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MapQuest unveils alternative to Google Maps for iPhone

MapQuest on Monday took the wraps off a new application for iPhone users designed as an alternative to the built-in Google Maps software and billed as a "leap forward in how people interact with maps, directions and local search" on their Apple handsets.

One tap search

Among the highlights of the free application (App Store), called MapQuest 4 Mobile, is a "place carousel" that makes it easy for users to conduct one-tap category searches from any location on a map.

Similar to the Dashboard feature of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the carousel features icons, called 'place widgets,' that represent categories such as hotels, movie theaters, post offices, shopping centers, parking garages, schools, bars, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurants.

iPhone users can customize their place carousel with any of the 20 or so place widgets available simply by dragging and dropping them to and from the carousel. There are also place widget icons for leading brands, such as, Walmart, Autozone, Holiday Inn and Best Western, with more promised for future releases.

Driving directions

Unlike with Google Maps for iPhone, users of the MapQuest software can plan and save maps and driving routes on their computer using and then retrieve them on the iPhone by logging into their My Places account. Some users may even find this interaction essential given that MapQuest for iPhone cannot access addresses stored in an iPhone's Address Book the way Google Maps can.

Asked about a lack of Address Book address, a spokesperson for MapQuest said the company is looking into adding the capability in a future release of MapQuest 4 Mobile for iPhone.

MapQuest 4 Mobile for iPhone

For trips that include more than one stop, the software offers multi-point routing and draggable re-ordering capabilities. Driving directions can be seen in standard map or list view, but are also available in a third view called "Max Maneuver" that kicks in when the iPhone is held in landscape mode. Under this view, each maneuver instruction fills the entire screen and users can progresses to the next or previous maneuver simply by "swiping" the screen to the right or left.

MapQuest 4 Mobile for iPhone

Other features

Some other features of the MapQuest iPhone app include smooth panning maps, live traffic, free-form search, GPS to identify a user's current location, and a search history.

MapQuest 4 Mobile for iPhone

Users can also customize the icon that represents their location on the map, either with a stock "My Position" icon that is chosen from a list of options or by using any phone available in an iPhone's photo album.

For those interested, MapQuest has also posted a silent walk-through video of the new software.