Did Google’s Motorola Fake an Ad Critical of Apple’s Maps? Nope

| Editorial

Reports Thursday that Google's Motorola Mobility faked an advertisement comparing Google Maps to Apple's Maps app in an effort to artificially embarrass Cupertino’s new service are only partially correct. An examination of the issue shows that, while Motorola may have configured the comparison to act in its favor, the advertisement was a valid comparison, for marketing purposes at least, between the competing mapping services.

During the fanfare surrounding the iPhone 5 launch last Friday, Motorola Mobility decided to take a shot at deflating Apple’s media enthusiasm by publishing an ad for its Droid RAZR M smartphone that pointed out the widely reported flaws in Apple’s Maps app.

The ad used an address in Manhattan, 315 East 15th Street, and demonstrated how Google Maps running on the RAZR M found the address while Apple's Maps app did not.

Google Motorola Maps vs Apple Maps

On Thursday, AppleInsider published a report, claiming that Motorola had “faked” the contest by using an address that does not exist. 315 East 15th Street, the tech site pointed out, sits at the intersection of East 15th and Nathan D Perlman Place, on the corner of Stuyvesant Square.

The claim that 315 East 15th street doesn’t exist is incorrect. It’s true that the address does not have a building associated with it, but it is a legitimate, verifiable address that points to a specific location on East 15th Street. In addition to Google Maps, maps from competing services such as Bing and Yahoo, and the official New York City online map all list it as a real address.

One part of the problem is the way that Motorola performed the test. In the ad, the search phrase “315 e 15th st ny” was used in both Apple Maps and Google Maps. It was this formatting that caused the inconsistency, but it is also this type of formatting that many users will enter when quickly searching for an address.

If a user searches for “315 E 15th St, Manhattan” the correct location will be displayed by Apple, but “315 E 15th St, New York, NY” still returns the incorrect result as of the time of this editorial.

NYC Official Maps315 East 15th Street, as shown by the Official New York City online map.

There are three points that must be made about this situation. First, Google (Motorola) did not “fake” the test by using a nonexistent address. The address might not lead to a home or building, but it points to a specific location in Manhattan that a user may wish to reference or locate.

Second, Google (Motorola) did intentionally use an esoteric address to make a point in its marketing campaign. That is neither new, surprising, nor exclusive to Google. Apple throughout its history has also picked specific topics or angles to discuss in its advertising campaigns that emphasize the company’s strengths and amplify the weaknesses, however specific, of its competitors.

For example, Apple's recent advertisements for its Siri personal assistant only highlight queries to which Siri has a correct and relevant response. Apple obviously does not illustrate Siri telling a user that she did not understand the query, something that almost every Siri user has experienced many times.

Similarly, Apple’s “Get a Mac” ads, which usually correctly pointed out the advantages of Macs and OS X over Windows, often made murky claims, such as this one from 2007, which states that users upgrading to Windows Vista won’t be able to use their existing software and peripherals. While this was true for some Windows users running certain applications, it was certainly not a universal claim. Nor did Apple’s ad mention the numerous times that operating system and hardware changes have forced Mac users to abandon existing software and peripherals, such as the transitions from OS 9 to OS X, PowerPC to Intel, or frequent OS updates, such as Lion, that broke many legacy software titles and drivers.

Third, Apple Maps deserves criticism. It was recently revealed that Apple’s contract with Google was not yet up for renewal and that the company did not have to release its Maps product in its current state. Alternatively, Apple could have released Maps as a separate application and continued to offer Google Maps in iOS 6.

Apple Maps App

I defended Maps upon its release based on the fact that the service will improve over time and that it offers some excellent new features. I still stand by that belief, but that does not mean that those concerned, frustrated, or otherwise critical of Apple Maps should have their claims dismissed by Apple-focused bloggers and journalists.

Apple’s Maps has a bright future, but in its current state it is often a terrible experience for many users, including myself. Google Maps, in its iOS 5 form, was a better and more accurate solution for directions, locating points of interest, and familiarizing oneself with a new area. If Apple’s competitors want to put that fact under the spotlight, then so be it. If anything, it will only push Apple harder to correct its own application’s shortcomings.

Comments

Lee Dronick

I just checked the US Post Office Zip Code web page and neither address, Manhattan or New York is recognized as a valid postal address. Of course it is a street intersection, but as such I would search for such as a place by entering E 15th St. and 2nd Ave, New York, NY, or Nathan D Perlman Pl as the cross street.

Jim Tanous

Indeed, Lee. But postal addresses are not the only thing worth looking up in a mapping application. smile

Jim Tanous

I would also like to point out that our new “smile” icon, created with the colon and closed parentheses characters, looks a little…well…“cheeky;” almost as if it is rolling its eyes.

I want to clarify that I intended only a standard, good natured smile, with no sarcasm implied (I would normally place another smile here but… you know.)

Lee Dronick

Hmmm, if you just enter the address 315 E 15th St, Manhattan it returns a location in New York City. However, there are half a dozen or more cities in the United States named Manhattan. Of course the borough of Manhattan may be the only one with a 300 block on East 15th Street.

