Capitalizing on the Apple Maps fiasco on iOS6, Telmap have launched a supposedly all-in-one app for mapping, directions and local recommendations. M8 Your Local Mate combines next generation navigation technology, community information, traffic updates and social media communications.
For me, (I'm not using iOS6 - still on iOS5 as it seemed like a good move) I've been happy with the Google Maps ability to find places by name, address, postcode, or business type, and to then give me pretty accurate directions. But M8 Your Local Mate wants to do all that and more by including recommendations from TripAdvisor, Yelp and Lonely Planet in the search results, plus to connect with twitter and Facebook for further on-the-spot advice.
Telmap, an Intel company since 2011, is a world leader in mobile location-based services so the development behind this app is sound. The idea for the app is to be like your best friend (M8 = mate. Geddit?) who would help you out when in a new area with directions, tips and advice.
Weighted in favour or car drivers, the sat nav, fuel finder, car park locator, etc. is not really needed in London but may be handy outside of the capital. Apparently it includes traffic news services so I may try it's sat nav function next time I hire a car for a long journey.
The directions include a walk option with voice instructions so you really shouldn't get lost. If you choose the driving directions you can change your car on the screen – when I tested this on the launch night the driving duck was the most popular option. Google Maps tries to integrate a public transport option but M8 has either Drive or Walk options only.
I used Navigation to search for a 'newsagent' in Canning Town, when visiting Outdoors in the City, and M8 offered me a Barclays Cycle Hire location. Google maps gave me a choice of newsagents.
In London, I found a Navigation search for 'tube station' and 'train station' brought no relevant results. I tried this before seeing the Transport icon. Here, a search showed me every tube station entrance which was overwhelming and I'd prefer to see the station listed and then drill down to the entrance locations. (Interesting 'tube station' didn't work in Google Maps either but 'train station' got me what I wanted.)
What will help in London is the Barclays Cycle stations search to find the nearest docking station and to save time by checking how many bikes are available before you walk there.
The ATM finder may also be more useful outside of London as we have a cashpoint – yes, that's what we call them in London, not an ATM – on nearly every street. I tried the ATM search while standing next to a cashpoint at Oxford Circus and it didn't appear in the search results. But when I tried at home, outside of central London, I found cashpoints listed within local stores which was helpful.
The Kids section covers Parks, Pools, Schools and Attractions. I have absolutely no idea why schools is included but thought Parks would be handy so I tried it in many locations across London to see the results. Each time it only showed me farms and not actual parks so I tried it outside a city farm and it didn't appear in the search results.
I also found a search in Kid's >> Attractions that brought me only shops when standing at Oxford Circus but it missed the obvious one: Hamleys even though I could see it.
Speaking of kids, I found the app has quite a childlike look which reminded me of the Phone for Kids app.
The Emergency section worked well for finding the nearest hospital or pharmacy but I'm not sure of the benefit of the Health search results powered by Yelp. Surely I could just use the standard navigation if I need a dentist?
In Eat & Drink I could choose from restaurant recommendations from Yelp or TripAdvisor but I couldn't flip between their search results which were usually different.
The 'Going Out' section focuses on evening ideas so there are no real suggestions for Things To Do in the area but that could be incorporated from Yelp, TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet listings, although that does mean the app is heavily reliant on the community reviews on those sites.
The Shopping section has a limited choice of shopping options but I tried a search for Groceries while standing outside a supermarket (Sainsbury's in Stratford) and it wasn't listed. I then tried a Kid's >> Attractions search in the area and Westfield Stratford City was top of the list.
I tried a Shopping >> Fashion search in Leyton which brought two good results (490yds and 490yds) then the third was 3.5 miles away even though I could see more than two fashion shops from where I was standing.
I've picked holes in it but the app is pretty good and I'm going to use it alongside Google Maps, especially when outside of London. The sat nav is good and the app is simple to use. There are lots of extra functions that you don't instantly notice, e.g. weather at the bottom of search results and nearby tweets. And when I do have a car the Car Services >> Find my car >> Save a parking location is sure to be helpful. And did I mention it's available for the iPhone and Android devices and is completely free?