Maps on the iPad

Gibbs has a thing for maps. And maps on the iPad? Well, talk about enthusiastic ...

I have a bit of a thing for maps, by which I don't mean the old "here be dragons" kind of map. Although these can be interesting, they just don't cut it for me. What I mean are modern, detailed, interactive maps, which makes them come alive (and valuable to all business folks that have to travel).

One of my all-time favorite mapping products was Microsoft MapPoint. I last looked at this software back in 2009 and I hope to review the latest release in a few weeks.

But as much as I like MapPoint which, natch, runs on Windows, there's one platform where maps really come alive in a remarkably immediate and very useful way: the iPad.

Put a map on the iPad and it's already way ahead in terms of polish and accessibility. The iPad is a platform that encourages ease of use and clarity of message so maps just work beautifully.

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I know, I know, I'm in severe danger of becoming an out-and-out Apple fanboy, but the iPad really is the proverbial "it." I could rave on about the whys and hows of the iPad but I have other fish to fry ... or rather, maps to enjoy.

So, first up: Inrix, a mapping and presentation system that details driving conditions.

Inrix driving conditions app for iOS

Inrix has developed one of the largest road traffic condition databases anywhere. The company derives its data from roadway monitoring systems, police and transport organizations and crunch it to provide not only real-time analysis but also historical and predictive views.

The free iPad app is amazing! Built on top of Google Maps, Inrix overlays the roads with colors indicating traffic flow and adds markers to show local events that will impact traffic, road works and events flagged by law enforcement. When you are using the app you can also report events you see and, if you're near enough, edit or grade other people's reports.

One of my favorite features of the app is the predictive display. When you enable this you get a band displaying time on the screen that you can slide forwards from "now" to see what the traffic will be like anytime in the next 24 hours; I could have used that when I drove south past Las Vegas at 10 p.m. on a recent Sunday ... the traffic was so bad it added more than three hours to my trip back to Ventura, Calif.

The Inrix app is free and, should you want more, there's a $24.99 upgrade that will provide routing with a "Beat The Traffic" feature that minimizes your journey time. I award Inrix a rating of 5 out of 5. I just regret I didn't have this app when I was planning my trip that took me past Vegas.

Another travel-oriented mapping app that I love is called Where To? Priced at $2.99, this app presents a great user interface from which you select the category of whatever you're looking for: "Travel & Transportation," "Food & Drink" and so on.

The Where To? iOS app

Clicking on a category takes you to a list of subcategories so, for example, under Food & Drink I could choose "Afghan" (a genre of eatery that I have, so far, not experienced). Where To? scans an incredibly extensive database and plots the results on a (you guessed it) Google map.

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You can also list the results rather than mapping them and -- here's the clincher -- you can invoke the augmented reality mode (a separate $0.99 purchase) that overlays the image from the iPad's camera with markers for the results. Thus, as you pivot your iPad around the markers move appropriately. Way cool.

Clicking on a marker in any mode brings up the location's details. I now know my nearest Afghan restaurant is Halal Gyro & Pizza House in Northridge, about 43 miles away.

Another click invokes Google Maps or Google Earth so I now also know the route to Halal Gyro and that it will take me about 64 minutes to get there (if only I could use Inrix at this point I could see what the best time to travel would be).

There are also options for social sharing of locations and adding results to your contacts.

Although not written for the iPad and even in "pixel doubling" mode, Where To? looks great and many of the features such as mapping and its augmented reality mode work as if they were designed for the iPad.

Where To? is outstanding. Another 5 out of 5 rating!

I've got more maps on both the iPad and Android that we'll look at soon. In the mean time, tell me: What mapping apps do you use?

Gibbs is located in Ventura, Calif. Your coordinates to gearhead@gibbs.com.

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