Maps with Apple, Google, and Amazon

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Today marks the latest release of Apple’s mobile operating system which also means the default map app on the iOS devices changes from Google to an Apple version.  Google’s Map app was the preloaded mapping app for iPhones and iPads but Apple made the move earlier this year to dump Google in favor of an in house version.

The response towards Apple’s new map app has been overwhelmingly negative.  To drive the mapping and navigation features, Apple seems to be mainly using TomTom but also credits OpenStreetMap, Waze, USGS, US Census Bureau, and a host of other sources to drive the app. Greg Sterling over at SearchEngineLand provided a roundup of the critical and positive reviews of Apple’s map app.  Even Waze (a crowdsourced traffic company) CEO Noam Bardin did not have kind words for the change.  In an interview with Business Insider about the change:

“Apple went out and partnered with the weakest player,” Bardin says. “They’re now coming out with the lowest, weakest data set and they’re competing against Google, which has the highest data set. What’s going to happen with the Apple maps, is that you’re literally not going to find things. When you do find them, they might be in the wrong place or position geographically. And if you do have it, the route to it may not be the optimal route.”

“They’re saying many things that used to work on Google don’t work on Apple,” Bardin says. “Going forward now, we’re going to see this around maps, it’s the question of how fast Apple can work with their partners to update the data and how good the user experience will be.”

Other complaints have been about the lack of public transportation directions, the inability to find local businesses (even with the inclusion of Yelp data), and the lack of street level data.  The negative reactions had even inspired one tongue-in-cheek twitter handle called IOS6Maps (which was suspended after only being active for a few hours) with such zingers as “Look, we left out transit directions b/c only losers take public transport-iPhone owners drive BMWs, everyone knows that” and this one mocking the widespread complaint that the new map app lacks many essential data points, “At Apple, we strive for clean, uncluttered user interfaces. The new Maps removes unsightly place names, buildings, roads, and POIs.”

One the plus side some reviewers have noted is the free turn-by-turn voice directions.

Apple iOS users who want to continue to use Google Maps are stuck with accessing it via their device’s web browser.  It is anticipated that, at some point, a Google Map app will be made available from Apple’s App Store for users to download.

Apple’s default map app with iOS 6

As with the last time heavy media coverage of Apple’s iOS 6 announcement at  its World Wide Developers Conference, which was held from June 11-15, 2012 in San Francisco, California, Google has their own mapping app related announcements timed for the same time as Apple’s operating system update.  Google is rolling out its own update to Google Maps for Android devices.  Of interest, is the cross platform syncing of activity on Google Maps across a user’s devices.  Directions created via a browser on a desktop computer will automatically be synced to that same user’s phone and tablet devices.  Google’s search algorithm will also be applied spatially to queries so that users who type in an incomplete address (for exampled, 100 Main st) will be given search results related to the location the user is located at.

Other Google Maps recent news includes the announcement of upgrades to Google’s indoor navigation and imagery efforts.  Google added indoor navigation last November and continues to make upgrades to the functionality.  Users can now drag and drop Google’s orange pegmen onto orange circles (which denotes an interior view available) on Google Maps to access 360-degree panoramics. To see what’s available, grab the orange pegman that sits atop the zoom slider and pull it onto the map.  Orange circles will appear showing indoor imagery locations.  Hover the dotted shadow circle above the orange circle.  What unfortunately looks like a green pile of poop (really, Google?) will appear when you’ve successfully hovered over an orange circle and a small popup image of the interior will show up .  Drop the pegman and the screen will change to the interior of the building.  Use the navigation tools to spin around.  Click on the “X” in the upper right hand side to revert back to the map view.

Using Google’s Orange pegman to access interior panoramic imagery.

Amazon has also jumped back into the map app arena to break away from Google with its own announcement of a Maps API for Android developers as part of its Amazon Mobile App SDK in order to enable the building of spatial capabilities into apps running on its Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD:

The Amazon Maps API provides a simple migration path for developers who are already using the native Google Maps API on Android.  Our Maps API offers two core features:

  • Interactive Maps. You can embed a Map View in your app for customers to pan, zoom and fling around the world. You have the option to display a user’s current location, switch between standard maps and satellite view, and more.
  • Custom Overlays. You can display the locations of businesses, landmarks and other points of interest with your own customized markers and pins.

Amazon is licensing Nokia’s Location Platform to power the maps and geocoding services of its new Maps API.

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