Apple Is Overhauling Maps


#21

I just read an interesting article about how ride and bike sharing businesses are expanding their mapping services to include public transportation and walking directions as well, which must have also spooked Apple into tweaking Maps:

Lyft and Uber Won’t Be Happy Until They’re Your One-Stop Transit Guide

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/03/business/dealbook/lyft-uber-bike-sharing.html

In my earlier comments I thought only about driving directions, and though I think the driving directions in Maps are the best, the public transportation info sucks compared to Google’s. This is especially surprising because around the time Maps was launched, they bought an excellent public transit app, Hop Stop, which had not only the best routing information, but was the most up to date info about NYC subway and bus delays and rerouting. They discontinued it about a year after they bought it, So IMHO, there’s no reason Maps should be as bad with real time bus and subway info as it is.

When I vacationed in Australia about two years ago, Apple Maps was awful with walking directions; Google was much better. I don’t know if it was because we did Verizon’s international roaming plan, but we also found that it took much longer for Apple and Google Maps to adjust.


(cory) #22

A single map app SHOULD (eventually) support ALL map reading needs including trail maps with detail and contours. That way users have a single point of geographical knowledge with a single user interface. Trail apps are much better than road apps at this point in time, but I would not count on their survival over the next several years.


#23

This could be a great selling point for Watch…perfect for hikers and campers. And I’ll bet trail apps will help Uber and Lyft get bike sharing established in parks across the country. Bike sharing is a HUGE success in NYC, and it’s very popular in parks that have nearby bike racks.


(Adam Engst) #24

Tonya and I recently went running on the Ives Trail in Connecticut. She had her cellular-enabled Apple Watch and I had an iPhone in a running belt. The trail was tremendously rugged, so our initial plan for how far out we’d go separately before turning around fell apart quickly. Unfortunately, the Apple Watch was so much less capable of getting a signal that we were completely unable to to communicate on the trail, which led to a somewhat stressful time until we both independently arrived back at the car.

And this was in populous (but hilly) Connecticut, right near Danbury. I’d worry that cellular access would be even worse in more rural areas where people would want to hike or camp.


#25

5G is supposed to help solve the problems of rural connectivity. I’ve read in more than a few places think that Apple will continue to build better connectivity features, and they are in negotiations for 5K modems. They’re supposedly talking to Intel, who wants to get into the modem business.


(Adam Engst) #26

I see quite a bit of debate as to whether 5G will be better or worse for rural areas, but I think it’s worthwhile to consider that in the example we’re talking about—hiking and camping—there’s almost no money to be made for carriers. The problem is that we talking about wilderness coverage, which is even less population-dense than rural areas, while being even harder and more expensive to cover.

https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q=5G+rural+connectivity


#27

This is true, and while some US National Parks do have some cell service in a few of the busier areas, there isn’t any in the more remote and wild areas.


(Tommy Weir) #28

I found the maps for hikers in Finland a real insight into the level of information made available. Hillshading, topology, regular guides, distance measurement. You could work out a lot in advance about what you were heading into.

https://retkikartta.fi/index.php?lang=en

Great apps for mobile using this data too.


#29

I just read about aspect that I think could be a big advantage for Apple Maps in China, India and other emerging markets…electric bikes and scooters. They’re big for public transportation as well as for personal use:

How Lyft’s bike-share investment might change how we get around cities

https://www.curbed.com/2018/7/3/17531182/lyft-transportation-citi-bike-bikeshare

And an interesting statistic about transportation in the US:

Considering that 35 percent of U.S. vehicle trips last year were two miles or less, according to the latest household travel survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Lyft’s decision to add new travel options that can bypass increasingly congested streets seems like a smart move. And don’t forget the value of ridership and member data for hundreds of thousands of bike-share users.


