Yesterday, the world was finally officially introduced to Apple Maps. We first caught word of the impending change months ago, with glimpses and peeks at what’s surfaced since. And now it’s here. Google Maps is gone. And everybody is angry.
The backlash has been swift and determined, and for good reason. As pretty as Apple Maps are – and they really, really are – their function has yet to prove itself as anything other than mediocre to bad. Instead of waxing eloquently about how Apple is sacrificing user experience in order to rid itself of all things Google, let’s review the sins of Apple Maps.
1. Goodbye, public transit
The first and arguably most-obvious problem with Apple Maps is that there is no public transit function. Those three, familiar icons – car, walking, bus – that sit at the top of your directions might lure you into thinking you’re about to get from one place to another using city-paid-for transportation, but think again. Hitting the public transit icon will send you to the App Store, where you’re prompted to download a routing app, one of which costs $50 (the others range in price — but seriously, that’s shocking to see when Google’s been giving me the information for free for… what seems like forever).
A Google rep tells me that the public transit feature graduated from Labs all the way back in October 2007, and now includes more than one million public transit stops the world over, “…including buses, trains, subways, and trams in nearly 500 cities.” And iPhone uses don’t get than anymore. It’s a big loss.
2. No direction editing
The best way to describe this particular fault is to run you through the process: I hit the arrow icon in the upper right hand corner, enter my start and end points, and hit route. Then I decide to change my starting point, or I realize I want walking directions instead (not public transit because, well, see above). With Google Maps, I’d hit edit and make the respective changes. With Apple Maps, however, there is no such option; you hit clear and start over from scratch. This is a tiny, tiny time-suck, but I already hate it and feel pigeon-holed by Apple into these new, strange gestures.
3. Dumbed down the data
Tech blogger Michael DeGusta explained it up best in this blog post – but to sum up: Apple simply doesn’t have the data set to accurately plot the world. Here’s a quick breakdown on what iOS’ new Maps are missing, via DeGusta:
- Transit: Removed from 51 countries with 4.9 billion people
- Traffic: Removed from 24 counties with 2.4 billion people
- Street View: Removed from 41 counties with 3.0 billion people.
In total, 63 counties with a combined population of 5 billion people will be without one or more of these features they previously had in iOS.
And there are plenty of examples of what precisely this looks like hitting the Web. Day-old Tumblr blog TheAmazingiOS6Maps has already curated quite the collection of Apple Maps follies. A favorite has to be the fact that Apple appears to have duplicated the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea – the territory is being fought over by China and Japan and causing mass protests. And Apple put them on its maps twice. (To be fair, I could only find them on Google Maps when searching for them by the commonly used term “Pinnacle Islands” and the results weren’t great – but at least they weren’t plotted twice.)
I know that the Internet was full of these Google Maps v. Apple Maps comparisons moments after the iOS 6 download was available, but it’s the type of thing that never gets old. Check out the differences here (three guesses which one is Apple Maps; hint: It’s the one with way less information).
Now, I do have to admit that Apple’s Yelp integration is a really nice touch. And for local search in metropolitan areas, it’s fantastic. Searching the Empire State Building surfaces icons for nearby restaurants and shops and immediately pulls the Yelp data. But the moment you aren’t in such highly populated areas, it’s a worthless feature.
And business search isn’t always flawless: One very popular restaurant in Portland, Serrato’s, never came up when I searched for it – instead I was given two different locations for Sheraton Hotels. Searching for Target brought up one location when there are several in the area; it also happened to be the farthest from me.
4. Inexplicable bugs
There really isn’t even much of an explanation to go along with this, except that there are some baffling glitches going on in Maps. I tried to search Canada, Mexico, and Australia, to the following results.
Only after I turned off Wi-Fi (and received the warning below) was I able find anything via search.
5. Street view and 3D are not the same
There is no denying that Apple’s flyover-created imaging for its 3D view is stunning. Like any Apple product, it’s beautiful and fun and engaging. But it doesn’t work: Looking at the 3D images is wonderful, but it isn’t effective for direction purposes. You know what is? Street View. Street View is an incredibly useful tool, especially when you’re trying to drive and navigate, or find some place on foot. But it’s gone, and we’re stuck with a gorgeous, useless replacement.
So how do I get Google Maps back?
Right now, there’s no word on when the Google Maps app will be making its iOS comeback. According to SearchEngineLand, this was Google’s official statement on the matter:
“We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate, and easy-to-use maps in the world. Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system.”
Whether Google’s just holding out or Apple’s blocking them is unknown, but it’s definitely in Google’s best interest to give the people — the iPhone-wielding people, that is — what they want. After Apple dropped YouTube from its native apps collection, it soared to the top of the App Store. Being wiped off the iPhone is just bad news for Google, so it makes you wonder what the hold up is. In the meantime, you can still access it via your iPhone’s browser and still get most of the features you’re missing — but fingers crossed, many of us can put Google Maps back on the home bar banner where it belongs very soon.
[Update:] According to 9to5Mac, the ball is entirely in Apple’s court and the Google Maps app is just waiting for the go ahead from the App Store… which we all known is renowned the world over for its efficient and totally balanced approval process (not). Hopefully this time, things go through quickly and the people get what they want.