Apple's New Maps App For iOS

While there have been some legitimate complaints about the accuracy of Apple’s new maps, especially overseas, my experience has been slightly better in some ways than with Google Maps’s backend. Two locations that never showed up correctly in the old Maps program were my home address and the secondary sports field at my school. I had to truncate my home address because the inclusion of the apartment number fatally confused Google’s engine. That was a constant annoyance because I couldn’t just tap on my address entry to select it as a location without having to edit it. Apple’s iOS 6 version found my home the first time with no problem, no massaging of the info required. The school field never showed up on either a search or as a labeled location in previous versions of Maps. I had to manually locate it and drop a pin to navigate to it. In Apple’s new version, it was a labeled location, and it showed up in a simple search.

Google Maps always had a long way to go in Japan. I tried Google Maps when they first launched online, but they were basically unusable here, especially when I was living in a fairly rural area. The road data were sparse or just plain wrong. Due to recent (within the preceding 5 years) construction, some roads had changed but were shown in their previous form on Google’s maps. Satellite data was limited to a fairly high zoom level and even then was pretty crude compared to what was available anywhere in the US. It was a couple of years — at least — before I felt like it was even as usable as Yahoo’s Japanese maps.

Google Maps got better, never reached great, but was good enough and had a clean enough interface to oust Yahoo’s maps for most uses. Later, when I got an iPhone, Google’s data were — again — good enough, but occasionally not as trustworthy as some of the dedicated apps loaded on Japanese phones.

I now live in a suburb of Tokyo, so I’m hardly out in the boonies anymore. But, as recently as a few days prior to the update to iOS 6 there were still inaccuracies in Google’s maps. Places were mis-labeled, locations were slightly wrong, roads weren’t marked properly, there were roads marked as connected that weren’t. And this is in a major urban area with a high population density, which presumably means good feedback on data.

I may find different inaccuracies in the future, so I’m not claiming that Apple’s maps are great. Already I can see that the level of detail is lower in most cases than Google’s was. The separation of transit data from the Maps app is particularly annoying since all of the transit programs I’ve used are ugly and have some questionable UX design choices to go along with the visual suck. But I do have to point out that my personal edge cases, that remained definite and unresolved problems with Google’s mapping data, were fixed on day one with Apple’s new backend.