Apple iOS6 Maps

I don’t own an Apple product, but before someone tells me that I should go get an iPhone before sharing my opinion: I’ve had a friend’s iPhone for about a week. We upgraded the phone to iOS6 last evening.

I don’t really care much about any features, nor am I going to yap on about how Android is better. The only thing as a hobbyist cartographer and someone developing with mapping APIs; I wanted to see what the fuss about Apple Maps was.

I’m also not gonna share a million pictures (check this Tumblr blog fora collection of pics), but shame I’m disappointed. The 2 saddest things about Apple’s fail are these:

1. Apple don’t seem like they tested the Maps app, nor the data they were getting from Yelp  TomTom et. al. It really feels like the whole app was rushed through overnight.

2. I find it sad that Apple fans are defending them, with things like
– “I don’t use maps anyways”
– “Who uses Street View?”
– “It’s only version .1, it’ll only get better”

Let ‘s be real. Apple spent a lot in buying companies to ditch Google. Yes Google ‘did not want to’ license real-time navigation to Apple. This is because Google itself has some restrictions from the reputable third-parties that provide it with data. Hence real-time navigation is prohibited in their Google Maps API.
To me it really feels like Apple threw some of that money in the drain as it’s hard to change everything overnight.

Let’s also be clear about the supposedly ‘crap’ Google Maps app in iOS5.1.1 and below. Google licensed its data to Apple, and Apple used it to develop the Youtube App and Google Maps. It is not really Google’s fault that Youtube and Maps were as terrible as people say. The Google+ app for iOS came out, and is very good, showing that Google know their stuff.

So let’s see Apple Maps’ fails

Most of the data in the maps is from Yelp.com. So Apple technically has no control in moving places to the right spot on the map (unless they pay people to sift through a million or so incorrect places).
In looking at traffic data this morning, I failed to see the value that Waze has really added. There was way less traffic info than that which Waze has. Granted, it might still be early days, so I’ll rethink my opinion after a while.

The main problem, from what I see, is that as a company selling something so expensive and influential shouldn’t just rely on crowd-sourced data without extensive validation. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the data is expected to be inaccurate more than often.

When I check in on FourSquare, I want a venue to say that I’ve been to. Unless I’m the owner of that venue, I won’t care much if its coordinates are accurate, as long as I can bloody check in. The same thing goes for Yelp. I presume they’re in the business of providing reviews about places, not of making sure that every single listing on the planet is accurate to say 5 meters.

This plethora of semi-accurate data can’t be fixed overnight as Yelp and friends would likely rely on users to correct it. Further, unless Apple pulls data in real-time (unlikely) the data might take some time to be updated. Apple is at the top of the Fortune 400 list, and users should not be as sympathetic as they are. If I want to have fun fixing/adding mapping data I’d rather go do it at OpenStreetMaps or even draw my home suburb in Waze.I don’t know why Apple didn’t just stick with OSM as their data is way better, and Apple would have scored positive PR by helping a superb initiative.

Google has spent a lot of time and money getting maps to where they are. Their data mining efforts have also given them a strong advantage. It was tough to go global, and one must note that Google still relies on a lot of established mapping and other data providers (AfriGIS and (I can’t remember the other company 🙁 ) in South Africa) for things like name changes.

You can’t rely on a reviews site for accurate location data. The Yelp effort was an attempt to satisfy global customers’ instant gratification needs, but is thus far a fail for both Apple and Yelp as both are losing credibility. Google for example, bought Zagat for review purposes, not for location discovery purposes. My opinion is again that none of the Apple execs gave thought to their decisions.

In a war where data is such a commodity, one has to make knowledgeable decisions that illustrate that they can distinguish between which data is useful where, and which is not.
There are companies like WayTag which are ambitious start-ups with cool technologies, and more accurate data. Apple should have approached the like instead of going for *global providers* who lack a lot.

Google does not have public transit in SA, but for countries where they do, Apple has again left a huge gap. The Apple fans (mainly the shameless Americano tach-sites) have praised the lack of an essential as empowering local app developers. Apple doesn’t care about them, look at panorama and their dictatorship in which apps make the store!

The likes of MG from TechCrunch are of the opinion that more people will start using the advertised public transit apps. The problem with this theory is that while some apps are good, transit companies would rather invest in improving infrastructure instead of making fancy apps.That’s why there is the Google Transit Feed System spec, which reduces the load on transit companies by allowing them to only spend money creating methods of pushing their transit data into these feeds, with Google and anyone else pulling the data and providing transit.

I did not intend on writing a thesis, but I just wanted to put my opinion out there on iOS6 maps, and to highlight why I think they’ll remain terrible for the next months or even years.

 

Google Maps Traffic vs Waze

I took a few minutes off studying this morning to find Moneyweb covering an interesting story. Google has enabled live traffic data in SA and a few other countries! Victory for users and local developers (as the overlay is available through the JavaScript API). Honestly I was sad at first, as I was looking at a way of providing such information on Google Maps (quite ambitious, but my early retirement plan is gone now). After a few more minutes of searching I discovered that Google Map Maker has also been activated in South Africa.

The latter is important because we can start adding walkways, and coincidentally my project relied on walkways, meaning that I don’t need to look at alternative mapping solutions yet. I added two walkways, and I’ll see how long approval takes.

Anyways, instead of covering the Google success, I decided to leave at a relatively busy time of the evening today, so I could compare Google Navigation with Waze Navigation. Particularly the level of detail and accuracy of each service. Of course Waze has the advantage of users sharing info on incidents, but disregarding that advantage; I had an interesting time comparing each. Even took some screenshots thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich (I didn’t record any screenclips as I am normally loud on the road [expressing anger to some of the stuff that happens in the news, while listening to 702]. Continue reading “Google Maps Traffic vs Waze”