Earlier this year Google Maps changed the terms of its API and in the process jacked up its prices, leaving web developers to consider other alternatives. These include (among others) OpenStreetMap, which posted a switching guide in June; Apple, which announced its API for websites that same month; and Here Maps, which (a) is still around1 and (b) has announced a freemium plan with reasonably generous transaction limits. As Engadget points out, Google’s trying to profit off its market dominance; its competitors, seeing an opening, are making their move. [Engadget]
TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino reported last week on major changes coming to Apple Maps in iOS 12. The underlying data, which has come in for criticism since the service launched, is being redone. Rather than relying on “a patchwork of data partners,” Apple is growing its own map data.
It’s doing this by using first-party data gathered by iPhones with a privacy-first methodology and its own fleet of cars packed with sensors and cameras. The new product will launch in San Francisco and the Bay Area with the next iOS 12 beta and will cover Northern California by fall.
Every version of iOS will get the updated maps eventually, and they will be more responsive to changes in roadways and construction, more visually rich depending on the specific context they’re viewed in and feature more detailed ground cover, foliage, pools, pedestrian pathways and more.
This is nothing less than a full re-set of Maps and it’s been four years in the making, which is when Apple began to develop its new data-gathering systems. Eventually, Apple will no longer rely on third-party data to provide the basis for its maps, which has been one of its major pitfalls from the beginning.
Well worth a read if you’re interested in mobile maps: Panzarino’s article digs down into how Apple will collect and process its mapping data. how it plans to dramatically speed up changes and updates to the map, and how (it says) it’s taking privacy seriously at every step of the process.
Video and presentation slides from Apple’s “Introduction to MapKit JS” session at WWDC yesterday afternoon. MapKit JS is, as I mentioned Tuesday, a method for developers to embed Apple’s maps on their websites. Apple is pitching it as a way for developers who use Apple Maps in their iOS apps to use the same maps on their websites: continuity of look and feel and all that.
MapKit has been around for a few years as an API to allow iOS developers to embed Apple’s maps into their apps. What seems to be new this year is MapKit JS, which enables developers to do with Apple Maps that they’ve been able to do for years with Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, MapBox and even the Ordnance Survey: embed the maps on their websites. Keir Clarke runs through the services and limitations of the API: notably, it requires an Apple Developer account ($99/year) to use. It’s still in beta, so everything is subject to change; in the meantime, Vasile Coțovanu has whipped up a demo. [Maps Mania]
As of iOS 12, coming later this year, CarPlay will support third-party map applications like Google Maps and Waze, Apple announced during its WWDC keynote earlier today: AppleInsider, Engadget, The Verge. Up until now the only maps available via CarPlay were Apple’s own; drivers who would rather use something else—and I know lots of them are out there—will soon have that option.
Artur Grabowski spent most of 2017 testing three mapping apps—Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze—to see which app was the most accurate in terms of travel time to destination. His questions: which app estimated the shortest travel times, which app actually got him to his destination in the least amount of time, and how much did each app over- or underestimate travel times? In the end, based on 120 trips in the Bay Area, roughly 40 using each service, Artur found that Apple’s estimates were the most reliable (indeed, Apple underpromised and overdelivered), but while Waze promised the shortest travel times, those promises were usually overly optimistic; it was Google Maps that provided the shortest travel times.
Why does Apple underpromise and overdeliver, while Waze does the opposite? Artur suspects it’s because Waze needs to monetize its app with ads, and Apple doesn’t:
For Apple, Maps is a basic solution for its average user who wants a maps solution out of the box. Apple Maps does not directly drive ad or subscription revenue for Apple so there is less reason for Apple to incentivize iOS users to use Apple Maps over other solutions. However, Apple does care about user experience, and sandbagging trip time estimates so that users arrive at their destination on time results in a great user experience. Hence, I believe that Apple is intentionally conservative with estimated arrival times.
At the other extreme, Waze (Alphabet) makes money through ads when you use their app. What better way to get people to use your navigation app than by over-promising short trip times when no one takes the time to record data and realize that you under-deliver? If an unsuspecting user opens Apple Maps and sees a 34-minute route and compares that to 30 minutes in Waze, the deed is done. Now Waze has a life-long customer who doesn’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked and Waze can throw at them stupidly annoying ads.
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[.]
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.
“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]
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.)
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]
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.
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.