MapGate

September 23, 2012

I haven’t used iOS 6 in anger yet. I don’t know whether the maps are really that horrible. I just feel like a lot of entries on The Amazing iOS 6 Maps tumblr are a bit pathological, as if people have been looking for screwed up data. Yes, some of those satellite pictures look funny and walking directions that involve swimming are lol, but it’s not like Google Maps doesn’t have or had similar problems. And how much is this going to affect the usability of the app really?

As an engineer who’s involved in getting a crazily ambitious project off the ground, within an organization that has absolutely no prior credentials in the respective field, I don’t find all this very encouraging. And it’s not just because it’s Apple… Remember when Microsoft launched Bing? I already can’t wait for how much shit Mozilla is going to get when Firefox OS launches, just because this or that is not as good as on the iPhone. Can’t wait.

I actually think it’s kind of nice to see Apple trying to create a competitive maps solution. Seeing Apple be the newcomer that’s struggling against the big guy. In a strange way, this is an Apple I can relate to. Much like the Apple from the 90s. I want to pat them on the back and encourage them.

May it also teach them some humility. They’re doing this to prevent Google service lock-in for them and their users. Maybe they’ll figure out that reciprocity is a good thing. Creating choice means that your users stay with you for the right reasons, and not because you’re holding them hostage. When you don’t take your users for granted, you try to make better products. Especially since in this business, it’s not uncommon to be relying on your competitors.

Really, all of this, not even Clock Gate, seems all that dramatic to me. I just hope it will make Apple realize that their shit don’t stink less than others. Maybe then their users will be more forgiving when they make bold moves. C’mon Apple, be the underdog again. It suits you better, anyway.

11 Responses to “MapGate”

  1. DDD Says:

    Just upgraded. Map app is ok as far as I can tell.


  2. There are also good things about the new Maps application, like the UX has a bit more of a solid (read: Apple-ey) feel to it. So I’m with you: while I don’t like the missing street view, I suspect Apple will make it right.


  3. But Apple is not providing an alternative, they had already locked users into their sub-par maps implementation. Even if Google releases their Maps for iOS, you are forced to use Apple’s product because they are the default SDK. So any other third-party app with Maps support has to use Apple Maps. No other way around.

    It’s not surprising, most iPhone users realize that their choices will be limited when they decide to buy an iPhone. But it’s not “little guy struggling against a big guy” situation either.

    • philikon Says:

      Factually you are totally right. Only if iOS had something like Android’s intent system which allows 3rd party apps to take the place of stock apps (e.g. maps, browsers, etc.), there’d be real choice. But I take any kind of choice that competes with core functionality over no choice, even if it’s limited. It could be a crack in Apple’s walled garden wall. A small crack, but a crack nonetheless.

      • tom jones Says:

        “But I take any kind of choice that competes with core functionality over no choice, even if it’s limited. ”

        i can’t understand why you use apple products then. they are all about NO choice. they are just replacing one lock-in solution with their own, users don’t gain anything, even in this case that you are happy to support them.

        really don’t understand you..

      • tom jones Says:

        (sorry for the double post)

        in fact, this is even worse, because they are preventing the best possible solution for users: use the best possible device with the best possible service, even when they don’t come from the same company.

        and just like forcing amazon kindle (the best ebook ecosystem) out to make room for their own iBooks, a much inferior solution, this move benefits only apple and no one else, not their own customers, not the industry at large, and not the world..


  4. It sort of shows their Silicon Valley-centric view, though; nobody walks or takes transit or bikes, so car-only directions are *just fine*.

  5. Andreas Jung Says:

    All true but the problem is that Apple voluntarily replace a core functionality in their we-can-do-much-better attitude with a Maps application that is half-baked and feels like Google Maps five years ago *without* providing us access to the original functionality. A working maps functionality is a core functionality needs on everydays smart phone – it is essential for everyone nowadays. Apple Maps is poor in every aspect: poor local search results, improper and irrelevant local search results, the level of detail is compared to Google Maps or Openstreet Maps, pretty old map material. A major problem seems to be the TomTom raw maps. It is obvious that drivers need a different level of details compared to pedestrians. Back to you original blog post: Apple Maps would be no problem for us as an additional service besides the Google Maps application but forcing all iOS6 into the you-are-now-our-beta testers mode is just bad. The quality management completely failed here. Steve Jobs would rotate in his grave…

  6. Lennart Regebro Says:

    But I don’t remember Google Maps ever being *this* bad.

    Worst part: Apple could have made this all be a non-problem, by using open street maps data. Not only is it better, it would be fixed in absolutely no time if it was not.

    Meanwhile, Google is opening up more countries to their app for making changes and additions. So their data will continue to improve faster than Apples does. So Apples maps will continue to be not as good as Googles.

    Apple shot themselves in the foot here. But they’ll survive.


    • Apple in part does use OpenStreetMap data, but they use an older database dump, poorly interpret tags (so that footpaths are taken as roads) and are unlikely to push changes back to OSM.
      So we all lose in this…

  7. DigDug2k Says:

    To me the bigger story is 1.) the failure of walled gardens and 2.) Apple standing in the way of user choice. Why can’t Google Maps and Apple’s Maps both happily coexist on the same phone (I really don’t get this? I doubt Google would refuse to update their app?)

    In fact, I’m more shocked to see Mozillian’s complaining about this than anything. I always assumed they’d be the first to stand up and refuse to give their money to closed app ecosystems, and really have no pity for them when they do support one and it decides to kill off user choice. My Dad/Family/Friends who don’t understand the problems with walled gardens… they’re a different story.

    Seems like the better solution (for Apple and us) is to make sure the platform is open so that users can choose to run the apps they like. Not the ones we dictate to them that they’ll use. To create a playground with equal footing for all players. For FirefoxOS, even if things aren’t perfect on release one, users have the power to actually step up and change that. That’s pretty awesome.


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