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iPad, iPhone

iOS 6: Maps

First of my reviews of the changes in iOS 6 from Apple.
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Reviewed in the order they appeared in the list of changes from Apple…
…we have Maps. This short article will look at Apple’s in house replacement for the almost universal alternative, Google Maps.
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Google on iOS:

Several services were included in iOS that are provided by Google. Maps and YouTube have been the there for quite a while and have been a significant components of many other devices too. YouTube is really just a another social toy but Maps are a vital, potentially (and I’m not kidding) life saving addition. Good GPS location combined with detailed local maps means you know where you are very effectively. In an emergence you can accurately describe your position.
Google have many other apps available for iOS; Search, Chrome, Plus, Drive, Translate, Currents, Gmail, Apps [sic], Play Books, Shopper, Authenticator, Blogger, Panoramio, Schemer, it’s a long list. Google Chrome isn’t included by out-of-the-box because Apple produce Safari which is installed as the default browser.
Many other Google apps on iOS have map like functions; Earth, Local, Latitude, but no Maps. That’s because the previous version was tied to iOS and semi-control by Apple. When the deal between the two companies ended, Apple removed their version of Google Maps. Google have yet to replace it with an App Store version.

Apple Maps:

So we are stuck (ish) with the inbuilt app application.
It has to be said that Apple can do software well. OS X, Pages, Keynotes, Numbers all have justified good reputations. However their ‘magic‘ does not rub off on all things they touch. Safari web browser is a good example, being a tad awkward to use and sluggish in operation.
It is fairly clear from recent press coverage that Apple Maps is going to fit into the second category. It least for some time.
Apple have kindly offered us a list of features (see above) that we can investigate.
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Vector Based Maps:

Apple can make hardware look good, so it always surprises me when they fail to do the same in software. Theoretically all major map providers work on the same principles (vectors) that define where things are. The interface and the representation differ dramatically, however.
Here is an example of the new maps:

Now, it looks okay but lacks a certain edge to it. It’s pretty enough but looks like an earlier version of Google Maps. The icons used are clear and easily understood so no problems there.
All seems serviceable and seems accurate enough.
Err, no.
The Uckfield incident and many other show that the data is poor. Or possibly poorly rendered, processed or handled. So Uckfield move five miles East by North East.
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This kind of mistake is, to be frank, absolutely unforgivable.
To be honest, this may be more of a ‘search’ issue but it doesn’t matter – it will permeate every part of the application ruining any efforts elsewhere, including the look and feel.

Turn-by-Turn Navigation:

Now, with the addition of spoken directions, Apple Maps becomes a proper Sat Nav application.
I haven’t actually managed to get the spoken instructions to work yet so that’ll have to wait for another review. I am unlikely to rely on Apple Maps, just as I didn’t rely on Google Maps, for Navigation for several reasons, mostly though because it requires 3G access almost permanently in order to get the data necessary for those pretty vector graphics. UK mobile contracts aren’t good enough to allow that kind of data download plus 3G reception here is rubbish outside of major conurbations.
What is worse here, as well as the previously mentioned inaccuracies, is that it seems quite hard to get the darn thing to actually accept locations to route between.
Getting common locations like “London Victoria Station, London” to be accepted is difficult, trying “110 Middlesex Street, London” and it’s no better. You find that the application is very difficult to use, to get to work.
If anyone can tell me how to select a Bookmark when building a route, I’d appreciate it.
But beyond the inaccuracies (TBH – these just kill the app dead) the look of the directions element feels correct. Clear instructions, nice turn indicators and when you activate the route the on screen instructions are good.

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Real-time Traffic:

With all the other inaccuracies, I’m not going to trust this but the early indicators are good. Set you route and select “Show Traffic“.
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The first issue though is that you have to enable Traffic in the settings. Not sure why this is separate, but it’s easy enough.
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The icons used are clear and easily understood so no problems there. Slow routes are marked as are road works and incidents.
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Tap an icon to get the details of the issue.

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If it is accurate, these are good. I’d like to find out the source though. If you want to ensure this is disabled again, good luck. You’ll find it under Settings, Location Services, scroll to the bottom, System Services, and Traffic is at the bottom.
I’d definitely turn it off unless you use Apple Maps a lot. Though if you do I hope you take a good paper map, to get yourself out of trouble.

Flyover:

Nice, if pointless, feature. I found it only works (as advertised) in major conurbations (again). For example, Tower Bridge, London is very impressive.

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Even the The Spire is impressively picked out.
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That’s all the more impressive as on Google Maps it isn’t even completed.
What that second image shows is also the limitations of the flyover. Just a few square miles of London. Other areas in the UK are covered but it does seem a bit limited.
But this is only symptomatic of problems with the level of detail in the Satellite imagery used by Apple. For example look up Crawley. The detail is appalling.
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Local Search:

Hmm,
All you really need to do is read above. This is really flawed. To search for anything is hard. “Gatwick Airport“, not specific enough, gotta use “London Gatwick Airport“. “Uckfield” is just wrong and what is “New Town“?
London Victoria Station” somehow is converted to “Victoria Street“, the list goes on.
The reviews and such are there for obvious big items; top restaurants and hotels and such.
Small towns, seems useless.

Siri Integration:

Siri is a gimmick at the best of times. It speeds up a small number of things but talking back to your Sat Nav?
That’s just weird.

Overall:

It has to be said, Apple have screwed up big time here.
I can see why they wished to make the change and I can see what they are trying to do but it’s just scandalous to launch a new update with the Maps in this state.
The Quality Assurance on an app of such scale must have been overwhelming but, perhaps, rolling it out as a gradual change, region by region as it was tested properly and fixed? Would that have been a better plan, perhaps?
Apple state that people should give it time and it will improve. Perhaps it will but I think it more likely that other apps will be used. If you install Google Chrome, for instance, you can get a reasonable experience from Google Maps. Significantly better than Apple Maps anyway.
I recently purchased TomTom for iOS and although easily the most expensive App I’ve purchased is so much better for planning journeys and routing. Trust me, this is one thing that pays back easily.
So, sorry Apple, but this is a big thumbs down. One star for the style but all other features are in some way flawed. 👎 🌟💢💢💢💢

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About harlekwinblog

"Thoughts of an idle mind." Information Security professional.

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