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Maps with friends: CityMaps’ iOS app adds social, personalization to navigation

Launched a year ago in just five cities, CityMaps has gone global. The company has released an updated social mapping and navigation app that can be used anywhere in the world. The team behind it says its goal was to build a more social and personal mapping app for iOS than what Apple and Google have mustered so far.

CityMaps is free to download and has more than 15 million mapped locations so far. While it has mapping data (from a partner it won’t disclose) and navigation, the primary purpose of the maps are to create personal maps that can be shared and edited with friends. In other words, it’s more about mapmaking, as CityMaps co-founder and President Aaron Rudenstine told me in an interview last week.

CityMaps bird's eyeIn CityMaps, the user gets a bird’s-eye view that can be zoomed in and out as necessary, and instead of simple labeling of locations, each place has a pin hovering above it with the place’s logo, which is supposed to aid quick identification of businesses or places. Once you click on a business’s pin, it delivers more information that conveys what the place is about: through an Instagram partnership all the latest Instagrams from that location are streamed in, along with the most popular Foursquare tips, the menu if it’s a restaurant, as well as contact info and directions. You can filter locations that appear by category and you can also search directly for a location. CityMaps business listing

The app has some interesting commercial aspects to it for business owners too: they can claim a location and offer deals or advertise events. In that way, Rudenstine said, it becomes a “live map” that changes depending on what’s happening right now.

For me, the most interesting aspect of what CityMaps is doing is the ability to create your own maps. (This feature had a pretty major bug in it when first launched last week, but with an update on Tuesday has now been fixed.) You can click the “+” on a business and add it to any map you choose, whether it’s a place you want to save around a theme, like Favorite Cocktail Bars in your city, or you can create an itinerary and then share it with a friend. That friend can be a user you follow in the CityMaps app or a non-user who can see your shared CityMap in a web browser.

I really like the idea of being able to save locations — and not just as one giant list like Yelp Bookmarks — but different maps with different categories. And that they’re customizable by others is interesting too: if you’re friends with another user you can add locations to each other’s maps.

Over time, Rudenstine said the app will learn more about and respond to the user’s preferences. CityMaps will begin to show you more places that are similar to ones you’ve already indicated you like by saving them, becoming more anticipatory and dynamic than a regular old mobile map.

The app is iOS only for now, but the company says an Android version is coming soon.

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