With some trepidation I downloaded iOS 6 to my iPhone 4S just to see what all the commotion was about with Apple's new mapping app. So here are some quick observations if you've not yet made the leap to iOS 6:
- LOAD TIME: I found the Apple Maps app loads a little faster than Google Maps and it found my location very accurately.
- 3D VIEW: 3D view in map mode seemed a bit useless and it isn't until you get into an urban area where building models are present does it make much sense.
- ZOOMING/PANNING: Zooming into Madison Square Garden in 3D mode took an acceptable amount of time to load and panning through the rest of Manhattan was smooth and loaded just fine.
- BUILDING MODELS: When you are not in 3D mode you can see building footprints if the area is populated with building models.
- POIs INCOMPLETE: On of the biggest complaints noted by many but particularly illustrated by "The Amazing iOS 6 Maps" blog was the lack of detail provided by the app. So, I located a park near the area where I am currently located and, sure enough, the park boundaries were incorrect. Specifically, the park is Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. Only one-third of the park extents were correctly defined. And obviously there are many more examples that have already been cited. I'm scratching my head going, guys, this was an easy layer in your database to field check if you had just bothered to consult a real map. Google, Mapquest, OpenStreetMap all had the park boundaries correctly identified. What was their source map that allowed such a gross oversight?
- YELP INTEGRATION: I like the integration with Yelp; I think that's a nice touch because I've been disappointed with the Where application that I have now to find restaurants etc.
- VOICE NAVIGATION: The addition of voice navigation will certainly help drive prices down for portable navi devices now. Watch for Christmas-time fire sales on some of the lower functioning PNDs. I did find the voice a bit muffled however so the clarity is lacking that you find in a Garmin or TomTom.
- REAL-TIME TRAFFIC: I found the real-time traffic feature, while accurate, to be confusing. Apple uses dashed red or yellow lines to indicate slowing traffic. This will be a personal preference thing. If you liked Google's Traffic feature with RED/YELLOW/GREEN, this might seem less than what you prefer. However, Apple has allowed you to see the individual roadways clearer while Google's has a tendency to obscure the roadway when traffic is overlaid.
So what's the bottom line? Apple clearly has some work to do. The bar has been set much too high and as I said in our podcast, Apple seems to have ignored the fact that so many apps in the app store rely on location-based information and maps for display, navigation and reference. They've got to fix the problem well before the next release of the operating system. Otherwise, when the iOS version of Google Maps comes out there will be calls to dump Apple Maps and use Google which has invested much more time and effort into being a "mapping company." Apple will eventually figure out that maps are no longer a "nice to have" feature on a phone but are now an essential part of the infrastructure of mobile applications.