Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Google Assistant Coming to Google Maps for iOS

Dieter Bohn (MacRumors):

Manuel Bronstein, VP of product for Google Assistant, made the case that Google is building an entire ecosystem for Assistant that’s akin to the ecosystem it’s built for Android. It’s a platform play, basically, just like Alexa. And Google wants to ensure it’s everywhere.


Beyond Android Auto, partners like Anker are making little lighter plug-ins that work with Google Assistant. A bigger deal, though, is that Google is going to bake Google Assistant into Google Maps. It may not be able to convince iPhone users to install the Google Assistant app, but it has a huge install base for Maps. Google says that Assistant in Maps will let you “share your ETA with friends and family, reply to text messages, play music and podcasts, and get information hands free.”

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

The only thing keeping Google Maps on my phone are the lack of bike routes and directions in Apple Maps.

I live in Japan and...

Apple Map's place directory sucks (why TF are they using FourSquare? Was that app EVER relevant?) – often giving me results for businesses that are dozens or hundreds of miles away, rather than the one that's in my city. And it seems that if nobody ever entered the business into FourSquare or Yelp, or used Apple's obscure Maps option to "report an error" to add it, then Apple doesn't know about it. Due to this terrible location database, I can't use Maps and definitely could NEVER rely on it to take me to the proper destination by asking Siri to "Navigate to Business X via Transit". Like why oh why can't they make Maps assume that if a business has multiple locations, I want the one that's in my city and closest to me by default? Otherwise I would search for "Business X, City Y".

I will admit that Apple's place directory HAS gotten noticeably better in the past 6 months where I live, and it even now offers to translate English into kanji when searching (it didn't do this last time I checked in September). That helps it find more places, because it seems to have only the kanji name of some businesses, even though most go by the kanji and English (or katakana) name equally in real life.

Also, Apple Maps can't save locations or create lists of places (I have lots of these in Google Maps, like "Coffee Shops", "Great Restaurants" etc). For me, this is significant. If all I have is a blank map staring at me, instead of one populated by my favorite places, then it's FAR less useful.

The ONE area where Apple Maps has Google Maps beat by a slim margin is Transit Maps in my city. Apple Maps is clearer overall and tends to show more station entrance/exit numbers (Google often leaves them unlabeled). But they BOTH suck compared to the alternative 3rd party transit-only app, which will tell me which TRAIN CAR and DOOR to get on, which STAIRS to go up, and which EXIT to take that will get me closest to my destination in the most efficient manner. "Enter Station X at Entrance 14, go to Platform 2, enter Car 5, Door 3. At the third stop, exit Door 3, turn left, proceed up the stairs. At top of stairs, turn right and follow signs to Exit 7A." — it's amazing.

Apple and Google just say "Get on at this metro stop, get off at other metro stop", though Apple will frequently at least tell me which station entrance to take so that I go underground the soonest which is nice in inclement weather (though after that, there's no info like "at the bottom of the stairs, turn right and proceed to Platform 1" etc). At the end of the trip, there is ZERO information about how to navigate underground so that I pop up at street level nearest to my destination. So in Apple Maps, I have to manually make a mental note by looking on the destination map to see which exit is closest, and navigate there on my own while underground. With Google this is often impossible because the exits are unlabeled. When the station has many, many exits, which could take me far from my destination, this can be a significant problem.

In my mind, there's no reason for Apple OR Google to have such terrible transit directions in what is one of the top-25 biggest metro areas in the world with some of the most pervasive transit options anywhere.

Plus a huge amount of the population bikes here and there are no bike directions in Apple Maps or Google Maps. It's not really needed in the city core, but if I wanted to bike to somewhere on the outskirts or to another nearby city, I have no idea which route is the most bike-friendly, if there's a separate bike path, which route is the easiest (least incline), fastest, etc.

How can these companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars not invest enough to get transit directions absolutely perfect, yet a local (Japanese) map company can do it just fine? Hell, even YAHOO Maps Japan (I know, WTF?) transit directions are better than Apple or Google.

Interesting to see Google try and take advantage of Googles Maps prevalence even on iPhones and try and turn into a platform.
Wonder if messaging and music services via a maps app could be in breach of some Apple rules.

Interesting times...

Cheers Ben G - fascinating info re Apple Maps in Japan - similar issues in UK and Ireland at times.

Although I did use Apple maps for work since it launched in UK for driving to assignments and can't recall it failing me if I had an address / postcode
For business names and POI etc I did usually revert to Google Maps - which I do again now for postcodes in Ireland which Apple Maps do not recognise :/

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