The New Apple Maps App: The Lowdown on One of iOS 6’s Biggest Features

The New Apple Maps App: The Lowdown on One of iOS 6’s Biggest Features

Lose yourself with the new Apple Maps app.

Last week, we talked about Apple and Google’s parting of ways and Google’s subsequent separate YouTube app. Another result of this separation was that Google’s  Maps app was also to be no more.

Instead, Apple announced they would be replacing Google’s offering with a map app of their own. The loss of Google Maps was one of the most talked-about features of iOS 6 since the two companies announced their separation in June. Apple users everywhere speculated whether Apple would be able to provide something that matched, let alone bettered, Google’s excellent app.

As iOS 6 downloads spread across the Apple world, users have had a day or two to try out the new app. The verdict? Not good.

In fact, it’s worse than not good. Most people have discovered the app to be unusable, with one Mashable reporter finding a tourist landmark was displayed an impressive seven miles away from where it actually is.

In addition, Apple’s maps app doesn’t include transit directions, which will be a headache for many city-dwelling iPhone users. Unlike the Google Maps version of the app, it also fails to recognize key landmarks and dwellings, as exemplified by entrepreneur Anil Dash on his blog.

According to Dash, he’s been using iOS 6 for a few months now and has repeatedly been failed by Maps, not only when requesting directions, but also when trying to find popular landmarks. For example, he discovered that users can no longer search for places by building name (a useful feature of the Google app). Also, searching for a street address doesn’t always produce the most obvious result (a search for Lexington Avenue gave him an address in Brooklyn, even when he typed in “Lexington Avenue, Manhattan”).

So why is Apple’s app so bad?

Well, Apple’s apps are bad. The company make great operating systems, amazing products and clumsy, buggy software (iTunes, anyone?). Maps is no exception, especially since Apple have bought three different mapping companies and had years to develop and refine the app.

Some critics have speculated that part of the issue is their partner in crime, Tom Tom, whose maps are generally considered lower quality than other providers. However, as yet it remains unclear why Apple’s app is so atrociously inaccurate and, quite literally, leading so many people down the wrong path. Tom Tom were quick to defend themselves amidst the map backlash, with a spokesperson telling the BBC that its maps provided only a “foundation” to the service:

“The user experience is determined by adding additional features to the map application such as visual imagery. User experience fully depends on the choices these manufacturers make. We are confident about our map quality, as selling 65 million portable navigation devices across the world and more than 1.4m TomTom apps for iPhone in the past two years reaffirms this quality.”

In addition to the misdirections, the app separates out step-by-step instructions from pictures or diagrams: you can view each individually but not both together. Nor can you skip directions if you know the first few. Siri can read them to you from your iPhone, but you have to wait until you reach the location of the previous step before she will tell you the next step. Useful if you like driving on the edge, not so much if you like to know in advance that you need to take a left at the next corner.

On the plus side, it’s not all bad: Apple’s Maps app also includes a few handy features that Google’s app didn’t. The app notifies you of accidents and roadworks (not that this feature is entirely helpful without displaying traffic flow) and it also includes helpful Yelp reviews, neither of which appeared on the Google app.

The best thing this app has going for it is that it looks good. It has 3D buildings and excellent satellite pictures. Considering people need the app to get them places, however, looking good isn’t going to be much help.

Google has announced it will be releasing a stand-alone version of its map app, although the company haven’t as yet specified a release date. In the meantime, expect to see a surge in printed map sales.

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