A Year’s Worth of Changes in Google and Apple Maps

Justin O’Beirne is back with a look at how both Google and Apple Maps have changed incrementally over the past year.

Shortly after I published my Cartography Comparison last June, I noticed Google updating some of the areas we had focused on[.]

Coincidence or not, it was interesting. And it made me wonder what else would change, if we kept watching. Would Google keep adding detail? And would Apple, like Google, also start making changes?

So I wrote a script that takes monthly screenshots of Google and Apple Maps. And thirteen months later, we now have a year’s worth of images […]

It’s cool to see how much Google Maps has changed over the past year. But it’s also surprising to see how little Apple Maps has changed[.]

Previously: What Happened to Google Maps?; The Universal Map; Comparing Google and Apple Map Styles.

Maps in iOS 10

I’ve just upgraded my iPhone and iPad to iOS 10, but haven’t had a chance to mess with the new version of Apple Maps; iMore and Macworld set out the changes, including integrated services and apps, predictive intelligence, and improvements in driving directions and search, among other things. Also, you can set it to remember where you parked, which isn’t new in and of itself, but is for iOS.

How the Apple Maps Debacle Changed Apple’s Culture

“We made significant changes to all of our development processes because of it,” says Cue, who now oversees Maps. “To all of us living in Cupertino, the maps for here were pretty darn good. Right? So [the problem] wasn’t obvious to us. We were never able to take it out to a large number of users to get that feedback. Now we do.”

Apple senior vice president Eddie Cue, quoted in this Fast Company profile of Apple, on how the Apple Maps debacle changed Apple’s famously insular culture, opening things up to the point that they now have a public beta program. [James Fee]

A Preview of Maps in iOS 10

iLounge’s Jesse Hollington looks at the changes coming to Maps in iOS 10, the next release of Apple’s operating system for the iPhone and iPad. “Functionally, it doesn’t quite incorporate the kind of sweeping changes we’ve seen in prior years, but instead focuses on redesigning the user experience and adding a few useful iterative features.” (Thanks to James Fee for the link.)

Comparing Google and Apple Map Styles

Justin O’Beirne, who has previously mused about the possibility of a Universal Map and looked at how Google Maps has changed over the past few years, has now embarked on a multi-part comparison of the cartographic designs of Google Maps and Apple Maps. “We’ll take a look at what’s on each map and how each map is styled, and we’ll also try to uncover the biggest differences between the two.” The first part is already up: it looks at city labels, highway markers, road labels, and points of interest, and reveals some interesting divergences in terms what each platform chooses to put on the map. (Note that it’s a very big page, and even on a fast connection the images may take some time to load.) [Cartophilia]

Online Map Updates

Yesterday’s updates to Apple Maps include four new Flyover cities, traffic data for Hong Kong and Mexico, public transit data for Los Angeles, and Nearby search for the Netherlands.

Google Earth Blog reports on the mid-January imagery update for Google Earth.

Google Earth Blog also reports that version 1.0 of ArcGIS Earth is now available. Announced last June and previously available as a series of public betas, ArcGIS Earth appears to be aimed at filling the gap left by Google when Google Earth Enterprise was discontinued last year.

Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, is now in Street View.

Sending Driving Directions to Your Phone

Time’s John Patrick Pullen compares how easy or difficult it is to send driving directions to your phone using maps from Apple, Google and Microsoft before coming up with a surprise winner: “I pulled up MapQuest for a punchline on this story, but the joke’s on all of us. MapQuest is, by far, the easiest way to get maps from your desktop to your phone.” I really ought to try this out myself and see if I agree with him.

Apple-Google Maps Kremlinology

Details continue to emerge, as details tend to do, about how and why Apple replaced Google with its own maps in iOS 6. John Paczkowski reports that the Apple-Google maps arrangement faltered over voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, which Google Maps has had on Android for years but Apple couldn’t get from Google. John Gruber looks at the timeline of Apple’s contract with Google here and here, and has some ideas why Apple would give the boot to Google with time still on the clock.

Pogue calls Apple’s Maps app “an appalling first release. It may be the most embarrassing, least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed.” (I guess he never tried version 1.0 of the Podcasts app on older hardware.) In passing, however, he also mentions that Street View is coming to the mobile website in a couple of weeks. Street View is a big part of my own Google Maps usage; if it is for you as well, you’ll welcome that news. (The desktop web version requires Flash, so has not been available to mobile devices.)

The competition has been having fun at Apple’s expense, except that Motorola’s ad gave iOS a nonexistent address to get lost with.

Previously: Early Reviews of iOS 6 Maps; Reactions to Apple’s Maps; iOS Maps: More Reactions and Analysis; iOS 6 Maps: First Impressions and More Links; Apple, Google and China: iOS Maps.

