Pointing to Google Maps and Apple Maps, with their extensive street-level and flyover imagery, James Killick believes that maps for the consumer are moving away from symbolic representation and toward creating digital models of the real world that, he says, are not maps. “It’s all part of a trend, a downward trend in my opinion, that will result demise of consumer maps. Contrary to Beck’s approach to distill reality into its essential essence we’re moving in the opposite direction. [¶] We are instead on a path to the dreaded metaverse, a virtual world where we should all be thankful and glad to wander around as legless avatars with the aspirational goal of reaching social media nirvana. I don’t know about you, but, ugh.” [Lat × Long]
Google Maps sends people looking for abortion providers to so-called crisis pregnancy centres, which discourage the procedure, Bloomberg reports.
Also in Bloomberg, Mark Gurman discusses Apple’s plans to expand its advertising business, which apparently includes adding ads to Apple Maps.
Apple’s cycling maps now include Hawaii, and its detailed 3D cities now include Atlanta, Miami and Seattle. They’re also testing their upgraded maps in Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
Google Maps updates outlined in a blog post last month include cycling route information, location sharing, and photorealistic aerial views of major landmarks.
Instagram announced a searchable map feature last month, expanding its map feature beyond geolocating posts. This, after a Google VP noted that young users are using apps and TikTok for discovery purposes rather than Google’s Search or Maps. You wouldn’t think that Instagram and TikTok qualify as map apps, but the street finds its uses.
Apple Maps in iOS 16 will gain multi-stop routing, which I thought was a long-established feature on other platforms, as well as transit fare/card/pass integration. Apple’s new maps will also expand to more countries, and its detailed city maps will expand to more cities in the U.S., Australia and Canada. 9to5Mac has a summary.
Russian search engine Yandex is sidestepping the Russian invasion of Ukraine, frozen conflicts and other contested national borders by simply removing national borders from its map. It’s being spun as a pivot to local navigation. (Sure.)
The notion expressed in Monday’s xkcd, particularly in the alt-text—
OpenStreetMap was always pretty good but is also now really good? And Apple Maps’s new zoomed-in design in certain cities like NYC and London is just gorgeous. It’s cool how there are all these good maps now!
—is unexpectedly more on point than not.
In 2013 I wrote a screed saying that all online maps sucked: that no one map platform had a monopoly on errors. At the time Exhibit A for the suckiness of online maps was Apple Maps; since then, and particularly since 2018, Apple has been putting in the work. Not that they’re done, but still: the product is fundamentally better now than it was then. And it’s not like the other platforms have been idle in the meantime. No one platform is going to achieve Cartography’s ideal of the universal and accurate Map—that’s inherently unachievable—but better? I’ll take better.
Justin O’Beirne notes that Apple’s new maps—which, remember, were first announced in 2018, so: for certain values of new—have arrived in Germany and Singapore. Also, he observes that Apple is adding cycling directions in roughly the same order the new maps rolled out in the United States: they were added to the Midwest in mid-April, and northeastern states at the beginning of the month.
Apple Maps’s detailed three-dimensional city maps, which launched in a limited number of cities with the release of iOS 15, have now come to three Canadian cities: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Among other things, the maps add enhanced navigation and transit directions; Montreal also gets cycling directions. [The Verge]
Content warning: Some of these links contain disturbing images: I’ve marked them with a †.
More on the question of whether theatre maps accurately reflect the ground situation. Nathan Ruser’s maps have been used to argue that Russian forces are controlling roads rather than territory, but Ruser complains that his maps are being misinterpreted: they were never meant to show territorial control, just troop movements. See also this Twitter thread from Jennifer Cafarella, in which she explains the methodology and reasoning behind her team’s maps.
Where hot spots are literally hot spots. In a Twitter thread, Sotris Valkaniotis shows how military operations in Ukraine show up in Landsat spectral imagery: weapons fire turns up as hot spots showing “very high temperature in short-wave infrared band.”
A map of checkpoint traffic. More than two million Ukrainians have fled the Russian invasion. Overwhelmingly, they’re fleeing westward. This map shows how busy each border checkpoint is: Polish border crossings are extremely congested. [Kyiv Independent]
Meanwhile, Kenneth Field has been working on ways to map Ukraine’s refugees. Here’s his most recent iteration:
Update to my illustrative #Ukraine refugee map.
