This article was published on May 30, 2011

Maps+ for iPhone is the Swiss Army knife of map apps

Maps+ for iPhone is the Swiss Army knife of map apps
Matthew Panzarino
Story by

Matthew Panzarino

Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter. Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter.

A lot of apps have a tendency to cram every square inch of the iPhone’s screen with flashy user interface elements. That’s not the case with Maps+, which takes minimalism to the extreme and lets you customize the UI from the ground up.

When you launch Maps+ [App Store, Free] you’re presented with a full-screen map, broken by only a single button in the bottom corner. This minimal look carries through the entire app, making Maps+ a businesslike app with a ton of options that only present themselves as you need them.

You can find any one of Maps+’s many features tucked away under the small options button in the bottom corner of the main display. When you tap on it you’ll find a list of choices, any of which can be activated from this menu or added to the home screen by tapping the Edit button. If there’s a way to give you access to features without having the interface hit you in the face with them, Maps+ does it. A good example of this is the way that you switch between satellite, hybrid and terrain maps with the swipe of three fingers.

Once you’ve tapped Edit you can choose to drag the buttons out to any of the corners of the map, customizing the UI to your specifications. There are a ton of cool features here in addition to the standard Locate option. Routes, bicycling directions, recording tracks of GPS data, local Twitter messages, dropping pins and bookmarking are all available.

In addition, you can export recorded tracks via the GPX format via mail or iTunes and import GPX files into Maps+. This will allow you to share tracks that you record with a friend that also has Maps+. It’s a cool, lightweight way to record your favorite bike path or running route and hand it out to someone else without having to get into the beefier offerings from Garmin or Magellan.

One of the coolest features of Maps+ is the location based alarm system. You simply drop a pin on the map, punch in a name and a radius and you’ve got yourself a reminder or alert that can be triggered when you enter or exit an area. I can imagine all sorts of awesome uses for this like reminding yourself not to forget to get milk on your way home, making sure you don’t leave that important bit of project material on your way out of the house, the possibilities are endless. You can even set up an alarm and send it by mail or link to anyone else with Maps+.

The Twitter option is also useful when you’re navigating. This way you can see your mentions and messages pop up right in the map view without having to clear a popup. I’m not all that excited about the ability to see Tweets around you, although I can imagine it would be useful if you think something is going on in your neighborhood and you want to see if anyone is Tweeting about it.

The routing is solid and even allows for multiple points, allowing you to program in a circuit or a bunch of locations that you need to visit that day. The only downside I can see is that the location search seems much less complete than the standard Maps app. You’ll probably need addresses or dropped pins to find locations reliably.

If you’ve been looking for a super light weight replacement app for that offers you a ton of features without a lot of UI chrome then Maps+ is definitely worth a look. It works great, is super fast and packs a ton of features into a very minimal interface. Maps+ is free to check out on the App Store although there are some options that you can unlock with an in-app purchase.