Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Google Maps Gains New Timeline Feature

Google (via MacRumors):

What was the name of that antique store I popped into the other day? Where was that coffee shop we discovered on our last vacation? Did I drop off the dry cleaning on Tuesday or Wednesday? Answering questions like these used to take some guesswork (and a great memory). But with Your Timeline on Google Maps, Android and desktop users could quickly revisit the things they’ve done and places they’ve been. Starting today, Google Maps users on iOS can join in on the fun and see a daily snapshot of their life as well.


Sometimes you need a reminder to stop and smell the roses. So you can now receive monthly emails summarizing the cities, countries, and places you’ve visited––all in one place.

This sounds really cool.

Update (2017-05-01): Stephen Ryner, Jr.:

We’re coming up on five years of Apple Maps and they’re still terrible. Who is the VP of Maps. Does nobody care?

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

I wonder if Apple Maps will ever catch up. Every time I use it I feel like I'm going back to Google Maps 5 years ago.

Is there ANYTHING that Apple Maps does (that is actually useful) that Google Maps doesn't?

@BCG Apple Maps is still having accuracy problems. Yesterday I opened it on my Mac to check something, since it was auto-linked from Contacts, and immediately spotted two major businesses that were not shown in the correct places. Oddly, the info for the businesses showed the correct street addresses, but the markers on the map were not shown at those addresses. When I went to report the issues, I found that there isn’t really a report type for this type of error.

Apple's business locations database does seem to be sourced from things that do not get updated frequently. My dad called me last Friday en route to an RV dealer saying that "Siri's directions" didn't make sense and they were trying to send him in the opposite direction of what he thought he should be going. As it turns out, Apple Maps was sending him to a former location, one town over to the southwest, instead of to the current location on the border between our town and one town over to the northeast. I can't tell how long ago the business moved (~4-6 months is my guess), but it's been gone long enough for other businesses to show up in a web search for the former address.

I dutifully reported the error to Apple last (Good) Friday—like you, Michael, I found the choices presented confusing; I chose "Location on Map" after first looking at "Place Closed" and deciding it was not right, but looking back through the options today, it looks like I should have chosen "Place Details" to more easily provide the correct address—with info and citations from the dealer's website. Just a few minutes ago, I got a notification from Maps that the problem I had reported last week had been fixed, and, indeed it had, in only 7 days.

Given that my dad (and I, when checking) had asked Siri for "Foo in Footown" and Maps matched it with "Foo in Bartown", I was also disappointed that Siri didn't respond with her "unsure" response ("I found this; I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for" or something like that); hearing that would have at least warned my dad he should stop and look where he being directed.

Google seems to have a lead in mapping businesses both because they are constantly crawling the web and collecting information, but also because they make a concerted effort to get businesses to manage their own listings via "Google MyBusiness" or whatever it's called these days, via direct mailings to businesses.

Still, Google and even its business-managed listings are not perfect; for my small sample (my dad's business, his 5 other current tenants, and 3 former tenants), Apple and Google both correctly locate 2 (both of which have Google MyBusiness listings) and fail to find a location for 1. Google correctly locates 1 that Apple cannot find a location for and shows a "location" for 2 that Apple cannot find a location for (neither have used the address as a business address, and Google's "location" is our whole town in 1 case and the entire state of Georgia in the other!).

Of the 3 former tenants, 1 is still in business and 2 are completely out-of-business now. For the 1 still in business, Apple finds both my dad's building and the current address, whereas Google's "location" is once again our entire town. Of tenants now out-of-business, one moved out about 2 years ago and closed about 6 months after that; Apple still shows it in my dad's building, whereas Google shows its last address (based on the pictures, it was a Google MyBusiness listing never marked as closed). The other, which closed 5+ years ago, cannot be located by Apple, but Google still shows it in my dad's building. Which I guess goes to show that it's hard all around trying to keep maps data up-to-date, and even though it feels like Google has a better overall grasp on business locations, it's easy enough to find its failings and show it on-par with Apple.

I wonder if someone has thought about making a service that helps business operators keep their information updated in the databases of the various sites (maps, reviews, business listings, etc.) in one step, instead of having to update Google, Bing, Yelp, Apple, Facebook, Foursquare (does that still exist?) and so forth one at a time?

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