Adds more displaced grey dots to major populated areas.
— Kenneth Field (@kennethfield) March 8, 2022
Ukraine’s population density. More than 41 million people live in Ukraine. This map from Airwars shows the population density per square kilometre. Which shows how many people in an area are affected by a particular military strike.
Apple says Crimea is Ukrainian. Mashable: “Apple’s Maps and Weather apps now mark Crimea as part of Ukraine when accessed outside of Russia. It appears the company has quietly updated its stance on the territorial dispute.” Apple had marked Crimea as Russian in 2019, which pissed Ukraine off at the time. [TechCrunch]
Finally, this striking bit of art:
By Ukrainian tattoo artist Eugene Anatsky pic.twitter.com/qVybeGYAuE
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) March 5, 2022
AppleInsider looks at how online maps (Apple Maps, Google Maps), especially their traffic layer, inadvertently revealed Russian troop movements at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The sheer volume of mapping data now available at our fingertips means it was possible for civilians half a world away to see when Russian forces began moving. Specifically, that data pinpointed a traffic jam starting on the Russian side of the border, actively moving into Ukraine in the first few minutes of the Russian and Ukraine conflict.
Just as with any cartography, this information required interpreting. Google Maps did not specifically say that it was troop movements, nor was its satellite imagery up to the minute. During the process of researching this story, we’ve confirmed that Apple Maps presented similar inbound troop movement information—but it wasn’t setting out to do that either.
What these services did, though, was register all of the smartphone users whose driving was slowed or halted by unusual traffic conditions. Wherever the majority of the data came from, it was possible to determine what was happening when coupled with known details of Russian troop locations.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reports that “iPhone and Apple Watch users in China can no longer see their geographic coordinates and elevation on the Compass app, according to Chinese media reports and user comments. However, information including bearings and general location are still available.”
And according to a report in The Information (paywall) that was summarized by John Gruber, back in 2014 or 2015 the Chinese State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping required Apple Maps to make the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands appear large even when zoomed out, and made the Apple Watch’s Chinese release contingent on that request—to which Apple acquiesced.
MacRumors takes a look at the changes to Apple Maps in iOS 15. “Apple has made so many improvements to the Maps app in iOS 15 that it’s almost an entirely different experience. There are better driving directions, improved transit directions, and more immersive AR-based walking directions.” That’s maybe a bit over the top, in the fashion of the Apple-focused tech press, but at any rate there are a bunch of screenshots.
Previously: Apple Maps Updates Announced at WWDC.
Upgrades to Apple Maps were announced on Monday at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference: see coverage from AppleInsider, Engadget and TechCrunch, as well as the video of the keynote itself (the Maps section starts at 29:47).
The changes will be coming to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey this fall. They include highly detailed city maps (for only a few cities at launch); a three-dimensional map for navigation that indicates, among other things, complex intersections; improved transit features such as bus route integration and next stop notifications; precise walking directions based on a scan of nearby buildings; and an interactive globe when zoomed out. (Note that not all of these features will be available on Intel Macs, which lack the Neural Engine in Apple’s own chips, nor on older iPhones or iPads with an A11 or earlier chip.)
The Weather app will also be getting temperature, precipitation and air quality maps (see TechCrunch coverage). And Italy and Australia were announced as the next countries to get Apple’s upgraded map layer.
Update 11 Jun: MacRumors has a roundup.
Google Maps-related announcements at Google’s I/O 2021 keynote today include routing improvements to reduce hard braking, enhancements to Live View, expanding Google’s new detailed maps to 50 cities, identifying crowded areas, and tailoring map data to time of day and whether you’re travelling. This post takes a deeper dive on two of those upgrades. Coverage from the usual suspects: Engadget, The Verge.
Justin O’Beirne reports that the next expansion of Apple’s new maps will cover Spain and Portugal, making them the first non-English-speaking countries to receive the upgrade. The new maps are currently in testing; a small number of users may already be able to see them.
Previously: Apple Maps Updates Canada.
Last week Google announced “over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps” would be coming this year; these include bringing Live View indoors, a new air quality map layer, eco-friendly routing, and support for curbside pickup in business listings.