Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple Maps Feedback (Along with Google & Waze)

Since everyone seems to be whining about Apple's new maps app, I thought I'd join in the fun. I used it yesterday for the first time on a trip I take often. To be semi-fair, I thought I'd provide my feedback with the 3 map apps I'm most familiar with: the previous Google powered maps and Waze.

Google Maps

The Good

  • Search is easy and complete. I used it all the time to find places.
  • I like Street View, especially when I'm not sure what side of the street something is on.
  • The app was zippy.
  • The driving directions always seemed accurate and avoided random shortcuts that were technically faster, but harder to follow.

The Bad

  • No spoken turn-by-turn.
  • No full screen.
  • Didn't work in the background... not that it really mattered I guess.

Of course, Google has great data and the map was well designed. The only gripe was a lack of turn-by-turn directions.


The Good

  • I really like the design. The words are easy to read, and the map takes up the full screen.
  • I can easily see the total distance and estimated arrival time.
  • When coming to a complicated part of the route, I can swipe around the map to see what's coming up. Then tap a little radar button which will bring me back to tracking my location. Very helpful!
  • When on a long stretch, the map zooms out so I can see how much further I have to go.
  • I can easily mute the audio within the app which is great when listening to audiobooks. For me it's not about the speaking. I just want the directions to auto-update after I make a turn.
  • The map has a "nigh mode" which is kinda cool.
  • The traffic data is well done. I've been able to avoid traffic on multiple occasions, and love it!

The Bad

  • Since it's community sourced, there are errors in the map. I find this to be especially true for places few people drive. It's gotten better (as it should), but it still has a ways to go.
  • Speaking of errors, Waze can never find my address. I have to type in "Albany, OR" and go from there. The picture above is sending me to the middle of Albany.
  • The map gives the shortest route, even if that means turning onto 50 random side streets. Keep my on big road, even if it means I'll be 30 seconds later.
  • The search feature is horrible! Search for "Home Depot" and you get a list of addresses. Why not plot them on a map? I'm searching because I DON'T know the address or where that address is. I ALWAYS started with Google Maps, then copied the address to search in Waze. This is LAME.
  • A final weird one: the app always tells me to turn too late. I'll have my blinker on, start moving into the turn lane, and THEN Waze will tell me to turn. That's just annoying.

I really like the design of the app. They pack a ton of information and the screen. I wish the back-end was just as good, but they're at the mercy of the community. They're NOT at the mercy on search and this should be fixed.

Apple Maps

The Good

  • As is Apple's style, they translate the real-word equivalent into a digital representation. So each turn direction looks like a road sign. Cute.
  • I like that I can go into full-screen mode.
  • I really like being able to use Siri to get driving directions. That's pretty cool and something I'll probably keep using.
  • When you search, it plots the options on a map (see Waze, someone other than Google can do it).
  • I like the way they label street names. I mean, it's not critically important since I'm not turning on them, but it's a nice feature.
  • I really like that I get an overall view before diving right in to the directions. That way I can be sure I'm headed in the right direction (Waze doesn't do this, further leading to my distrust of it's accuracy.)

The Bad

  • You can mute the audio, but it's hidden in the settings app, which is hidden in the Maps section. WAY to many taps while driving.
  • Information gets lost while in full-screen mode. It hides the ETA and total distance remaining. I know technically those shouldn't change, but what if I hit traffic? I want to see the updated estimate without having to tap. I'd also like to see the battery life remaining since I don't always have my phone plugged in.
  • I would also like it to adopt 2 other features from Waze: The ability to scroll around to see what's coming and to zoom out on long stretches of road so I can visually see how much further I have to go.

It's a classic Apple product: They focused on a small critical set of features and left out some obvious ones (cut & paste anyone?). Over time they'll make improvements with feedback.

The Overall Overall

My biggest concern is search, but works great on the iPhone. So worst case scenario, I just visit the website, copy the address and go back to the map. I'll probably continue to use Apple's Map since it's new and shiny... And well... I'm an Apple Fanboy. I don't know how well it's traffic data works, but if it doesn't re-route me like Waze does... I'm going to jump ship in times of trouble. So I'll probably start with Apple. If I can't find what I'm looking for, I'll search on Google, then jump back to Apple. It'll probably be rare that I open up Waze, but I'll definitely keep it around just in case.


  1. mikhel1:24 PM

    just a little tip for Waze - you CAN see search results plotted on a map! All you have to do is click the button in the upper right corner that says "Map" after you're returned search results. That will plot all of the results on the map and you can tap them for more info, and toggle between the different search providers (google, bing, waze, yelp, etc.). Hope that helps! - Mikhel

  2. Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.