iOS maps SUCK!!!1! No, wait, that other thing...
posted on Sep 21, 2012
I upgraded to iOS6 just to get the new maps app so I could see what all the bitching was about.
BTW, I'm a map geek. And I love Google Maps. So I was prepared for disappointment. But frankly the new iOS 6 maps are the bomb. I get it, their map data is young and immature, and there will be many, many bugs of the kind that can only really be shaken out with real world use. But I didn't actually see any of those, perhaps because I'm lucky enough to be downtown in a major city that has lots of up-to-date info available on it.
What I did see was an awesome 3-D satellite view (shown above) that could not only be panned, zoomed, and spun, but could do all of that automagically by enabling the compass to set the perspective on the map. It's basically bird's-eye augmented reality. That's hot.
I also tried the turn-by-turn directions, which is something I almost never use (having been blessed with a pretty reliable internal compass) but which I had heard bad things about. So I asked Siri for directions to the Cambie pub, to see how rough around the edges it really was. Siri couldn't find the "Candy" pub, but after I over-enunciated it, she figured it out, and gave me directions. It was a pretty simple task, since it was only 2 blocks away, but everything was pretty darned precise, down to the exact metre that I needed to turn left, and the ETA, which was spot-on. I thought Siri actually misjudged the location of the pub door, because I had to walk an extra 10 steps past it before she told me I had arrived. But then I noticed that I was right in front of the Hotel main entrance, which also serves as an entrance to the pub, so good enough, and arguably more correct.
As for the accuracy of the map details, I learned that the alley closest to my office has a name: Trounce Alley. This surprised me, because (A) I didn't know it had a name, and (B) the map showed that Trounce Alley actually extends back two blocks to a section known as Blood Alley. On Google Maps, the same 2-block stretch of alley is called Blood Alley Square. So who is right? Turns out the alley is officially named Trounce Alley, and Blood Alley Square is just a colloquial name for the far eastern end of the alley where it joins Carrall Street. So Apple (top) got it right, and Google Maps (below) gets it wrong:
Speaking of quality of data, the Google Maps above shows the Woodward building as a construction zone, which it hasn't been since 2009. The Apple Map shows a completed building, so it's data is not only more accurate, but more more current in this case.
My only complaint is that the compass is a bit finicky, complaining regularly of compass interference as if there were big magnets nearby. I regularly had to reset it by waving the phone in a figure-8, and when I set the map to auto-rotate as I turned about, it would swing from side to side a little erratically, sort of like being on a rocking boat. If boats rocked in a spinny kind of way.
I'm sure there's lots of junk data somewhere in the gargantuan data sets that go into mapping apps like this, but for the first week of an app this huge, I'd say they nailed it.