Apple plots Maps counter-attack as the Android war intensifies

“It’s fair to say Maps got off to a difficult start, but Apple is prioritizing improvements, with the company and its data partners working to ensure it eventually becomes better than Google Maps — why else will a future upgrade to the latter feature map tiles that seem so similar to those used by Apple?” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld.

“Apple’s focus on Maps improvements has been clear, starting with sackings at the top and a promise from company CEO, Tim Cook. More recently it is known the company has been recruiting staff worldwide to improve the accuracy of its mapping data, and this drive for improvement is also becoming visible elsewhere,” Evans writes. “MapBox this week introduced a new map editor for the OpenStreetMap project. iD users can now easily contribute data to OpenStreetMaps from within the browser, which should hopefully improve data quality — that’s good news for Apple Maps, as the firm uses OpenStreetMaps as one of its data sources. (Google Maps also draws data from the service).”

Evans writes, “Apple also uses data provided by TomTom. That company has also quietly been improving its offering, including the recent provision of new navigation engine, NavKit, which can be ported to any operating system and also provides 3D maps… Steve Jobs did promise to go “thermonuclear”, after all. I suspect Apple is now about to raise its game.”

Read more in the full article here.

33 Comments

  1. In terms of readability, fonts, text size, and general layout, I prefer Apple Maps. And Apple Maps blows Google Maps away in turn by turn navigation in terms of how directions are displayed on screen. I’m talking about a side by side comparison between an iPhone bearing Apple Maps and an Android device running Google Maps, and even in that scenario, Apple Maps beats Google Maps hands down in turn by turn navigation and the clarity with which directions are displayed and the arrow pointing the direction of travel. And I have to admit, Siri helps out mightily in this case.

    I find Google Maps too cluttered with a huge big honking search bar obscuring 20% of screen space. Apple Maps makes finding POI (points of interest) easier and the Yelp listing helps.

    But Apple Maps still lacks transit maps and suffers by comparison to Google Maps by having a smaller number of POIs. Some POIs and waypoints shown on Google Maps isn’t shown on Apple Maps which looks sparse by comparison.

    But overall, I’d still use Apple Maps over Google Maps, if only because Apple made using maps an intuitive experience whereas Google’s emphasis is on selling advertising space and POI listings. I don’t miss Street View as much as I thought I would.

    1. Excellent post BLN, I totally agree. I recently travelled extensively through Thailand and Laos and Maps did way better than G-Maps which my bro-inlaw used on his Samsung. The Samsung G-Maps would have gotten us way off if we’d followed its route.
      Maps was faster, easier to use and more accurate.

  2. People who don’t use Apple’s Maps have heard such a lot of negativity that when they try it for themselves, they really can’t believe what all the fuss was about.

    Apple Maps on my iPhone is more reliable than my dedicated GPS and does a much better job of warning about traffic congestion.

      1. Why not just get an AC charger for your iPhone?

        I also plug in an audio cable to route turn-by-turn voice through the car audio system while simultaneously streaming internet radio. Siri gently cuts in and out of the audio stream to give directions. Very cool.

        1. Did you mean that Siri ducks out the audio stream volume and talks over it? That’s been my experience. That’s fine for music, horrible for audio books. TomTom fixed this with an option specific to audio books in version ?1.5?

          1. Agreed. I hate running turn-by-turn when I’m listening to a book. Would be a huge improvement if Maps paused the books when it wanted to pipe in with instructions.

  3. I don’t just use Apple Maps, I enjoy using it. I’ve yet to have any problems with it. I take that back. The only time I’ve had problems is when I assume its wrong and second guess it. For me it’s always been correct. Then again I live in Los Angeles and not the Kalahari Desert.

  4. My main issue with Apple maps is the level of labelling it has. In the UK at least you have to zoom right in before it starts to display enough labels to be of use, but by then your basically so close that there is no context.

  5. Why is there no Apple maps for Mac OS? Seems strange to me that Zillow and other folks use Apple maps even on their Saffari version, but Apple itself only on iOS devices. How come if Apple thinks Apple Maps is such a winner? I would like to see it available to PCs and Macs. Anybody know what the problem is?

  6. Try this: search for Wynn Las Vegas as I did recently with Apple Maps. The result blew me away, and you will be too. Turn-by-turn navigation works flawlessly. Quietly, without fanfare, Apple is transforming Maps. Now, if only the pundits would get a clue.

  7. I really like the clean interface of Apple Maps. Sometimes however, some significant points of interest are missing. Unfortunately, I have begrudgingly resorted to using either Google Maps or AT&T’s Navigator on my iPhone. Usually, it’s because I enter a legitimate address here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the map takes me in the wrong direction. Admittedly, this does NOT happen often. But when I have to get to a critical meeting, I do experience a bit of trepidation about using it for fear of being late.

    There is no pattern. It is very much a random occurrence. But some occurrences can lead to erosion of confidence in an otherwise fine product. One example is that I entered a specific address in Antioch, California. I even selected the city and state. I didn’t use Siri to make the request. For some odd reason, Apple Maps ignored the specificity of my directions and promptly plotted a course a few states away. Yet on other occasions, I enter addresses in Antioch, and it works perfectly fine.

  8. Apple has definitely improved the Maps app. The street locations and the turn-by-turn directions work fine for me, and the 3D flyover is a great feature (where it’s available).

    For me, the biggest problem with Apple Maps remains its the frequently inaccurate and incomplete business information. Just in my neighborhood, Apple Maps shows four shuttered/relocated businesses, and numerous markers in the wrong locations (either in the middle of a street or at least half a block away from where the actual business is located).

    I’ve reported several of these inaccuracies to Apple, and to date, NONE of them have been corrected. Maybe the issue is with Yelp (which one of Apple’s business info suppliers), since I reported the some of the same corrections to them and nothing has been corrected at their end either. But, regardless of who’s at fault, the Apple Maps app remains far short of where it needs to be.

    Yes, Google Maps has its share of inaccuracies and outdated information as well. But, just comparing it with Apple Maps in my neighborhood and others I’m familiar with, the business info in Google Maps is more accurate and up-to-date. And as great as the 3D flyovers are, I still end up using the Google Street View more often (for one thing, the 3D flyover does not have nearly as much coverage).

  9. Until multiple destination routes are allowed, with robust journey planning tools, Maps will be a short distance curiosity of limited usefulness. Microsoft Streets & Trips had those features 10 years ago. Too bad MS sees their software as tools to bind people to Windows, rather than potential products that stand well in their own right.

  10. Suggestions for improvement,
    1. Make the traffic lines easier to see. (I’m sure that’s in the next big IOS update)
    2. When searching for something generic (but common) like “Fast Food” I would like it to show me ALL the fast food places close by where I am, not just 30% to 50% of them.
    3. See #1.

  11. Long time apple fan here.

    Here in Australia Apple maps was shit when released, shit now, shit in the future. The map data is pathetic! 90% of towns located incorrectly!! How this was/is ever released is appalling.

    1. Since you can foretell the future with respect to Apple, could you tell me what the share price will be Aug. 21 when I have to pay my son’s college fall tuition?

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