iOS 6: A Two Map App System, Same as it Ever Was

| Dave Hamilton's Blog

It's been interesting watching the Google vs. Apple Maps in iOS 6 débâcle unfold. Apple is a very calculating company that rarely makes any rash moves without fully thinking them through first, which makes this all the more curious.

What's interesting here is something I haven't seen noted before: With iOS 6 Apple simply took away one app and gave us a different one. Everyone's complaining that Google Maps is gone and we've lost functionality, specifically built-in, on-street, public transportation guidance. That's true. But with iOS 5 and earlier everyone complained that we had on-street (Google) Maps and no built-in, turn-by-turn directions while driving. That's also true.

Previously we had the built-in (Google) Maps app that worked very well for on-foot (or on public-transport) directions. It was awesome, in fact, and any time I was in a (semi-)unfamiliar city I came to rely on it to help me find when the next bus was coming or how to get from point A to B on foot.

However, as soon as I got in a car I had to use a third-party app like NAVIGON (or others) to give me turn-by-turn directions. I'd worked this all out and It Was Good™. I had two apps and I knew how to use them. One was from Apple in that it was built-in to my phone, the other I purchased from a third-party.

With iOS 6 Apple has simply swapped one app for another. They took away our on-foot/public transport app and gave us a turn-by-turn app. So now when I'm in that same semi-unfamiliar city I'll use Apple's app when I'm in the car and NAVIGON (now complete with "Urban Guidance," a term I just love) to help me navigate the city's bus system. Hopefully Urban Guidance works as well as the previous, built-in (Google) Maps app did, especially in light of this morning's news that Google won't be providing an iOS Maps app anytime soon (if ever).

As I said, though, this result cannot be a surprise to Apple. They clearly knew what they were doing with this. And clearly there are third-party data sources for public transportation guidance, which they easily could have tapped and used (and still could). It will be interesting to see where this goes and what Apple's vision on this is.

One theory is that they felt they desperately needed to punch the "we have built-in turn-by-turn guidance" ticket. That's something they've been lacking in all the iOS vs. Android comparisons.

The other theory is that they decided their deal with Google was coming to an end and it was time to do things the Apple way, and we'll see them use this as a foundation for the future, continuing to do what they do: iterate and iterate until they get it perfect.

Based on their history, my money's on the latter. But time will tell us all, won't it?

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Comments

wab95

Agreed, Dave.

Your summary makes sense to me. It matters less, I think, why or how we ended up with what can be fairly called a beta product, but what Apple plan to do with it, and my money, too, is on a steep upgrade through reiteration.

Another thing to bear in mind is that Google Maps benefits from people providing feedback to the service over time. While I found Google Maps fine for common urban locations like London, Paris or even Baltimore, those for cities in Sub-Saharan Africa like Jo’burg (actually 20 Km outside - but still, heavily populated), Mombasa and its environs, as well as cities in Asia, whether wealthy like Doha or poor like Dhaka, (and even some smaller European cities like Siena or Annecy) were less precise - never mind rural areas, where all bets were off. Only with client feedback do these improve.

As more people both use and provide feedback to Apple on their maps, these too will likely improve. In the meantime, not only is Google Maps available as a web app,  there are third party apps, at least for the more well-travelled sites.

Chris

Remember the first release of OS X. It sucked. Second release was usable. The third was really good.

Steve

I never used Google maps on my iPhones except to find places near me or for public transit directions near me. If I was trip planning, for driving it was either MotionX GPS Drive or (lately) VZNavigator. For public transit trip planning it’s TransitTimes+. For finding places to eat, it’s Yelp. This is my use case now.

Apple maps is perfectly adequate for finding things near me, and for transit info, I use it for the start and end points and then it takes me to TransitTimes+. Win. I can now use Apple maps for dining and I get Yelp info right there. I’ve used turn-by-turn and while it’s adequate, it’s not like VZNavigator, which is fully mature, has incredible traffic and rerouting capabilities, and has good on screen information.

I think the problem most people who wax on about this issue have, is they don’t use iOS as their primary one and have come to expect it, whatever it is, to handle this function without any apps. iPhone is all about apps. I don’t care about homescreen widgets or glancability. I just want what I have to work. iOS does. Ad over.

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