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Apple Maps is finally worth trying again in the United States

Apple Maps is finally new and improved
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Maps' troubled days may finally be over. Today (Jan. 30), Apple finished rolling out its massive overhaul of its mapping app to the entire United States, finishing work it started with the iOS 13 release. 

So, finally, the features we liked in iOS 13 — the more-precise maps and a new trick called Look Around — can be used by people outside of the select states such as Apple's home state of California, one of the first to get it. 

Simply better maps

As you'll see in the above GIF, Apple's taken its decent-looking maps and added a ton of detail, including more of buildings and parks. The company said via a press release that this redone version of Maps enables "faster and more accurate navigation" which might give it a shot in the fight against Google Maps.

Apple boasts that Maps now features "better road coverage and pedestrian data," so hopefully the days of joking about Apple Maps getting you lost are finally over. When iOS 13 was released, Apple noted its Maps team drove more than 4 million miles to collect data to improve the directions and data in the app.

Look Around more states

Apple Maps' new features finally go nationwide in the US

Look Around (L) and Favorites (R) (Image credit: Apple)

Apple also announced that its delivering the Look Around, which is similar to Google Maps' Street View, to more cities. In addition to the the San Francisco Bay Area where it originally launched, you can now "Look Around" Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City and Oahu. Apple says it's work is not over, and that there are "many more places to come."

In our iOS 13 review, we noted that Look Around felt "more immersive and easier to scroll around," than Street View, which always seemed a little herky-jerky and less natural than it should feel. 

Other relatively new features

Apple Maps' new features finally go nationwide in the US

Collections help you share groups of favorite destinations with friends and family. (Image credit: Apple)

If you're like me, and ditched Apple Maps every time it sent you in the wrong direction, or just left the app because you didn't want to risk it when Google Maps is right there, you've got a few more features to check out in the iOS 13 version of Apple Maps.

Collections allows you to compile your favorite spots in groups that can be shared with friends, something I could see coming in handy when loved ones visit me and want to know where to go. For example, Apple's got some decent taste in food, as the excellent Emily and Emmy Squared pizza and burger spots are listed in the New York collection shown in its press release.

If you always find yourself headed to a select few locations, the Favorites section in Maps' start page should help you get directions even faster. This new row of buttons allows you to make a set of bookmarks for your standard destinations available from the second you open the app.

Is Maps' past in the rear view mirror?

On Apple.com, the company stated that this nation-wide rollout "will launch across the U.S. by the end of 2019," but I'll admit 30 extra days isn't a whole lot more if that's what it took to get this right. I remember being in Hawaii when Google Maps finally came back to the iPhone, and I vocally cheered the return, as I was tired of getting bad directions from the original Apple Maps.

That original version, released in iOS 6, was supposed to be an alternative to Google Maps, which departed due to a dispute about user data between Apple and Google. Maps was so bad, in fact, that Tim Cook wrote an apology letter about it, and the app landed on our list of the 15 biggest Apple fails of all time.

As skeptical as I've been in the past, I've wanted to go back to Apple Maps for a while, because Google Maps has a weird habit of giving prominent placement to venues like "Carrie Bradshaw's apartment" and using store logos for beacon dots, making me feel like I'm being advertised to while I'm just trying to get directions. 

I also appreciate Apple's privacy-first focus on how it treats data, as the Maps press release notes "Any data collected by Maps while using the app, like search terms, navigation routing and traffic information, is associated with random identifiers that continually reset to ensure the best possible experience and to improve Maps."

So, okay, Apple, here's to another taking another chance.