iOS 6 Maps, or Apple Maps, may be wasting your time

Features 00:15, Sep 24 2012

Apple Maps fails to deliver a user experience consistent with the rest of iOS 6's features

Apple Maps or iOS 6 maps has been the talk of the tech world since iOS 6 became available to everyone just before the iPhone 5 came out. Some iPhone 4 and 4S users are avoiding upgrading to iOS 6 just to hang onto Google Maps a little longer. Let's take a quick look at the new Apple Maps and see what its strengths are, along with its unacceptable weaknesses.

The first thing you'll notice when opening Apple Maps is its design--it's a lot different from Google Maps. One thing Google Maps does right is to keep the map information-rich, but with enough distinction between roads, points of interest and city/county/state names so that it's very easy to read. Apple isn't quite there yet, and in some cities Apple Maps fails to sure major roadways and points of interest.

Aside from missing roads, points of interest and other bits of useful information, Apple Maps also seems to be missing critical data on major structures--like bridges and buildings--and landscapes.

 

One new and neat feature is the 3D view along with the ability to fly over cities, so to speak, and take a look at buildings and roads from above. You can turn and angle the maps any way you like to get a good idea of the area around you--or areas you plan to visit--to give you a better sense of direction. The only problem is some of that missing data makes for hilariously bad representations of what is actually out there. Can you call it a map when it doesn't accurately represent the landscape or city at all?

Another poorly executed feature is search. If you're looking for a restaurant, city or anything else for that matter, you'll need to be very specific and spell words and names correctly. Otherwise, you may end up some place you don't want to be, or you might not find what you're looking for at all.

A fine addition to Apple Maps is voice turn-by-turn navigation. If you actually manage to find the place you're looking for, and Apple actually manages to get you reasonable directions to get there, you can find a space for your phone in your car and have a voice speak out to you and tell you when and where to turn.

One thing I do like about Apple Maps in iOS 6 is the integration of Yelp reviews in searches. If I search for Shake Shack in New York City, for example, I can quickly see information including phone numbers, relevant websites and Yelp reviews. You can also see photos of the place from Yelp users integrated right into the Maps app.

Will Apple Maps catch up with Google Maps or Nokia Maps? It's hard to say. Some pundits are saying no--Google has had plenty of years to build its product to where it is now, from collecting data to having covered thousands of miles with its Street View car, and Apple won't ever come close. Some tech journalists are saying they actually like Apple Maps, or that it isn't that bad. Yes, yes it is that bad and I can't say otherwise just for the sake of looking at the bright side or to be contrarian for page views.

For basic stuff, Apple Maps might do the job. Is it as quick and feature-rich as Google Maps? No. If you misspell a word or abbreviate a city or state, will you find what you're looking for? Maybe. The real question is whether you want to take any chances when it comes to your time. That's what's on the line here when we're talking about map function and usage. You use maps to save time, to find where you're going and to discover new places. If a map gives you an inconsistent experience in most of those areas, isn't it just a big waste of your time?

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