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In-depth Review: Apple's iOS 6 Maps & the alternatives

Search, mapping, GPS and specialized routing apps

There are three major categories of the native iOS map-related apps Cook recommended users try. The first are independent map services that are similar to Apple's Maps (including AOL's MapQuest and the community based OpenMaps) or include map related search (including Microsoft's Bing and the Yahoo Search app).

MapQuest, Bing and Yahoo also provide web apps, but their native iOS apps provide a relatively much better experience, especially for maps. Like Apple's native Maps app, these alternative mapping apps for iOS can generally deal with being used in a limited fashion offline, as long as enough data has been cached before you lose your data connection.

While the native apps from MapQuest and Bing provide their own maps (as shown above and detailed later), Yahoo's search app oddly uses Apple's system-provided maps on iOS 6 to present its Local search, but low resolution Nokia map images (with zoom and navigation controlled by tiny buttons) for Web search, and when asked for directions, it dumps users in Google's web app displaying verbose written directions.

A second group of mapping apps are software "virtual" GPS devices sold as apps (like Navigon, TeleNav and TomTom).

Rather than being general purpose mapping tools, GPS apps are optimized and dedicated for driving directions, providing features such as detailed lane information and simplified orientation maps that make sense of complex intersections and freeway onramps. If you're familiar with using a standalone GPS, these apps nearly replicate the experience on your iPhone. If you're more accustomed to iOS Maps, these GPS apps will likely feel unfamiliar, limiting and confusing because they work in a very different manner.

These GPS apps generally cost significantly more than most App Store titles (around $25-$120, although there are free and subscription fee versions), but they also include detailed maps of the entire region within the app. This means you can use them offline anywhere you go, but also means they can consume gigabytes of storage on your iOS devices (that means 10% or more of a 16GB iPhone).

A third group includes a variety of specialized apps that focus on a particular feature (such as providing Street View, Waze for social-driven routing, specialized search apps such as GasBuddy for finding gas station prices, Yelp for specialized search, or a wide library of Maps-integrated routing apps for transit, bikes, trails, ride sharing and similar services, which we briefly profiled earlier).