The latest update to the Google Maps SDK for iOS brings new features that benefit both users and developers. In fact, Google’s map platform is arguably the way to go for developers looking for a seamless experience across iOS, Android and the desktop platforms.
Version 1.4 of the Maps SDK was released last month and contains a host of new features, including the ability to display Street View imagery for 50 countries. The update also provides indoor floor plans of national mega retailers like Best Buy and Walmart, giving developers for those companies something cool they can integrate into their apps.
Google Maps features to add to your iOS apps
Adding Street View to iOS apps using the Maps SDK is an easy choice for developers who’ve already made an investment in Google Maps. iOS architect Conrad Stoll expects to see more demand for Street View once users become aware of its availability. “Street View and 3D are pretty cool features. Since they’re fairly new capabilities, we haven’t had a lot of clients asking for them yet, but hopefully we will in the future,” says Stoll.
Stoll has also noticed that some other features recently added to the Maps SDK are currently getting implemented by iOS devs. “I think the turn-by-turn navigation features we’ve seen in recent mapping releases are pretty exciting. It opens up the door for new navigation experiences inside of third-party apps,” he comments.
In addition to Street View and indoor floor plans, Google has enhanced how individual maps look within an app, leveraging the new design tiles used in the web-based Google Maps to remove those ugly yellow roads. Other enhancements include minor changes to various classes used in the SDK, bringing them more in line with other versions of the Maps API. This should make code migration between different platforms a much smoother process.
Choosing between Apple and Google Maps SDK for an iOS app
With Street View now available in the Google Maps SDK for iOS, it makes the choice between mapping APIs more difficult. Google Maps is generally considered the superior product, but it comes with a potential cost in licensing dollars. Stoll feels developers get more control over the map view with Google’s SDK:
“The Google Maps SDK gives developers access to the 3D map views and greater control over the camera positioning than the iOS 6 Maps SDK does. The Google Maps SDK also allows developers to actually swap out the mapping tiles with their own imagery. That’s a really powerful capability to build some pretty advanced stuff using Maps. Of course, the other difference is that the Apple Maps SDK is free to use, whereas many larger companies will have to pay to use Google Maps.”
For many mobile developers, Apple’s Maps API will do just fine, especially those not using more esoteric features like location search. But for those looking for higher data quality and cross-platform capabilities, the Google Maps SDK will serve you well.
“Choosing a map solution is an important one,” cautions Stoll. “Unless a developer has a specific reason for choosing Google, I would just go with Apple’s Maps. You’re probably not using the location search functionality from either Apple or Google, so the issues about Apple’s location database generally don’t factor into the decision. That being said, if a developer does have a reason to go with Google Maps, it will be an easy service for him to use and would give his users a consistent experience across web, Android and iOS. With that in mind, it’s hard to go wrong here.”