Apple Maps

Matthew Panzarino, writing for Tech Crunch this last week broke the news that Apple would be redesigning their maps from the ground up in iOS 12.

This is nothing less than a full re-set of Maps and it’s been four years in the making, which is when Apple began to develop its new data-gathering systems. Eventually, Apple will no longer rely on third-party data to provide the basis for its maps, which has been one of its major pitfalls from the beginning.

This was interesting to me, because although I knew Apple was working with 3rd party companies to augment their map data, I was under the impression that they still created the majority of the data already.

I have mixed feelings on this whole story. On the one hand, Apple Maps definitely needs some love, as it has not worked very well since it was introduced six years ago. Although the maps has noticeably improved since it's initial launch, I have found that I still fairly frequently have it search for an addresss that is nowhere near what I'm actually searching for. Sometimes, maddeningly, searching for the exact same thing more than once yields different results.

Matthew interviewed Eddie Cue, SVP Internet Software and Services, who has taken over the maps project at Apple for this article, who to his credit did not seem to shy away from the fact that Apple messed up with Maps, and that they need to do better. They seem to acknowledge and understand what the problems are, but I wonder if they really know how to fix it.

To me, one of the worst parts of Maps is the searchability. Matthew briefly discusses this in one paragraph -

Search is also being revamped to make sure that you get more relevant results (on the correct continents) than ever before. Navigation, especially pedestrian guidance, also gets a big boost. Parking areas and building details to get you the last few feet to your destination are included, as well.

That sounds like the right things to say, but it doesn't exactly have the same substance as the rest of the article does. To me, things like that worry me that this won't be enough, or more accurately that they won't be focusing on the right things.

Emphasized several times in this article is how importantly Apple is taking privacy. I think this is becoming more and more important in today's world, and I truly appreciate the effort that Apple puts in to each product to protect the users privacy. I'm not sure if this is making a tangible difference in who wants Apple products versus any other product, but in a way that makes it all the more impressive that Apple puts the time and money in to doing it correctly. It's the right thing to do, and I'm glad they are willing to do it.

I do look forward to the improved accuracy and visual upgrades that are coming to Apple Maps. Apple's attention to detail, and tight system integration allow them to make a truly beautiful and easy to use map system in to iOS. I genuinely hope that they are building a system that is enough of an improvement that people can, and will, rely on it for their mapping and give other companies a run for their money.

I think the timing of this new map data is interesting, given iOS 12 will allow 3rd party map apps to integrate with CarPlay. To be completely honest, the only times I ever used Apple Maps instead of Google Maps was if I am plugged in to my car, so I can see it on the dashboard. If I ever needed to actually look for something, I would switch to Google Maps.

I'm willing to give it another shot, whenever this becomes available outside of Northern California. I wonder how many other people will.

Follow up article with Q&A, also by Matthew Panzarino