Lee Dronick

No problem Jim, no offense taken. My initial look at zip4.usps.com was to determine if the correct name of the place is Manhattan or New York City, or are both correct.

Using the iOS 6 Map App I chose a business near the intersection and looked it up at the Post Office. I entered Manhattan as the city and the database returned New York as the city.

What this means to me is that the Map App should accept an address in Manhattan NY or New York, NY as the same. There is way in the Map App to send feedback to Apple.

Lee Dronick

Wow! Use the 3D view in the Map App at this location. At first it looks horrid with the distorted image a lot of people are using as a joke. Then after a short period it sharpens up and really gives you a feel for the place.

Jim Tanous

I was blown away at how the *trees* in the park are even rendered in 3D. Incredible. And a good reason for sticking it out with Maps as Apple improves the accuracy.

furbies

I kinda think Apple might have baked the Maps App for just a bit longer before putting it on the window sill to cool. Or let us have both the Apple Maps App & Google Maps App for a while and Apple could just keep adding features to tempt us or wean us off Goole’s offering.

AtoH

I have looked at the NYC government map and when I click on the parks info it did not give a street number 315.  How did you get the map to star it?

Lets be honest here. If you give someone an address with a building/house number they will look for a building or house.

No one will give a non existent number to have someone meet them at an intersection. You will give them the name of the intersection. As a native New Yorker and any one that lives there will say meet me at Stuyvesant Square.

The fact is the address is not valid.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The general point is that Google maps is pretty accepting of how people try to enter addresses. It doesn’t require its users to be pedants or know exact political boundaries.

Apple boosters would do well to just take their lumps on this. The lumps are just gonna get bigger and bigger the more you resist. And the only message that gets back to Apple is that the fans and customers don’t care when Apple does obviously stupid things. It just encourages them.

Scott B in DC

You would think that Apple screwed the proverbial pooch with Maps. I just used maps in the DC area to find the best route to a theater and was very happy. I use Maps so few times that it is just not on my radar.

What people forget is that Google maps are not a panacea either. If I followed a Google map six months ago, I would have missed an appointment because it had me driving in circles. It was a case of a fixed highway intersection from a year earlier. Google maps also showed an new local highway as being open but routed me away from that highway.

In both cases Mapquest and Bing maps got it right.

So far, Apple’s Maps has worked for my 3 attempts to use it. If I have a question, I will try Bing maps. I like the Bing interface and their maps seem to be as accurate.

Otherwise, it’s all noise by both sides looking for an edge in a war of words that means very little in the grand scheme of things.

Ok… I will now get off your lawn!

lostintranslation

First, Apple Maps has problems. Lots of them. More of them are outside of the US, but, still, lots of problems.

Second, one of my first uses of Google Maps on my iPhone 3G led to a forty-five minute diversion due to it leading me to the middle of nowhere instead of the true destination. Just as Google Maps got better, so will Apple Maps.

Third, Gruber has already provided an extremely cogent explanation of the timing of the banishment of Google Maps, as well as the reasons for it.

Last, the address is bogus. Whether it’s valid or not (I would argue it’s not), it’s certainly manufactured, as with no building there’s no reason to ever USE that address. And, as the AppleInsider article pointed out, there are plenty of real issues with Maps that could have been used, so why use a bogus one? It’s a stupid example that would never (to five decimal places) be used in the real world, and is therefore counterproductive to the point they were trying to make. It makes them look stupid, not Apple.

yet another steve

It’s what any programmer immediately recognizes as an edge case… not a real address (mathematically addresses are not “continuous” so any mapping here makes assumptions, and isn’t Manhattan famous for its idiosyncratic addressing?)... it has to be disambiguated from a Brooklyn address that a user might enter by mistake where the address also doesn’t exist but a different user error might produce it.

As others have shown on the web, an address in use on that street works fine, as does specifying Manhattan rather than NY.

To base a whole ad campaign on an edge case like this… well I just decided that if this is the best Google can show, I’m going to be just fine with ios 6 maps (and man do I like the new features.) I’ve lived for years with mapping edge cases where I had to reformat or respecify the text to get it right (say California not Canada.) So for me the underwhelmingness of this error just sold me on Apple.

What I greatly appreciate is that Apple’s business model doesn’t require tracking my location and map requests like the great cyberstalker google. That’s far far far more important to me than the reformatting an address or two.

ThKal

There is a 315 in east 15th street (a.k.a. Marlborough Road) in Brooklyn. There isn’t one in Manhattan. When you ask for the address in NY (which can be Brooklyn or Manhattan or any of the other 3 boroughs), Apple Maps is giving you the only real address that exists, the one in Brooklyn. When you ask for 315 in Manhattan, Apple Maps gives you the approximate location of where the address would be (the park). It seems that Motorola found a case where Apple Maps performs better than Google Maps.

ABC

Apple fanbois are amazing!  Apple Maps are so far below the normal (and expected) excellent high-quality product and yet you find ways to make the flaws seem as features.  You should be in Apple marketing!

