We came to a strange realization on Friday at SEL headquarters: Google Street View is terribly unintuitive on the iPhone. As Danny Sullivan suggested, you practically need a map to find it. For those of you with an iPhone or iPod Touch who know how to use Street View already, move along — there’s nothing here for you. For the rest of you who, like us, had no idea you could access Street View, here’s the story of how and where we found it.
As I watched that video, I thought that Street View must be new on the iPad because I’ve never used it on my iPhone. When I’m using the Maps app, the only view options I see are Map, Satellite, and Hybrid (and List, which is mainly for directions).
I thought maybe Apple had just forgotten to mention that Street View was also new on their web page, and instead only mentioned Terrain View as a new iPad feature. We were planning a short story here on SEL to mention that both Street View and Terrain View were new on the iPad Maps app, so I emailed Google’s PR folks to confirm.
Google pointed out that the iPhone does have Street View, and that they announced it all the way back in 2008.
That was news to me. It was also news to Danny and Greg Sterling; none of us could find Street View on our iPhone. I checked again — went to downtown Seattle on the Map and Hybrid views and couldn’t find anything that would show me Street View.
We asked Google what was going on. I asked on Twitter, and got a 50/50 split on replies: half knew how to access Street View, and half didn’t know it was there.
So, how do you use Street View on the iPhone/iPod Touch?
While we were shooting emails and tweets back and forth on this, Danny finally figured it out: Street View only becomes an option when a pin is showing on the map. You either have to do a search, which will produce a pin for you, or manually drop a pin wherever on the map you’re looking.
Once you have the pin showing, the blue arrow on the right of the info box seems to be the dominant option, but clicking that leads to an information screen that also doesn’t offer Street View. Instead, you have to click the little orange person icon on the left of the info box to access Street View.
So, we were wrong. Google, Apple, and about half the Twitter users I asked were right: You can access Street View on the iPhone. Only thing is, it’s gotta be the most unintuitive user interface Google has ever created. Or maybe Apple created it? Either way, these are the two companies that pride themselves on elegant and simple design more than any other companies I know. Bloggers shouldn’t need to write posts like If You Can’t Find Google Street View, You Are Not Alone! or say that Street View is hidden away like an easter egg. Oh, the irony.