The Apple Maps Switchover Survival Guide

Apple's Maps app in the newest iOS is fun to laugh at, but what can you do to get your sense of direction back?

In less than 48 hours, Apple’s new Maps application has turned an Irish farm into an airport, destroyed the Statue of Liberty and iconic New York bridges, and created a great new meme. Apple Maps’ replacement of Google Maps has launched a massive schadenfreude party in the tech and social media circles, and everybody with an iOS device and a screenshot is invited.

Meanwhile, some of us are probably wondering how we can actually get to where we’re going with our upgraded iPhones. Here’s how to overcome the weaknesses of Apple’s pretty but inexperienced Maps, either by augmentation or outright replacement.

Get Public Transit Directions Back

Perhaps the loudest and truest knock on Apple Maps is its lack of directions using trains, buses, and other public transportation. Maps doesn’t do public transportation badly, it just doesn’t do it. Maps can suggest other apps that will get you public transportation, but with different apps for different cities. Hackers are already tweaking a work-around solution, but for now, on unmodified phones, you've got to roll with another app.

My pick, and the pick of some of my bleeding-edge, iOS-using acquaintances, is City Maps by Lumatic. There are 25 major cities included, and if you’re in one of those cities, the directions and way-finding experience on City Maps is comprehensive and fairly smooth. Every point is shown with Street-View-style graphics, and step-by-step directions move smoothly between walking, trains, and buses.

HopStop is an alternative app, one with more cities covered in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. You probably know the basics of how it works, but what you might not know if you haven't used HopStop lately is that it also keeps tallies on your calories burned, the carbon dioxide you’ve kept out of the atmosphere, and other habit-enforcing measurements. The turn-by-turn features aren’t quite as detailed as in City Maps, but HopStop does know which way you’re facing and walking, and can reroute you if you take a detour.

Get Turn-By-Turn Directions On Any iOS Device

The built-in turn-by-turn directions in Apple Maps have received some mixed reviews. But assuming Maps can find the actual spot you’re heading toward, turn-by-turn works pretty well. But if you want something more than just left-right-merge commands, you have options.

Waze is a crowdsourced, almost wiki-style map and directions app, with the appeal of possibly finding you better routes through the power of people actually driving them and reporting back. Waze offers turn-by-turn directions, live traffic and accident reports, speed trap and police locations (if you live in a rather active Waze community), and nice touches, like a soft ping sound that alerts you that your route is being recalculated. The look of Waze is entirely different than your average navigation app, too, but whether that’s a plus or minus depends on your taste.

This week, in particular, you should also check out Scout by Telenav, because a year’s worth of upgraded “Scout Plus” navigation service, normally $25, is free until Friday, Sept. 21 (2012) (Update: Scout told us the free Scout Plus offer has been extended beyond Sept. 21 for an indeterminate length of time.). Telenav messed up with an upgrade, and is making amends with a year-long freebie. Both Waze and Scout are especially great options for iPhone 4 owners, who get Apple’s Maps, but don’t have turn-by-turn directions.

Simply Use Google Maps Again

Google knew the Maps drop was coming, and they’re likely expediting their own Google Maps apps for iPhones. In the meantime, you should consider heading to Google Maps on your iPhone, hitting the Share button in the bottom-middle of mobile Safari, and choosing “Add to Home Screen.” Now you’ve got a direct link to Google’s very capable web-based Maps app, which looks slick, can find where you are, show you exactly where you’re going, and pull from Google’s years of testing and massive data stores.

Get Your Location Onto Apple’s Maps

One of Apple Maps’ biggest problems is its awkward misinterpretation of where things are. It switches up taxi drivers and taxidermists, mosques and hotels, and puts roads through factories. If you have your own location that you want new and upgrading iPhone owners to find quickly, you have some tools available.

The first thing is, wherever possible and applicable, put your business on Yelp, and make sure your existing business has correct, detailed information. Apple Maps relies on Yelp for business details, and locations. Maps had absolutely no response to a search for “CoworkBuffalo” (the proper spelling of a coworking space) earlier today, but instantly pulled up “Cowork Buffalo,” with the technically incorrect space added. Adding “Cowork Buffalo” in the description on Yelp might have helped. In any case, cover as much ground in Yelp as possible.

Second, if Yelp isn’t the right avenue for your business, you can try to search out your business. If the results are funky, or not there at all, tap the paper-like “curl” in the lower right corner, then look for the tiny “Report a problem” link, on the right, above the major buttons.

Then try some patience, while Apple tries to catch up with the many, many differences people are seeing in how one can get from one point to another.

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11 Comments

  • Small Job Provider

    Getting your business listed on apple maps can be frustrating but it has a lot of advantages. In addition your listing is distributed to over 250 gps enabled applications so far. http://business-lister.com publishes to acxiom which has been an easy and fast way for me to add my clients businesses

  • David Hobbins

    I can't help feeling that Steve Jobs would have carried Maps in his pocket for a little while. Then gone ballistic. Then gone back to the office to bang heads together.

    A bad omen for Apple's future

  • Mikej26

    googles online map works just as good as the old google based maps app on ios5, it's gonna take more than the new ios6 maps app issue to get me to get involved with droid again. I would find myself saying "DROID" at least 5-6 times a day because the damn thing just didn't work. ios6 maps app is not that bad, I thought it would be worse... "DROID"

  • Mr Spock

    or you could just buy a Nokia Lumia device and get stellar online/offline maps, turn by turn navigation, public transit and augmented reality (Nokia City Lens) for free... 

  • Alan

     I don't know how City Maps got such a good mention. I can't get the app to find my house in a suburb of Chicago, my work in another suburb, or several addresses in the city of Chicago itself. Very frustrating.

  • rafer

    May I have your zip code so I can start figuring it out? 
    We don't cover all the suburbs. If you access via apple maps, it only suggests us in the proper areas. Via our own search, we are working hard to make the UI clearer where we are and are not of use.