufficient data for the Middle East region, rendering it less useful than Google's offering. The global issue forced Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, to issue an apology in which he said the company was "doing everything we can to make Maps better".

Apple made efforts to improve its application, which was based on maps provided by the Dutch navigation company TomTom. But Google, which has been developing its maps since 2005, was already planning its comeback. And at the end of last year Google made its return to the iPhone, by relaunching its Maps application as a free download.

Google's offering has since proven popular on the Apple App Store - not least in the UAE. The Google Maps application is the most-downloaded free app on the UAE Apple Store - but ranks only at ninth place in the UK store, by comparison.

Tests by The National found that Google Maps still outranks Apple's product for usability. For example, Google Maps recognises individual districts in Dubai, while many areas are not registered by Apple's weaker Maps app.

Another advantage of Google Maps is the reliable GPS navigation. In a test by The National, Google's app provided a voice-guided route between various places in Dubai, including the choice of three routes between The Springs and Burj Khalifa.

Apple's Maps app, however, could not provide directions between those two places. It even, rather unhelpfully, insists on calling the world's tallest building "Khalifa Tower", and failed to recognise many other landmarks or provide directions between other popular places.

And so while Apple may still boast its legion of loyal fans, many iPhone users will still be lost without Google Maps.