Monday, September 18, 2023

Maps in 2023

Justin O’Beirne (Hacker News):

For the past three years, Google’s cartography has largely remained in this difficult-to-scan state—that is, until now. That’s because as of late August 2023, Google appears to be testing a new Apple Maps-inspired map style.

Unfortunately, Google’s new, in-testing map style is even worse than its old one. Here in Chicago, for instance, notice how much harder it is to read and scan the map.

I have always found Google Maps easier to read than Apple Maps. I prefer the coloring and how it chooses which roads and details to show when. Apple Maps overemphasizes showing businesses, and it typically picks a few irrelevant ones to highlight while hiding all the others. The differences are most pronounced in CarPlay navigation, where Apple Maps shows large signpost-style street labels rather than drawing them on—and oriented to—the actual roads. Apple Maps also covers large portions of the map with status information. Unfortunately, Google’s map style has been gradually moving in the direction of Apple’s design, and these changes continue that trend.

In many ways, I think Apple Maps works better as an app, though. And I like how it can show an imminent turn on my car’s dash board and on my Apple Watch. Despite this, I prefer Google Maps because of the way it displays the maps and because overall Google still seems to have more accurate place information. That said, I am now in the habit of checking both maps sometimes because I recently had a disastrous experience where Google Maps routed me on a road that didn’t exist, which I didn’t find out until I was there and out of cellular range. When I got home, I checked what Google’s second-choice route would have been, and it recommended another road that didn’t exist. Apple Maps had the correct information in this case.

Michael Grothaus (via Hacker News):

Google Maps still holds around 80% of the mobile market. But in recent years, I’ve found myself getting increasingly frustrated with the Google Maps experience, especially when it comes to general navigation and exploration of a map area.

Here are the five main reasons Google Maps has become a cluttered, frustrating mess—and why I find myself turning to Apple Maps more often.

Joe Rosensteel:

On the most recent episode of Accidental Tech Podcast, Marco Arment described a recent ordeal with a moving truck. He recounted his list of grievances from using a rented box truck in New York, and mentioned the issue of roads that trucks aren’t allowed on, or won’t fit on. New York parkways (park on the drive way, yeah, yeah we all know the joke) apparently don’t allow trucks. The major mapping applications he mentions - Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze - don’t have a feature to avoid roadways that don’t allow trucks, as they do for avoiding tolls.


If you were in that same 105 E HOV 2+ lane, with two passengers, and no transponder, heading from LAX to Downtown LA you would need to exit the HOV lane and merge on to the 110 N at the right. If you stayed in that HOV 2+ left lane because you didn’t understand the signage, you would be dumped into the FasTrak lane that requires a transponder.

I’ll leave it at just those examples, because you get the idea. These paricular lanes have been like this for over a decade. Other lanes like this exist elsewhere, and more are being completed right this very minute.

Apple and Google are totally clueless about these lanes, which is bizarre when you can see them represented in maps, satellite views, Street View — everything.


3 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Google should start by making it easy again to report errors in its maps.

Instead of making it such a bad UX that as soon as you think about reporting a misspelled street, you remember how crappy the UX to report issue is and you don't report anything.

Other than bad business data (which seems very prevalent near me, often with shop numbers being used as street numbers and placing the business miles from the shopping center), one thing that frequently annoys me in Apple Maps is it not putting names on roads, sometimes even when I'm so zoomed in the road is the only thing visible on the screen. I've got a lovely screenshot of Apple Maps on my iPhone showing a single short road joining two others (in the shape of an I-beam), and there is not a single road name on the screen.

Undoubtedly google maps are best. Recently travelled to china where google maps literally su*s. Apple maps on the other hand had all the public transport and gps was correct (google maps not correctly aligned). My other choice was baidu maps but this was only in chinese with no English support. I was surprised that Apple Maps wasn’t as bad if you are forced to use it.

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