The ‘Google Maps test’ proposed by Seth Kugel of NYT’s Frugal Traveler blog at the 2012 NYT Travel Show is that for a travel app to justify chewing up space and battery on a phone it needs to be better than Google Maps.
The Rapid Traveler recently entered the modern smart phone era with an Android phone. As much as he respects Apple, he has never purchased an Apple product and relies so much on his various Google accounts that he went with Android. He duly installed a bunch of apps to collect dust, but one has been incredibly useful, the free NYC Bus & Subway Maps app from Episode 6.
NYC subway riders in search of a map quickly find that platform maps are few, and discover the creepy feeling of peering over people that are sitting in front of maps in the carriages. Tiny pocket maps are hard to come by, while the paper maps available at stations are unwieldy for use on the go. Oh, and there is effectively no mobile phone service in the underground stations so all those trip planning, geolocating apps are useless unless they have a solid offline component. The Rapid Traveler is not a fan of trip planners used in exclusion anyway, as they can lead to mistakes when not paired with a comprehensive view.
The NYC Bus & Subway Maps app does a simple thing very well: it allows downloading of the subway map and the bus system maps for each of the boroughs. Many competitors for maps and trip planning are limited to the subway system. The downloaded maps are static, like PDFs files, but zoomable. These crisp images launch instantly rather that waiting for a map to download. And anyone who has tried to plan a subway trip with Google Maps does not repeat the attempt.
Apple users can see this collection of NYC subway apps.