(Fritz Mills) #30

Despite what you have read, 5G will do little or nothing for rural connectivity. For a good explanation of what 5G is, isn’t, and maybe will be in 5 or 10 years, this offers a great read:

http://www.wetmachine.com/tales-of-the-sausage-factory/so-what-the-heck-does-5g-actually-do-and-is-it-worth-what-the-carriers-are-demanding/


(Robert C Johnson) #31

As Adam demonstrated in his story about running in the wilds with Tonya, in my experience the only reliable rural and wilderness mapping is based on the GPS satellite system. I’ve used a number of programs over the years that I allow you to download map layers to your iPhone or iPad so that you are able to navigate reliably in areas where there is absolutely no cellular signal available.

My current favorite is Gaia which allows downloading multiple map layers in overlay, tracking, routing, sharing and web publishing — essentially all the things my Garmin standalone GPS units have performed over the years, but better. The service is not cheap ($20-$40 per year depending on number of map sources) but as Adam mentioned, there is no economic incentive for anyone to provide this capability for free.

Website: https://www.gaiagps.com/map/?layer=GaiaTopoRasterFeet

App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gaia-gps-hiking-hunting-maps/id1201979492?mt=8

Regarding reliable communication between hikers or runners in rural/wilderness areas outside cellular coverage, satellites continue to work. The Garmin inReach system of devices allow communication from virtually anywhere via the Iridium satellite network, again for a fee. The newest device is very small (3.5 ounces), supplemented by connecting to a smart phone for screen display.

Perhaps we can wish for a future in which the cellular networks could automatically can hand off seamlessly to a future satellite network when necessary that would allow one device to travel everywhere on the planet and communicate. But for now it seems we’re not there yet…


(Simon) #33

Extensive trail maps might be part of a specialized app, but a terrain mode would be just as straightforward to include in Maps as Transit or Satellite mode are today. In fact, that is just what Google has done. Terrain mode is just another mode you can chose. It’s very convenient when you’re out hiking or camping or anywhere in the backcountry and topology is more important for orientation than (non-existant) roads or buildings. I see no reason why Apple Maps should not include something like that in the future.


(Simon) #34

Maps doesn’t need cell service. A cached version of the area you are hiking in is perfectly fine. All you need is some view of the sky to get GPS reception and you’re golden. Of course today that works a whole lot better with Google Maps than with Apple Maps because Google has both better caching and Terrain Mode, but both of those would be quite straightforward additions Apple could make to improve Apple Maps overall, especially now that they have started their own data collection and can gradually improve the data base.


(Simon) #35

There’s other items I’d like to see improved in Maps.

One is bicycle directions. Walking and transit are a great start, but with more and more towns adopting specific “bicycle boulevards” or providing efficient bike trails, neither walking nor driving directions are a good way to plan a bike trip across town. You have these great bike routes that are tailored to bike efficiency and then you plan a trip according to what is shortest on foot or by car. Makes no sense at all. Google already has bike directions and it works really well where I live. It would be nice to see Apple catch up here. With their recent mapping efforts, I would think they already have the actual underlying data, they’d just need to make it accessible.

Another long-time peeve of mine is vias for directions. Sometimes you plan a trip and you want to go through a specific town or by a specific place. Apple Maps still forces you to basically do that by defining two separate trips. Google Maps OTOH allows you to add several waypoints. You’ll always know how far away you are from your next waypoint and from your final destination and how long these steps will take. You can even re-order your waypoints which is sometimes very useful. Seems like things Apple could rather easily tweak their Map GUI for to implement.

And a few minor tweaks to turn-by-turn mode:

  • show current speed limit even when in overview mode
  • option to show current speed, elevation, and heading
  • respect manual choice of scaling, especially in overview mode (allowing users to adjust zoom level and heading)
  • rest areas should be included as a quick link (besides gas and food)
  • option to modify current routing to include a waypoint (business or location)

Finally, don’t start the app with the menu using up half the screen. Don’t move to where I currently am unless I hit the arrow button. Display the same map area I last was looking at when I last use the app. Launch displaying only a the small search bar at the bottom that can be dragged up to display the menu only when I need it. Basically, maximize viewable map area. Don’t “forget” previous views or directions. Let the user define what he/she is interested in and stick to that until told otherwise by the user.


