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Apple Maps, Ctd.

September 27th, 2012

I tried Apple Maps a few times for turn-by-turn directions. Didn’t work out too well.

When I tried it in my car, it suggested a route I knew was not the best one. My car’s GPS makes the same suggestion, and I ignore it as well, taking a faster alternate route on a road which is not numbered and therefore is not as “visible” to the GPS. But once I start taking the better route, the car’s GPS comes on board and projects that going all the way down that route is in fact best. Not Apple’s GPS: it kept insisting that I take side roads back to the initially suggested route, even after it was clear that this would significantly extend the travel time.

Next, I tried the GPS while walking. One problem I ran into was not necessarily Apple’s fault: construction blocked a road crucial to the route. It actually cut off the road completely, which was very rare. I also noted that even after I went completely out of the suggested path, the GPS did not re-route. Worse, every time time turned of the phone and turned it back on again, the maps app had reset, completely losing my route, forcing me to re-input the route every time I pulled out my phone; the only other solution was to leave the phone turned on in my pocket. Later, after I had finished, I tried it again and the route had not reset when I closed and opened the phone—apparently, it only loses the route when you actually are using it to get directions…

I also found a driving bias in the GPS tracking: while taking the train home, the GPS locator tried to track my route along adjacent roads. If the road veered off, the GPS location would follow the road, until it was clear I was not going that way, whereupon the location would snap back to the rail line, only to snap to an adjacent road the moment one presented itself. Clearly, Apple does this to avoid the turn-by-turn directions from showing you driving through city blocks, making up for GPS inaccuracies. When you’re not driving, though, it creates inaccuracies because of this feature.

The more I see the maps, the more I see bogus locations, most notably numerous instances of a single train station in multiple locations. Worse, Tokyo’s city geography is largely centered around rail lines and stations, but Apple’s map app doesn’t show train lines until you zoom in a certain amount, and doesn’t show train stations until you zoom in almost all the way.

Also, why am I not getting 3D building renderings in downtown Tokyo? It seems that feature is not active in Japan; instead of a 3D Buildings icon, I just get a button with the characters “3D,” and all that does is tilt the map a little. Hardly “3D” anything.

Apple has to do a lot of work on this. If they don’t hire a couple thousand people to do the grunt work on getting these things fixed, then they’re idiots. This will only work well for Apple if, by next year this time, most of the errors are fixed and the functionality improves. Right now, with the iPhone 5 playing catch-up with Android features and the Maps actually going pretty far in the other direction, Apple is in danger of losing the reputation for best quality that is chiefly responsible for so many people reflexively buying the device.

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  1. Troy
    September 27th, 2012 at 10:14 | #1

    “If they don’t hire a couple thousand people to do the grunt work on getting these things fixed, then they’re idiots”

    my thoughts too! $100B in the bank and they ship crap like this.

    This is a real newton moment for the company, biggest corporate fail from them since pricing the G4 cube so high back in 2000.

  2. Troy
    September 29th, 2012 at 06:58 | #2

    off topic, I don’t get Tokyo real estate at all . . .

    So I found this place:


    google streetview: http://goo.gl/maps/dPkXb

    pretty sweet structure, excellent Tokyo location, not-horrible nabe, — but the price! $1.2M (all $ @ ¥100)

    but then I ran the numbers through a Flat 35 simulator and with a $800,000 principal the monthly payment over 30 years is only 29万 a month!

    that’s the power of 1.6% interest rates I guess!

    Minimum income to qualify for $800k loan is $100,000/yr LOL.

    Makes sense I guess. Average interest cost is ¥70,000/mo over the life of the loan so if the property retains its purchase price (big if, sigh) that would be the effective rent, plus whatever other home owner fees you get hit with in Tokyo.

    But I still think if & when taxes are increased to start actually paying off the quadrillion yen national debt, real estate is going to get killed.

  3. Tim Kane
    September 30th, 2012 at 04:19 | #3

    One can only wonder about the decision to roll out a product that wasn’t even beta test ready for the Iphone. They are trying to keep up with the Google, while Google slowly moves into their markets (Motorola). So I understand the motive of Apple to kick google out of their ecosystem.

    Apple makes plenty of mistakes and perhaps the effect of this one will evaporate. Mapping software is extremely complex and takes years to develop. Google benefited from being and early entrant when expectations were low, still they invested massively into the project – and now it is serving to undermine Apples image of technology competence.

    Apple should have bought Garmin or something like that and thrown more money at the problem up front, earlier, not later, before rolling it out.

    In the meantime, I’m resisting the pressure Apple puts on me to update my ipod-touch to the new OS. The fact is, the last OS upgrade was for me a great disaster. I ended up losing ALL of my data (some of it was my fault as I hit a wrong button at some point and lost my ability to get the data back – but I wasn’t interested in updating the IOS to begin with).

  4. matthew
    October 2nd, 2012 at 21:59 | #4

    I got my phone on Saturday. Very nice piece of kit. I am enjoying it and find it a nice improvement over my old iPhone 4.

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