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Can you find the way to San Jose with Cook's map alternatives?

September 28, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook encouraged iPhone users to turn to map alternatives and singled out a few apps. Here's how his suggestions stack up.
Apple CEO Tim Cook encouraged iPhone users to turn to map alternatives and… (Salvador Rodriguez /Los…)

Apple's Tim Cook did the unthinkable Friday by not only apologizing for Apple Maps but recommending that users check out alternatives.

In fact, Apple has gone and added a section to to the "Featured" tab of its iPhone App Store that says "Find maps for your iPhone." If you tap it, the section lists more than a dozen alternatives to Apple's Maps app.

But Cook singled out a few free maps in his apology letter Friday morning, and we took a look at them. Here's how they stacked up during our trials.

Bing - The only thing worse than Apple Maps

The very first app listed by Cook is Bing, and I really have no idea why. Bing is Microsoft's app for its search engine and not a dedicated map app. To use the map feature of the app, you have to go into a subsection, and once there, you'll find this app isn't very useful. From some light testing, I found the app inaccurate and lacking many of the features its peers have. On top of that, the Bing app hasn't yet updated to take full advantage of the larger iPhone 5 screen.

MapQuest - Still kicking and still useful

Once the king of online maps, MapQuest is now a shell of what it used to be, but its iOS app can still be helpful. The app is good for driving directions and also provides voice navigation. Besides that, you can see live traffic, live traffic camera views and you can even see gas prices. You can also add more than one stop to your route. 

The cons? The app is a little ugly and grainy throughout, and it's not yet updated for iPhone 5. Also, there's no public transportation support.

Waze - Relies on crowd-sourcing for live updates

Waze is another helpful map app, and it relies on crowd-sourcing to provide live updates on traffic and any hazards that might slow you down. Waze also features voice navigation and gives you gas price updates. It's also capable of multi-stop routes.

Its flaws? Waze is also a little grainy and not yet updated for the iPhone 5's screen. There's also no public transportation support. And besides that, some people may not like Waze's map view. The app ditches the traditional bird's eye view used by most maps and gives you an angled look.

Nokia Maps - Has everything you could want

Nokia Maps isn't actually a native app, so to use it, you first have to open a browser and get to the Web app, which can be quickly done by Googling "Nokia Maps." Once there, you can add a bookmark to your iPhone menu that looks like an app by clicking the middle icon at the bottom of Safari that has an arrow coming out of a box. You'll see an option that says "Add to Home Screen," which is what you want to tap.

As for the app itself, Nokia Maps is actually pretty helpful. The app features live traffic as well as public transportation information. It also takes advantage of the iPhone 5's full screen because it's browser-based. And surprisingly, it's capable of providing voice navigation in the sound of a British man.

Our only issue with Nokia Maps? We weren't able to find a way to add more than one stop to routes.

Google Maps - An old faithful

Just like Nokia Maps, Google Maps is actually a Web app that you access through a browser but can be added to your iPhone menu.

The app itself is good ol' trustworthy Google Maps, so you know the kind of information you'll be getting. You can add multiple locations, see live traffic, get public transportation routes and even get bike routes.

What's the catch? We couldn't find a way to activate voice navigation, so it probably doesn't have it. Also, it seems you can either see your route or see a list of directions, but you can't see both at the same time.

Our verdict

Besides Bing, which shouldn't even be considered a map app, any of the above alternatives are great choices.

But if I had to pick just one, I'd go with Nokia Maps. The app seemed to have everything a good map app should have nowadays, and come on, who doesn't like driving directions spoken in a British accent?

ALSO:

Apple's Cook handling of 'mapgate' better than Jobs' 'antennagate'?

Apple's Tim Cook apologizes, tells users to download other map apps

Forget the maps app fiasco: When will Apple apologize for Lion upgrade?

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