BTW, I love my iPhone 4S and will upgrade to 5 once my contract runs out.  But my judgement isn’t completely gone when discussing Apple products.  grin

ThKal

To ABC:

Nobody said that Apple Maps don’t have problems. After all, it is a version 1.0 product. They will get better with time, as more people use them and correct them.

The thing is that these problems are exaggerated so much in the media that people think that if you use Apple’s Maps you’ll end up in Antarctica. What we have again is a minor problem like antennagate that’s blown way out of proportion, so we try to defend the product by saying it is not as bad as it seems and that in certain cases (like in Motorola’s ad) it can even perform better than Google Maps.

Raymond

What is about Maps that appears to be making people miss obvious points? You have this convoluted post with odd references to previous Apple marketing tactics and an attempt to present a pseudo-address as a real one. Why wouldn’t someone just make an ad with the many, many absurd examples of the incompetence of Apple maps? Our company in Monrovia, CA, for example, can’t be located by Maps. Even if you type in the exact address with street address, city, state and zip code, you end up with the same street address - but in Arcadia, CA, several miles away. We have already had one vendor contact us to let us know he would be late for his meeting because he had just upgraded his iPhone… And, well, I’m sure you can figure out the rest.

And from the other side, those who are threatening to jump to an S3 just because Maps sucks to the high heavens - I think such threats speak for themselves in terms of absurdity and ability to see the big picture.

Bottom line? A map app that can’t be trusted is less than useless and no marketing gimmicks are needed to point this out. Apple needs to fix the situation quickly. But justifying yet another crap ad because “they did it first” is not a meaningful contribution to getting this fixed.

ctopher

@Raymond

I understand your frustration, but NO map app should be trusted 100%. The goal is to get it right, but that goal is unattainable everywhere. That doesn’t mean the app is useless.

It appears that like politics. all map issues are local!

Lee Dronick

When your curl the Map App page you will see that it is Powere by TomTom and others. That is a link that takes you to this page where you can see the sources for mapping data

http://gspa21.ls.apple.com/html/attribution.html

kevinlane

What’s so “obviously stupid” about Apple releasing this Maps app? They had to start somewhere with it, and it will require time and use to make it better.

Apple was NEVER going to get turn-by-turn with Google’s Maps app, so it had no choice. 

And here’s the kicker:  It’s not as bad as people are making it out to be.

Jeffrey Duncan

Wow, what a battle.  I wonder if it’s even worth it to try to clarify things with some details (without being in favor of either side) since I work in the address validation industry.

My co-worker wrote this up (http://goo.gl/8ka5C) and I wanted to expand on it a little.

First, I need to establish some terms:

VALID ADDRESS = a deliverable location.  I could mail a letter to this address and it would get there.

APPROXIMATED ADDRESS =  the location where a given address “would” be found if it were valid.


Let’s begin.  First, the only thing that we have is that the input address is: 315 e 15th NY.  We can infer that the user probably wants to search (a) within the entire state of New York, or (b) just within New York City.  In each case, a little more information in the search (like a state) would give better results.  For this search, AS IS, here are the possible VALID address results.

First, a quick search for this address using an “address verification” tool yields these three VALID results:

(1)
315 Marlborough Rd
Brooklyn NY 11226-4511
(Note - The delivery address is VALID, but it is known by another (preferred) name. For example, in New York, NY, AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS is also known as 6TH AVE.)

(2)
315 15th St
Brooklyn NY 11215-5005

(3)
315 15th Ave
West Babylon NY 11704-2740

All three of these are VALID addresses. 

GoogleMaps made the assumption that the state is New York AND that the city is New York City, NOT one of the five boroughs that are collectively referred to as New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, The Bronx, and Queens).  Google Maps (in the advertisement) is showing an approximated address.  If there were a home or business at 315 East 15th Street, that is precisely where it would be located.  Kudos to Google Maps.

Kudos to Apple Maps, too: Apple Maps also made the assumption that the state is New York but they also assumed that the city is could be any of the five boroughs that are collectively referred to as New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, The Bronx, and Queens).  Apple Maps (in the advertisement) is showing the corrected address: 315 Marlborough Rd Brooklyn NY 11226-4511.  This is a VALID address, not just an APPROXIMATED address.

Who is right and who is wrong? That all depends on the person who was performing the search.  Which of the four locations were they hoping to find when they performed the search?  Since both companies had to make assumptions based on incomplete (and potentially ambiguous) data, I would say that BOTH are right.  I tend to lean a little more toward an algorithm that assumes that I am probably looking for a VALID address instead of just an APPROXIMATE location but that is just one person’s opinion.  It all depends on what you are looking for.

Alphaman

Utter nonsense. There is no such address as 315 E 15th, and the Maps app simply picked the Next Best Guess. How can you tell? Easy: search for 314 E. 15th. It finds the correct location, in Manhattan, as you’d expect no matter what app you used.

Apple chose to display a location that was a valid address. Google chose to display a location that doesn’t have the address in question associated with it.  In my book, that makes Apple’s Maps app more reliable and valuable. Well, at least in this case.

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