For many, yesterday was an ordinary Thursday. For others it was the day that iOS6 landed on their iPhones.
Here at Truphone, if that wasn't exciting enough, we were over the moon about getting access to Apple's new iOS6 Maps and our first question was how does it compare to our dear old friend Google Maps. After all, many's a time we've landed in an unknown country, looked around lost and turned to Google and our Tru SIMs to help us out of a tricky fix.
So, to pit them against each other we concocted a pretty (un)scientific experiment to evaluate the experience, ease of use and accuracy of both maps apps on a Tru SIM using two people who were unfamiliar with London, the apps or walking longish distances.
We dropped them at two well known London stations (Kings Cross and Euston) with a drink and the instruction to get back to the office (beside Tower Bridge) as quickly as possible. These are the findings...
Apple iOS6 Maps on an iPhone 4 from Kings Cross
On first inspection the one thing which struck Rob was that it looks slick and familiar from an 'Apple' point of view. The in-map functionality was quite intuitive. However, entering the destination and setting a route was not quite so obvious as the buttons imply different functionality.
While playing with the app, Rob accidentally switched it to 'Car Mode' and it started taking him in different directions whereas a pedestrian can use alleys, wrong way down one way streets, etc... Once the error was realised, it was pretty easy to reset and then he was back on his way - albeit a few minutes down.
Maps told him how long it would take and a big blue line telling him the route and as he started his journey, Maps gave him clear instructions using a sat nav style sign post directions.
The one thing which was annoying and confusing is that it didn't update the overall journey time remaining and how far was left on the journey. Also disappointing was that the 3d feature didn't appear, at the time we were unsure whether this is because it's not available - or that it just wasn't available for London yet - or that is wasn't available on the iPhone we had.
One big positive is that it was fast. Faster the Google Maps. Which is a big plus when you're trying to get out of a tricky situation with as little stress as possible.
Overall, the experience was not that great on an iPhone 4. It has similar features to Google Maps, is quite fast but we weren't blown away by the functionality - possibly because of the Google Maps familiarity. We've since learnt that public transport doesn't work yet, but that wasn't the challenge so we won't hold that against it for now.
In terms of time, it took about 52 minutes to walk from Kings Cross to Tower Bridge (which is just over par) and a couple of wrong turns were made.
Google Maps on a Sony Xperia Ray (Android) from Euston
Mark, not overly familiar with using Google Maps on his phone, it took a while to load and locate. Putting in the address was simple and the route calculation was pretty fast. It told the total distance and time, but again it didn't say how long was remaining as he progressed through the streets. A disappointment was that when you start, you had to know which direction to start walking before it picked up where you were going. Once picked up, it was easy but a minute or two was lost to get onto the map in the first place.
The detail was great, easy to switch between map, Street View and getting an overall picture of the route. Even on an small screen and older phone, the experience was excellent.
On the map it gave a clear instruction when to turn, rather than just popping up on the screen so it was very easy to not get lost.
The overriding feature is that it was intuitive. It didn't try to be clever - and it didn't get him lost at any point.
Overall, the experience was positive. It was comfortable to use and didn't get him lost.
In terms of time, it took an hour to get from Euston to Tower Bridge - which is also a little over par given that Euston is a little further away.
On inspection (as a knowledgable Londoner) I'd argue that there are more direct routes from the destinations and I was a little surprised that the two didn't meet on their journeys. We've also since played with iOS6 Maps on an iPhone 4S and the experience is much better.
Which app won?
While our initial reaction was that Google was the winner on the experiment itself, it's clear that device technology does play a pretty fundamental role in how good the Maps are overall. We also haven't tested the driving experience on Apple - but that's next on the list.
Having a play with both map Apps in the post experiment excitement, they both have features which simply blow you away. The level of detail and additional functionality points to a very interesting future for both.
We're calling it a victory for Google Maps for now. But Apple iOS6 Maps looks very promising and exciting.
What does this mean?
Given the ultimate goal of the experiment was to understand how useful these apps would be in an unknown city, the result is that they would be very, very useful indeed!
We'd love to hear your experiences of map apps, or even suggestions for other experiments we could run around the world!