There’ve been a lot of hate posts recently on the new built-in Apple Maps app released with iOS 6. Many good points have been made about the inaccuracy of Maps and Apple’s lack of infrastructure, compared to Google.
In this post, I want to focus on why the Maps app is nothing short of awesome and why many of the negative points are not such a big deal.
First, the awesome: integration.
Apple has integrated the Maps experience into every facet of the iPhone user experience. From Siri, to the lock screen, to the status bar, to notifications in other apps, Maps is active when you are getting directions from point A to point B. The status bar behaves much the same as when you are in a call: you can touch the bar at the top of the screen, from wherever you are, to return to Maps.
I said to Siri, “Give me directions to the 92nd Street Y” into my bluetooth headset while driving. Once I confirmed with Siri that I wanted the directions, Maps took over. Since my iPhone was connected to my car’s stereo system (as I was listening to the latest episode of Marc Maron’s WTFPod), I began to hear the turn-by-turn directions loud and clear.
Maps dutifully lowered the volume of the podcast when it needed to tell me to take some action on my route.
Here are some other integration screenshots:
Lock screen with Maps app actively animating your trip along with the usual sound controls overlaid on top:
In the Maps app:
Active status bar in the WTF App:
Informational notification in the WTF App:
Second: WTF, haters?
Google has had turn-by-turn directions in the Maps app on Android for many releases now. By comparison, the Google Maps app on iPhone had been seriously hobbled. It did not have turn-by-turn nor many of the other features of a fully functioning GPS app, like automatically moving the directions along as you moved through them.
Google had a vested interest in keeping its app lame for iOS: keep attracting more people to the Android platform. I certainly don’t begrudge them that. However, under these conditions, why wouldn’t Apple want to provide its users with a better Maps experience?
Many of the points that people have made about the failings of the Apple Maps app are very valid. The most important of these is the infrastructure for supporting Maps at Apple. Maps is part of Google’s DNA. I was using a Google mobile maps application from a GPS enabled windows phone in 2007. Google has dedicated massive resources toward Maps, including the cars that drive around taking new street level pictures. Maps is not just for mobile for Google.
All of these points expose weaknesses in Apple’s approach to maps. But, what company on the planet is more equipped to address these issues? Whether they build or buy, I believe Apple will fix the failings of the Maps app.
My final point is a subjective one. The Apple Maps app far outweighs the Google Maps app for iPhone from the user experience perspective. The scrolling is smoothy smooth. The turn-by-turn voice is clear and understandable. The visual direction cues are clear and concise.
Haters gonna hate, but I am truly surprised at the vehemence of the objections by Apple users. Anyone remember how god awful the first release of Android was? Remember how the first release of the iPhone didn’t even have an app store? The Apple Maps app is a first release and it shows in some ways. In other ways, in true Apple style, it changes the game of mobile Maps apps. Integration with Siri so that you can get end-to-end directions without touching your phone is just one example.