Update: Apple CEO Tim Cook’s statement.

Apple, Google and China: iOS Maps

First, how to report a problem in iOS 6 maps: MacRumors, Macworld. Jamie Ryan reports that reported errors are being corrected quickly.
More information about Google Maps’s removal from iOS 6, and whether it will return with a Google-built app. Eric Schmidt said Monday that, contrary to rumours, Google hadn’t submitted an app yet, and things got muddled from there. The Verge and the New York Times’s Bits Blog reported last night that there was still a year left on Apple’s contract with Google, and that Google was caught flatfooted by the move and is scrambling to build its own map. They are building one, though. It’s just a matter of when we’ll see it.

One place where Apple’s maps are demonstrably better than Google’s is China, where Apple was able to draw upon maps from a Chinese company. The drawback is that the maps aren’t integrated with those in the rest of the world. Anthony Drendel, AppleInsider, Wall Street Journal.

TUAW argues that Apple dumped Google because it wasn’t allowed to do turn-by-turn navigation with Google Maps. Engadget’s Brad Hill believes that the switch was “shrewd, inevitable and an indicator that Apple understands the true battle it wages.” See also AppleInsider’s detailed multipage review.

iOS 6 Maps: First Impressions and More Links

I’ve been poking around with iOS 6 maps on both my fourth-generation iPod touch and on Jennifer’s third-generation iPad. My initial impression is that the app is fast and renders streets quickly, and turn-by-turn directions seem to be okay in practice. The satellite imagery comes from different sources than Google’s and in some areas is actually higher resolution than what Google offers. There’s a lot of missing data though: searching for local bank branches while we were in Ottawa this weekend, for example, was an exercise in futility.

More analysis from around the Intertubes:

The Next Web reports that Apple’s satellite imagery only shows China and Taiwan when viewed from China. TechCrunch reports that Apple is recruiting former Google Maps staff and points to weirdness that ensues when Apple Maps links are used on the desktop.

iOS Maps: More Reactions and Analysis

Regarding the pickle Apple has gotten itself into by providing its own maps in iOS 6, some context and analysis is provided by Gizmodo, the Guardian, Macworld and The Verge, all of which are worth reading. Cult of Mac suggests some workarounds. AllThingsD has a statement from Apple promising that it will get better, plus news that “the team assigned to the app is under lockdown right now working to fix it.” In general, everyone agrees that maps are hard to do and that Apple has a lot of work ahead of it. Dan Frommer is strangely optimistic, seeing in adversity an opportunity for Apple to prove itself. Meanwhile, 9to5Mac reports that Google does have an iOS map app that is awaiting approval from Apple. (Update: Dalrymple says nope, and he can be relied upon.)

Previously: Reactions to Apple’s Maps; Early Reviews of iOS 6 Maps.

Reactions to Apple’s Maps

Apple’s maps have been out for 26 hours, and they’re already getting pummelled. See coverage from AppleInsider, BBC News and MacRumors. Ian Betteridge: “iOS 6 Maps is a mess.” Max Slater-Robins: “Apple Maps is, in a word, awful.”

What’s happened here is that Google Maps usage has become so ubiquitous, so relied upon—especially on mobile—that any change will be seen as a downgrade.

There’s no question that Google Maps is the best online map product out there at the moment. There’s no question that switching from Google Maps will result in a downgraded mapping experience, no matter how hard anyone tries. But that’s not to say they’re flawless, or that their competitors can never beat them at one location or another.

I’ve been covering Google Maps since its launch in 2005. It’s come a long way since then. It’s gotten a lot better in that time, but it too has had its growing pains, especially when it switched its mapping data providers: first from Navteq to Tele Atlas, then to its own mapping solution, which at the outset was a significant downgrade—sound familiar?

Frankly, a lot of the glitches pointed out here have been found on Google Maps at some point, including the warped bridges, misplaced points of interest, and so forth. If you can’t find similar problems in every map platform, you’re not looking hard enough.

There will be glitches, and errors, and missing data in Apple’s maps for years to come. I know this will be the case because that’s what happened with Google. They started out small, and added features, and added countries, and eventually got good.

The difference this time is that there’s already a Google, with all that good stuff that Apple can’t match yet. Google didn’t have to worry about that kind of competition (MapQuest didn’t even have satellite imagery!).

Bottom line: Apple’s maps are going to suck for a while, folks. Some of you will be able to use them without much trouble; others will find them impossible, in which case you should probably look into an alternative. You could use the Google Maps website until Google gets around to releasing its own Maps app. There are also plenty of third-party map and navigation applications that make use of Bing, OpenStreetMap, or other mapping data.