Thursday, October 8, 2015

The State of Apple Maps

Joe Rosensteel:

Instead, here we are, three years later. Still working around Siri, and working around apps that integrate Apple Maps (like Yelp), and copying and pasting addresses in to Google Maps.


The other location improvements have less significance to me, but I do still miss Google’s Street View. If you tap on an address that has no Yelp data you get a spartan, white page with a slowly rotating satellite view of the street, which is useless.


It’s important to keep your eyes on the road. Glancing at certain elements of your console for vital info is a necessity. Using thin weights for the display of information in a navigation app is just dumb. At a glance, you can see the number of miles to your next turn, or decimal value thereof, and an icon representing the kind of turn you will need to execute. White bars float over streets, but you can’t read them, and the street you’re turning on to is so tiny and waif-like that it might as well not be there. A thicker weight is used for the time, but again, a small size makes it hard to read clearly in a split second. Things also wouldn’t need to be so small if they weren’t all crammed in the top bar.


One of the things I’ve found puzzling about the design of the Apple Maps interface is that you can see traffic, and travel estimates supposedly influenced by traffic, in the route overview, but no traffic information is provided when turn-by-turn is on.


Lane guidance is a feature present in Google Maps, but not found in Apple Maps. I find it invaluable when I am traveling in a congested area and unfamiliar with where turn lanes, or exits, will split and join. Some exit lanes might quickly expand in to three lanes with turns in different directions, and Google Maps will tell you which ones you can be in, or even that you will be fine in the lane you’re already in.

Update (2015-10-09): Ryan Jones notes that in iOS 9 Apple Maps can pause spoken audio (e.g. podcasts and audio books) when giving directions. It works with third-party audio apps, but I don’t think this is something that third-party maps apps can do.

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My main issue with maps is that the PoI data will never be as accurate as Google. Because Google's maps POI data is intrinsically linked to the world's most popular web search engine, it's absolutely in business's interests to feedback location corrections to Google themselves, whereas Apple maps is irrelevant when searching for a business on the web.

WhatsApp pauses playing audio while playing back recorded audio clips. I think it's either some form of ducking or working with audio sessions in a non-Charlton Heston way.

The biggest problem with both Google Maps and Apple Maps remains how urban-centric they are. If you are driving in the country it's basically impossible to get a view that displays large square miles yet also shows secondary roads. Yet for rural driving that's basically everything. It makes using the maps useless for rural settings unless you're using turn-by-turn. Which is also usually not terribly helpful in rural settings.

@Clark Yep, that’s a longstanding problem—worse in Apple Maps, I think.

Depends upon the location. I've found Apple maps better here, but both really suck for rural use.

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