Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple Maps is not about the availability of a Google Maps app for iOS

As others have already pointed out, it's not about funny displays.

It's about faulty, incomplete data. Old data, examples e.g. from Germany suggest that the data is 5-10 years old, e.g. by land marks not being renamed correctly. In the UK it shows stations that have been closed down in the 1990s.

So the current repair plan for the Apple Maps disaster seems to be:


  1. maps.google.com
  2. Google Maps app to be provide by Google, unclear when this will happen.
  3. Apple Maps will get better over time, the more you use it, the better it will be.
Some observations:
  • Usage of 1 and 2 will lower the usage of Apple Maps, hence slow the repair of Apple's data.
  • maps.google.com is being sold as a temporary solution. Well, it's not much of a solution, providing even worse an experience than the old Google Maps app, which might have been better than Apple Maps, but far behind the experience on Android.
  • But almost everyone seems to assume that the Google Maps app will fix the problem.
  • This is not so, as Localisation services are nowadays part of mobile operating systems. Hence all other apps will continue to operate with faulty/incomplete data, with potentially no feedback channel back to Apple to ask for fixes.

As a simple analogy, consider the clock inside your phone would sometimes (say in 1% of cases, really seldom) show the wrong time. Guess installing the "Swiss Quality Timing Service Clock" app would only solve the issue partially, as the phone would still sometime have a faulty idea of the time, hence alarms would sound wrongly (to early, to late, never), your GPS tracker app that records your jogging tracks would show crazy speed jumps, and so on.

Worse in the Apple Maps case, there seems to clear split up, US users seem to have the best data, European seems to be 2nd class users, and the rest of the world, well, guess for these Apple thinks it's enough to be nice enough to allow them to buy the cool iPhone, ...

Naturally, Apple did have a number of hard decisions to take:
  • Cooperation is not really high on Apple's priority list. Steve Jobs decreed the thermonuclear war, and Apple has turned a cold (patent) war into a hot one. Outcome despite the jury verdict in Samsung vs. Apple is completely open (if you wonder, groklaw.net does not often predict outcomes, but if PJ does, she is usually right).
  • Keeping Google without motivating Google to upgrade the experience was not an option either, I mean Apple Maps mostly adds features which Android users have been using for a long time. (Not that it matters that much, if you cannot rely on data).
On the other hand, for a company with such a big war chest, for a project that been running for years (numbers that have been mentioned range from 2 to 5 years), I'd expect Apple cars driving around the globe, photographing, recording location data, so that the data can be cleaned up. Guess it's not really about the user experience. 

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