Google Unveils New Maps Features

 
 
By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2012-09-21
 
 
 

iOS 6 Maps Getting Flak From Apple iPhone, iPad Users


Since Apple's new iOS 6 operating system became available for download Sept. 19, many users have taken to the Internet to loudly vent their frustrations about the loss of Google Maps in in the company's new mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The new Apple Maps app is being panned as being wildly inaccurate, unimpressive and even just plain bad, based on dozens of posts on Twitter in the last 24 hours.

Among the annoyed Tweets seen on Sept. 20:

  • "iOS 6 Maps doesn't tell intentional lies, obviously, but they might as well be -- what good is a map if you can't trust it?"
  • "I didn't think iOS6 maps were so bad, but... whoa."
  • "iOS6 Day. Stepping outside without Google Maps for the first time in years. I might not make it back home."
  • "iOS 6 maps are a really gorgeous, dreamy, smooth way to get to a place that is about a quarter mile from your destination's actual location."
  • "If any of you people who just downloaded the new iOS 6 maps need directions to your mom's house just hit me up."
  • "Yesterday iOS6 maps tried putting our car onto a golf cart path, and later into a lake. Good times!"
  • "don't be surprised to see apple fanboys forming long lines outside random places tomorrow."
  • "Dear Apple can we please have our Google Maps back? Your maps are completely useless!"

That's certainly not the feedback Apple had in mind when it replaced Google Maps with its own product, but the complaints of the vocal are everywhere.

One iPhone 4S user, Will Hains, was so upset by the less-than-stellar change that he created a parody Twitter handle, "ios6maps," on Sept. 19 to vent his displeasure with the map app changes. Twitter later suspended the account without an explanation, according to Hains. He then created another handle, "fake_ios6maps," which also was suspended. Both accounts appeared to again be operational and visible several hours later after they apparently were caught in a Twitter anti-spam service, he wrote in a followup tweet.

"As a huge, devoted Apple fan, I was frustrated and annoyed by a move that went against their values which I admire," said Hains in an online interview with eWEEK. "So I wanted to poke a little bit of fun at what appears to be a rare stumble for Apple."

Hains said he works and lives in Japan, "where I'm often frustrated with U.S.-centric technologies and services that don't quite work right here. The thing is, normally Apple is really good at that. Ask any Japanese person what it was like to use a cellphone in the U.S. before iPhone. I didn't want to see the utter crippling of Maps on iPhone outside the U.S. to be dismissed as a regional issue."

In some ways, including the inclusion of vector graphics, better speed and improved typography, the Apple Maps technology is better than Google Maps in earlier iOS versions, "but the data is very patchy," said Hains. "Downtown San Francisco looks amazing, elsewhere not good."   

 

Lack of Transit Directions an Issue


Apple Maps is worse in terms of listing points of interest and other map details, he said.

But Hains' biggest beef with the new Maps is the lack of transit directions, he said. "In Tokyo, that's a deal breaker. And third-party apps can never fill that void. To get from point A to point B, you might go via any of 50+ transit companies' lines."

All of that can probably be fixed, he said. "Fortunately for Apple, the ways in which its worse are fixable on the back end. No need to distribute new hardware."

Hains, 36, who works in the software industry, said he "started the parody account for fun. I felt like I was the only one seeing this as a huge mistake. I couldn't have been more wrong."

So would the replacement of Google Maps make him consider a switch to an Android smartphone? "No, I'd rather eat glass," said Hains. "Definitely sticking with iPhone. Absolutely love it. I use all kinds of machines and operating systems. The ones I use by choice are all Apple products."

His new iPhone 5 is on order, he said.

Other similar issues have surfaced for users with Apple Maps, according to published reports.

A story on BusinessInsider.com warned iOS users not to upgrade to iOS6 if they use subways often, because Apple Maps don't yet include subway route services that were available with Google maps. "Apple is relying on third-party developers to build the transit directions/schedules for maps," the story reported.  "If you rely on public transit you should hold off on upgrading to iOS 6 until developers have built transit apps for Apple maps."

The Guardian in London reported that users were experiencing a wide range of Apple maps glitches, including that the Paddington [railway] station had vanished, London had been relocated to Ontario, the Sears Tower in Chicago had shrunk, and Helsinki railway station had been turned into a park." In the Chicago incident, the Apple Map of the Sears Tower, a huge city landmark, points to a much smaller building that is obviously not the Sears Tower. And since 2009, the building has been called "Willis Tower," which also isn't noted in the Apple map.

Google Unveils New Maps Features


 

In Dublin, Ireland, an airport that doesn't exist somehow made its way into Apple Maps, according to The Guardian, prompting officials there to inform Apple of the error.

Apple's removal of Google Maps, which had been built in to iOS since the debut of the iPhone in 2007, in favor of Apple's own Maps application was announced in May. Apple and Google say publicly that the move was simply because a five-year licensing deal has expired, but industry pundits point to a more competitive battle for market share for both companies which means there will be fewer areas where they will collaborate.

Apple also announced in August that it was removing the YouTube player from iOS 6, which like Google Maps had been part of the operating system since the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

Meanwhile, as Apple fans were loudly criticizing the maps feature in iOS 6, Google unveiled some new Google Maps features on Android that are aimed at helping users organize their Google maps searches in one place and sync them to multiple devices.

"When you're on the go, it can be difficult to recall all of the places you've searched on your desktop browser at home," Keiji Maekawa, a Google Maps software engineer, wrote Sept. 19 on the Google Lat Long Blog. "To make Google Maps more useful and comprehensive, we added a few improvements to better sync your maps experience across all of your devices. Today, with the latest release of Google Maps for Android, we're making it faster and easier for you to get the information you've searched for on your browser, right on your Android phone."

It's ironic that Google made the Google Maps on Android announcement on the same day as Apple iOS 6 downloads got underway. Perhaps the good folks in Mountain View were anticipating problems with the launch of Apple Maps and wanted to rain on Apple's parade?

Rocket Fuel