By Jonathan Charles | Oct 06, 2012 10:05 AM EDT
Apple Maps may have seen plenty of criticism in its short life, but positive news is here: Apple’s service can cache large areas for offline use. The feature extends to a whole continent once a city is downloaded, outpacing Google Maps Web offering.
For example, searching San Francisco allows users to browse state outlines when offline. The feature contrasts Google Maps; it allows searching of the immediate area when offline and restrict users to the level zoomed in. Granted, offline use of Apple Maps doesn't allow users to zoom into street level, but that wouldn't be available on Google Maps anyway (because you're offline) and users may just need a quick glance at directions.
The functionality works when mobile roaming or Wi-Fi connections are unavailable. The feature will not drain batteries quickly, either: vector maps consume 80 percent less battery than bitmaps. Vector maps basically use high resolution images to cover a large area, therefore the data can be downloaded.
Whether Apple Maps allows cached data to be collected over time is unknown. Mapping the whole of the U.S. for offline usage could be impressive, though perhaps not practical when living in a single state.
Further, Apple Maps loads basic satellite images and major city labels for the world. Offline, users can view areas over 100 miles and in 3D, courtesy of Flyover. The functionality to see satellite images and city labels is not available on Google or Nokia Maps, for two reasons: first the because the competitors' software is not available on iOS, and second because the Web sites use bitmapped images. Both Google and Nokia have criticized Apple following the problems faced by Maps. Google has encouraged users to move over to Android, highlighting the platform's continued integration with Google Maps. Nokia meanwhile has released a video showing why its service is better than Maps. Nokia is licensing Google's technology, rather than building its own.
Google Maps shows boundaries partly in the U.S., not nationwide. Whether a Google Maps app for Android would rectify the problem remains to be seen. Google is not specifying when an app will release on iOS.
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