Apple Maps App Must be Overhauled. No Choice

Apple Maps redesign coming with iOS 12
Apple Maps redesign coming with iOS 12
Apple Maps redesign coming with iOS 12

It seems clear why Apple would want to revamp its Maps app. Apple has a vested interest in preserving and enhancing the iPhone’s utility for finding destinations and invoking transit and other services. Many indirect services depend on the user having great situational awareness. (For more background, see: “Apple is rebuilding maps from the ground up.”)

Why deliver, as Apple has, a map product that’s less than best-in-class and allow a competitor to horn in, inviting the user into its own many services? And Apple has a great reputation for preserving our privacy, so the only reason a user might drift away is because Google Maps remains better in some respects. We understand that.

Still, it remains interesting to hear the other side of the story, especially from Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac. I think he’s incorrect in his overall reasoning, but that doesn’t mean I won’t present his case for you to reflect on. Especially since he does cover all the hot buttons when it comes to Apple Maps. So here it is. “I understand why Apple wanted its own maps, but it fails the laser focus test.

Apple Maps Should Dominate

Here’s what I think is important. In Lovejoy’s article, a survey conducted by PollDaddy reveals that it’s a fairly even split right now between Apple Maps and Google Maps, amongst presumably a preponderance of Apple customers reading the 9to5Mac article. I imagine Apple execs wonder why they can’t make Apple Maps so good and so well known for its protections that no reasonable iOS user would even consider using Google Maps. In principle, the ratio ought to be 90:10 for Apple Maps. At least that’s the question I’d ask.

In a mobile world of very demanding iOS users, Apple Maps has to really shine. Never fail. Never frustrate. I think that when Apple Maps was first released in 2012 (iOS 6), there was only a vague understanding of the technical challenges involved in first-class mapping.

Now, six years later, Apple knows what it needs to do to perfectly fulfill this critical function of, principally, the iPhone.

Next Page: The News Debris for the week of July 2nd. The World Wide Web has failed us.

8 thoughts on “Apple Maps App Must be Overhauled. No Choice

  • John:

    I fear that you may have buried the lede in this week’s PD (not that PD is designed to have a lede), as seemingly the most important story in your line up is that of Tim Berners-Lee and his quest to decentralise the Web via his new platform, Solid, and give users more control over both their privacy and data, rather than leave it to the discretion of information giants like FB, Google and Amazon.

    A few passages stand out from the Vanity Fair piece, among them this one:

    From the beginning, in fact, Berners-Lee understood how the epic power of the Web would radically transform governments, businesses, societies. He also envisioned that his invention could, in the wrong hands, become a destroyer of worlds, as Robert Oppenheimer once infamously observed of his own creation. His prophecy came to life, most recently, when revelations emerged that Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election, or when Facebook admitted it exposed data on more than 80 million users to a political research firm, Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s campaign. This episode was the latest in an increasingly chilling narrative. In 2012, Facebook conducted secret psychological experiments on nearly 700,000 users. Both Google and Amazon have filed patent applications for devices designed to listen for mood shifts and emotions in the human voice.

    Were I presenting this in an oral presentation, I would pause in particular to let the penultimate sentence in that paragraph sink in, ‘In 2012, Facebook conducted secret psychological experiments on nearly 700,000 users’. As a professional trained, licensed and regularly re-certified to both clinically treat and conduct trials on human subjects, of all of the abuses of their clients by these information giants, this one stands out as especially egregious, and technically may qualify as a crime against humanity in its wanton violation of internationally accepted standards for human subjects experimentation, and its sheer scope, irrespective of the outcome on those unwitting experimentees, who were never monitored nor for which FB to this day can account. Were I or any of my professional colleagues to have done similarly, even on an orders of magnitude lesser scale, we would have lost our university appointments, our medical licences and might still be serving some deserved prison time.

    That said, as I argued in Bryan Chaffin’s column the other day we, as a global community, are culturally predisposed to powerful interests having domain over our personhood, be it access and control over our labour, property – including intellectual – resources, and information, specifically who owns it and who has access to it. In many societies, our personal data and even liberty are yielded with unquestioned acquiescence. Even in the West, with our supposed evolved sense of liberty and freedom, most of us do not question Google and FB’s asymmetrical terms of use for their ‘services’, and their perpetual and effectively unconstrained and unmonitored access to our personal information, even to the point of reading our email without consent and at their discretion

    While the Vanity Fair article provides no real detail on Berners-Lee’s current project, or prognosis on the likelihood of its effectiveness or longterm survival in the wild, there are other issues that bear on our collective freedom, and even the health of our democracies, in those countries where the rule of law, as opposed to autocracy, defines governance. Among these is the information to which we are exposed or denied as news or facts. Current proposals about either vetting or scoring individuals stories are, in my opinion, not simply unworkable but entirely the wrong approach. An alternative approach, (an idea that I hope to pitch to the right responsible party), is to create a tiered ranking system of news sources, to which are further scored on empirical data regarding a track record for accuracy, transparency of methodology and staffing, accountability (history of correcting mistakes), among other factors, combined with what might be considered a barometer, that is a background realtime measure of the percentage of stories on any given topic that are considered reliable (or unreliable), not unlike a weather app display, as well the point of geographical origin for stories falling into each tier. This would allow consumers to decide for themselves how reliable or not a given story is based on documented source quality and background of false information on the topic. The focus is on reliable, sourced information, and not political slant. International refereeing, monitoring and auditing are involved. There’s more, but that’s the broad outline.

    The bottom line is that data security, specifically our privacy and personal data ownership, as well as the data to which we are presented (or denied) as valid information or facts, pose existential threats to both our personal security and the health and security of our societies. Political leaders, notably legislators and executives appear largely unable, and in some cases, unwilling to put protections in place. The private sector, at multiple levels, appear to be responding, but with uncertain commitment, purpose and effectiveness. The question of compliance by major stakeholders, such as the information giants and media outlets, remains unanswered, and is likely to be sub-optimal in the current atmosphere of self-policing, and continued absence of legal constraint and enforceable oversight.

  • Apple Maps is fine, not great, but fine. I use it exclusively and certainly welcome any improvements but it’s rarely if ever let me down. On the topic of user penetration what isn’t pointed out is any iOS user who uses Google’s search engine to find an address is forced to use Google Maps. In fact you can’t even copy the address instead getting a proprietary coordinates format that only works with Google Maps. THAT NEES TO STOP!

  • Two words Street View. Sure Apple Maps will give me a route and turn by turn directions, and very well I might ad. But sometimes I want to see what the place looks like from where I’m going to park. If it’s a big building, let me wander, virtually down the street to see where parking is available, where the building entrances are, what’s across the street, does the neighbourhood look sketchy. AFAIK Apple Maps won’t to that.

  • Ben might cover his hot buttons but fails to mention two of mine.

    1. the ability to adjust a route, as Google maps provides. Apple maps usually provides three choices but you have to pick just one. No mix-and-match, and no adjustment

    2. Turn-by-turn directions in other countries are awful. For example, main roads in Britain are labeled like M4 (a motorway, like an interstate here), A4 (large multi-lane road, often divided highway), B123 (secondary roads). But “Clara” – the Apple maps turn-by-turn assistant – instead refers to them by the road names such as “Oxford Road”, “Bristol Road” even though those name never appear on main road signage. And in Germany, she mangles the pronunciation of names so that they are entirely unintelligible. I think that “Berlin” is the only one that was understood.

    1. Yes the ability to specify or adjust a route, include side trips. I have iOS hiking and walking apps that can do that.

      I also want a distance scale that sticks on screen.

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