(Simon) #36

Another idea I had a while back involves AR so I hope it would be right up TC’s alley. Often the Park Service will have a really great trail map. And if you have an annual pass or you pay to enter, you will be getting that map for free. The trails on that map are often much better than anything Apple Maps or Google Maps have to offer. Plus, you can drop that map, get it wet, crinkle it, etc. A lot of stuff you probably wouldn’t want to do to your $1100 iPhone.

OTOH the iPhone has a camera, a GPS receiver and a handy screen. How about you could take a photo of that trail map and the app would not only show you that pic, but also recognize the area it is actually depicting along with the scale (possibly with a little manual help from the user by specifying roughly which area the map is showing) so that from then on it can overlay your GPS coordinates onto that map. Now you have the great trail map combined with knowing where you actually are on it. You get basically the best of both worlds. Many times the paper trail map is fine, but once you no longer know where you are on it, it’s useless. The phone always knows where you are, but its trail map is often close to useless. Putting the two together using a bit of AI magic might be a nice way to show off practical uses of AR for everyday consumers.


#37

Another idea I had a while back involves AR so I hope it would be right up TC’s alley.

What a fantastic idea! From time to time, I’ve checked out various cities using Apple Maps’ Flyover feature:

See select major metro areas from the air with photo-realistic, interactive 3D views. You can move your device through space to experience a city from above, or explore in high resolution as you zoom, pan, tilt, and rotate around the city and its landmarks.3

https://www.apple.com/ios/maps/

If Apple can do Flyovers, then I think that with some more work, it should be possible to create really great 3D trail maps. Or if they don’t want to do this, there could create a lot of opportunities for app developers.

Often the Park Service will have a really great trail map. And if you have an annual pass or you pay to enter, you will be getting that map for free. The trails on that map are often much better than anything Apple Maps or Google Maps have to offer.

The National Park Service might want to create apps of their own; in the long run, it would probably save them money.

OTOH the iPhone has a camera, a GPS receiver and a handy screen. How about you could take a photo of that trail map and the app would not only show you that pic, but also recognize the area it is actually depicting along with the scale (possibly with a little manual help from the user by specifying roughly which area the map is showing) so that from then on it can overlay your GPS coordinates onto that map. Now you have the great trail map combined with knowing where you actually are on it. You get basically the best of both worlds.

Apple has been vocal for years about AR, and rumors have been flying for years about AR glasses. Having a trail mapped out for you in glasses so you don’t have to keep looking at your iPhone would be very appealing to back country hikers and mountain bikers.

Many times the paper trail map is fine, but once you no longer know where you are on it, it’s useless. The phone always knows where you are, but its trail map is often close to useless. Putting the two together using a bit of AI magic might be a nice way to show off practical uses of AR for everyday consumer.

It could be another great selling point for Apple Watch too, and good PR for Apple’s efforts in health management and monitoring.


(jbayly) #38

Much better to just download a trail map app that includes many things that you wouldn’t want to clutter up Apple Maps with.

Here’s an example from one of our hikes in the All Trails app:

Lots of things to note about this app: Waypoints with notes; ability to upload your hikes (or rides, etc) for others to get a feel for it and see alternate paths that have never been mapped; real contour lines; visual display of the elevation changes as the hike progresses; several other map layer options; options to browse or search for nearby hikes; ability to save all your hikes, with your reviews of them; etc.

Many of these features just don’t make sense to clutter up a simple map interface with.


(mpainesyd) #40

I have submitted “Feedback” to Apple’s Map section about the importance of including speed limits but am not holding my breath.Last year I was at a seminar where several map providers reported how advanced they were with this:
http://www.globalncap.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Seminar-on-ISA-systems.pdf

I used to prefer Google Maps for travelling around Australia but it now seems less user-friendly (maybe because I refuse to log into my Google account) so I am more likely to use Apple Maps. In any case, phone coverage in rural Australia is woeful so I rely on offline map apps like Metroview and Sygic (for New Zealand). Both have reasonable speed limit data.


(Diane D) #41

I think I’ve seen speed limits in my area?

Diane


(Fearghas McKay) #42

I see speed limits when using routing, ie directions but not when just in map mode. This is in MA, RI & CO.

I am pretty sure that Waze is similar.

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