In Defense / Defence of Apple’s Maps

Posted on September 24, 2012

Much has been written about how back Apple’s new mapping solution is, but before we pour hot oil on it and go running back to Google, let’s sit back a bit and see whether it might not actually be better.

After having spent a few days using Apple maps, there is a lot I’ve found to like about it. For one, it gives me a lot of more pertinent information. There’s a funny thing about a town such as Brossard on Montréal’s South Shore. All of the different streets are bundled into sectors. Someone may say:

I live in Sector R

and you think:

where on Earth is that?

Apple’s maps can come to your aid. The sectors are displayed on the map so you can visualize them geographically and then zoom into the right area. I call that a great help.

Google’s maps on the other hand, do not have this data.

Then I also ran a test to see when Apple would stumble where Google has so often done, in locating a networking event I’ve been to often. Google consistently put it out by a few kilometers. Apple got it right:

Google, to be fair, has also corrected its errors:

But just take a look at these different maps. I do find the Apple map much clearer at locating geographically the overall trip that you’ll be doing. I wonder whether the car-bound developers in Cupertino created a maps system more focused on allowing them to drive from A-B.

Over the weekend I also tried out the driving directions on my iPhone 4S. I found them to be very good, with a slight exception of a wrongly placed address (Google has been know to do this too). The identification of upcoming streets and visualization of the roads was better than on my Garmin unit.

However, there is still a lot to do. I have trouble with all GPS units in actually feeling how far way a turn is. It always seems closer than the stated number of kilometers.

Should I use Apple Maps Today on my iOS device?

So, Apple maps have been shown to not be perfect, but they are still very, very good and can only be expected to improve. Their reliability is probably in the ballpark of 90% versus Google’s 95% (I made up those percentages, but they’re probably not too far off says my gut).

The new features, geographic indicators and layout make it for a very engaging experience. Not to forget too about the extra turn-by-turn features that Google’s web-based maps don’t offer. I’d certainly recommend using Apple’s maps, it’s also much more convenient than having to use Google in a web-browser.

Why losing Transit Information is a good thing

Let’s face it, and let’s be honest about this. Having public transit information in the maps application was awesome because:
* It was the first time transit information was readily available on a mobile device
* Google did a great job at getting transit suppliers to open their data up
* The maps app could combine information from many suppliers

However, as a user of this data through the maps application, there were so many problems and use-cases were so poorly supported. Here are some of the issues:
* Preferred routes were not stored.
* It was difficult to look at different departure times to plan the optimum or see available services.
* There was little information about the services themselves.
* On a new route, you didn’t know when to get off.

I think that developers who are also heavy users of transit will be able to provide much better applications than Cupertino’s car-bound developers can. This will lead to solutions that can meet the needs of transit users much better than the maps application ever did; such as the Transit App. Indeed, Apple has even made discovery simple.

Taken from: The Transit App

Google also needs its share of praise here. It did a lot to get transit agencies to open up their schedule information in a standardized way that makes it possible to combine different services in the same application.

I’m looking forward to seeing some really awesome applications!