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Google's map app isn’t perfect either

January 3, 2013 - Art Smith
A lot has been written lately about mobile map apps. A while back I even wrote that the Apple Map app, which is part of OS on iPhones, iPads and iPods, was getting an unfair bad rap.

I’m not so sure now.

After writing about the app I continued to test it. When I helped drive a group of media students from Marietta College to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland I used it and promptly got sent down the wrong road.

Finding the Rock Hall from Marietta is pretty easy. Follow I-77 north until you see Jacobs Field, get off the road and drive until you hit Lake Erie.

For some reason I blindly followed the directions of the iPhone and promptly found my self heading south toward the airport. I really don’t mind getting lost, in fact, it happens to me all the time, it was just a little embarrassing with a van full of college students AND another van full of students following me. Of course they all got the same lame instructions from their iPhones. We ended up in a Wal-Mart parking lot and sorted things out with the help of some students who call Cleveland home.

Shortly after that Google released its new iPhone apps. Millions, including me, downloaded it overnight.

The free app is very well done. For those with Google accounts, you can add locations on a computer and the location will show up in your list on your phone. Finding business is easy with the app since it has the power of the Google search engine behind. When it is available, it also displays the Google Street Level photos of your destination.

I’ve tested it for a few weeks. The maps it generates are crisp and easy to read — As long as you have a data connection. If you look at your phone you will see the normal bars indicating the strength of your signal. This tells you if you will be able to talk or not. Next to it you will normally see “3G” or “4G”, this is your data connection, if you see an “E” you don’t have a connection and it’s here that things start to fall apart a little.

Google maps will continue to track your location with the GPS that is built into the phone, but the image behind the track will start to degrade pretty quickly, turning into what looks like a tie-dyed mess. Something I haven’t noticed with the Apple Map.

The Parkersburg-Marietta area is not exactly the center of the data universe. We have a lot of dead spots — parts of Ohio 676 and large sections of U.S. 50 are two spots where you cannot even get a voice connection, let alone a data one. With no data connection the Google Map app becomes fairly useless. The Apple map seems to maintain its composure a little better.

So if you are taking a trip, remember, no map app or GPS device is perfect, no matter what you have read. Apps tend to fail when you need them most, so it’s probably still a good idea to have a printed map in your glove box somewhere; at least it is in mine.


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Google's map app when it is unable to make a connection turns into a blurry mess.