Maps for iOS: What Does Google Have Against Tablets?

on December 13, 2012

Google maps iPad screenshot

Google’s failure to understand that a tablet is something other than a really big phone is becoming one of the great mysteries of the technology world. The Android tablet business has been crippled by a lack of dedicated tablet apps, a situation that Google has done almost nothing to correct. Now Google has confirmed my worst fears with the release of the long-awaited Google maps for iOS.

Google maps for the iPhone is lovely. It’s better than the old Google-based iOS Maps app, adding vector maps and turn-by-turn directions. And it draws on slick search abilities and deep geographic data knowledge, the lack of which can make using Apple’s own Maps app an adventure. And Google maps integrates transit information (a feature sadly not available in the Washington, DC, area.)

But the iPad is a very different story. For whatever reason, Google did not bother to come up with a separate iPad-optimized version. Like any other iPhone app, Maps will run on the iPad, but like any other iPhone app, it looks ghastly. The picture above shows Google Maps on a  third-generation iPad in 2X mode (the alternative would be to display an iPhone-sized image in the middle of the screen.) . Scrolling and zooming is not as smooth as on the iPhone, and notice the enormous amount of screen area that is wasted by by simply scaling up the various on-screen controls.

This is all rather hard to understand, since Google should have had no trouble developing an iPad version in parallel with the phone edition. Much smaller developers do this all the time. I can only hope that Google will realize that the iPad is something more than a larger iPhone and correct the error quickly.