Google Maps Update Makes a Traveler’s Delight

Google Maps was already one of the strongest built-in apps on the iPhone. But with the 2.2 software update the addition of Street View and the ability to get public transit information make this almost a necessity for traveling or getting around a major city.

So there was only one way to give it the ultimate test: New York City.

Perhaps the first strength I noticed was Google Maps’ excellent ability to function as a crime prevention tool. Prior to my trip to New York I stayed a couple of days over Thanksgiving in Philadelphia. Enter Street View. I scored a nice deal on a rental car through Priceline. Unfortunately, Street View was able to show me why. The rental car office was in a, shall we say, area of town that wasn’t feeling the recession because it has been in one for three decades. Things turned out fine, of course, but it was handy to get a shot of the projects and burnt-out buildings that would be greeting me upon my arrival.

I really put the new Google Maps features to the test while in New York. First of all there was the matter of finding a train schedule from Princeton, NJ to New York City. Activating the GPS and using it to spot some train schedules ran pretty smoothly. When looking up driving directions, you tap a train icon to pull up transit information.

The performance was a bit spottier in Manhattan. Sometimes GPS took a while to find my location on the map. This, of course, delayed bringing up the transit schedules as it tried to find out where I was. The same lag was apparent when using Street View. It does not move as quickly as the full web-based version can over broadband (of course we do need to be reminded sometimes the iPhone is a mobile device).

Another addition was walking distance. This was pretty useful, given that it made planning much easier by being able to estimate how far it would be to walk somewhere. Much easier than trying to guess, especially if in a city you have not been to before.

The features are not perfect, but a welcome addition. Keep a power charger handy as the GPS combined with Google Maps features will probably keep you hooked.

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