The tech news sites are all over the new Google Maps for iOS app, so they already cover the fact that public transportation, walking directions and turn-by-turn navigation are included in the new app. I thought let’s look at new technologies and user experience elements in this app.
Fast 3d maps but no offline access
The maps, including 3D versions are fast! OpenGL is used, and runs pretty fast on my now ancient iPhone 4. They even support iPhone 3Gs with iOS 5.1, so they really did a terrific job on optimizing speed. Apple Maps for iOS requires an iPhone 4S for 3D views, also satellite 3D views. Offline access would be great to have when you drive through areas with no cell phone reception. No iPad version as well, no voice input.
No Facebook style left top menu button, but swipe from right
While the app has the design from the new Gmail for iOS, it does not share the Facebook style left top menu button to slide out the menu, like Gmail for iOS and also the Youtube app for iOS has. Instead of that, there is the subtle minitab to the right hand bottom that indicates you can swipe in the menu from the right. Interesting.
UIWebWiew for login, allowing two factor authentication
Authentication is always a hard thing to do right in native apps. Nowadays you don’t want to prompt users for usernames and passwords, but use techniques like oAuth to take users to your own web site and let them login and authorize the app access there. All very hard to do natively, in particular when you support two factor authentication. When you set two factor authentication up, you will receive a text message on your cell phone with a code that you enter after login. Like the Youtube app, Google uses a UIWebview to show you a web page to login, and this allows them also to suppor the two factor extra code dialog.
Shake to send feedback
Very original and well thought. When human beings are frustrated they have the tendency to want to break things, become physical and move vigorously. What better than to detect when a user is shaking his/her phone and provide a way to blow off some steam, and give feedback? That is what Google did: shake your iPhone when you have the Google Maps app open, and it will show this feedback view. Very smart of them.
Even better than before
I’d say the app is way better than before Apple decided to move it out of iOS 6. Fast, public transportation and turn-by-turn navigation, as well as some very interesting new user experience elements. What do you think?