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Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up (techcrunch.com)
718 points by xuki 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 569 comments



Apple maps is an odd sort of problem for apple to have taken on.

First, it's Google head on. This is exactly the stuff where Google is very hard to beat. For Apple, it's a little outside their strengths. Too fiddly. Every damned place in the world has their own little public transport issues, data sources. Apple are more of a clever solution with the right compromises bunch than a "slog our way through 10 million random issues until a pattern emerges" bunch.

I like the moxy, but there's always going to be an "are we the new Bing?" cloud hanging over projects like this, unless and until they "win." All that said, I'm glad there is something out there that isn't google.


Agreed, but... they've already "won". Winning doesn't mean driving Google Maps out of existence, it just means being good enough that Google can't squeeze concessions out of Apple by threatening to yank GMaps.

A few years ago Apple disclosed that Apple Maps has 75% marketshare on iOS. [1] Mission accomplished.

[1] https://apnews.com/df90458e58564f19b4b7c8510f9baa67/apple-ma...


Where in the linked article does it say Apple Maps has 75% marketshare?

Assuming that number is accurate, as Apple Maps is preinstalled on iPhones it means 25% of users went out of their way to manually remove it. Mission far from accomplished (and hence Apple's efforts in the OP to rebuild Maps' dataset entirely in-house.)

I'm also curious what the active usage numbers are versus Google Maps on iOS.


Eighth paragraph. "Apple says its mapping service is now used more than three times as often as its next leading competitor on iPhones and iPads"

Ok, maybe slightly less than 75%, because Waze exists. But again, crushing Google Maps is not the goal. Keeping people on iOS is the goal.


I also haven’t figured out how to get links I click on in my phone to open in Google Maps, so I accidentally open Apple Maps all the time.


I would uninstall Apple maps entirely from my phone if i could but then there’d be no way to open up dropped pins from my messages. I always feel like the user is grabbed by the balls when it comes to device manufactures trying to force you to give them your data rather than hand it over to someone else, just because they know the user can’t do anything about it really.


> I always feel like the user is grabbed by the balls when it comes to device manufactures trying to force you to give them your data rather than hand it over to someone else, just because they know the user can’t do anything about it really.

This isn't a manufacturer problem, it's an Apple problem. Lack of choice is baked into their design, which is uncontroversial among both proponents and detractors; the former would (reasonably) say that there are tradeoffs that are the other side of the coin to constraining the user so heavily.


Once you could open it in google maps from Apple maps, now they removed this ability. I wish I could use google maps as a default and get rid of that useless Apple maps.


And if only gmail would open up safari by default without asking me every single time. And yes, I only use safari on my iPhone because it’s either just safari or safari AND chrome.


Firefox is reasonably performant on iOS.


Wow, isn't that the same kind of behavior/pattern that made MS target of the antitrust charges in the end of the 90s, back then with IE being the default browser?


No, they had trouble because of they way they forced PC manufactures to ship IE instead of Netscape.

Also, they had practical monopoly. Apple doesn't


I don’t think theres a way to set Google maps as the default :(


That's some Bilbo Baggins phrasing. It's telling if no hard numbers were divulged.


Can I ask what you mean by "Bilbo Baggins phrasing"?

I agree with your point, and think I can guess what that phrase means, but I'm not quite remembering why Bilbo Baggins would be associated with being intentionally vague about something :)


The line he uses at his going away party is somewhat related, “I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

I'm not sure if it's what OP meant though.


I've always assumed that was a veiled insult, but never thought about it long enough to tell.


I always assumed it was too, but now that I actually try to parse it... I think maybe it's not? But all who heard it probably assumed it was too? I think Bilbo probably meant the to be confused about whether it was or not, with plausible deniability, haha.


Ha, i'm adding "Bilbo Baggins phrasing" to my repertoire.


That probably includes embedded maps in apps. They default to apple maps and this will make up a lot of usage. Direct map usage is probably more skewed towards Google Maps.


> Apple says its mapping service is now used more than three times as often as its next leading competitor on iPhones and iPads, with more than 5 billion map-related requests each week


I wonder whether this includes all of the times where I tap an address link from Messages, Apple Maps opens as the default (which you cannot change[1]), I realize the horror of what I've done, and then I copy/paste the address explicitly into Google Maps. Count one map-related request for each!

[1]: https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/228904


Yea I bet if you measure by in-app hours instead of frequency, Google Maps would come out on top even though it's not installed out of the box, and even though all map actions on an iPhone will invoke Apple Maps by default.


siri search may also hit "apple mapping services" - the phrasing is a swamp of marketspeak


That means 75% is an upper bound, right? It's only 75% if Google had the only other maps product, and even they have two popular ones (Maps and Waze) that are likely to be installed.


No, it's more than so it could also be 79%. But, I don't think it's clear if they count Google as the competitor or each app separately.


I use my phone with car play for nav, so Apple maps. Directions and time estimates are better then google. Finding near by stuff, google wins. To the other posters point, since I am a car play user, Apple won as far as that goes.


Google Maps, Waze, and other third-party apps are finally coming to CarPlay: https://www.zdnet.com/article/apple-carplay-ios-12-will-fina...


Google Maps is also preinstalled on most android phones.


If maps is installed on phones as part of the default install doesn't that mean that 25% of people go out of their way to remove or replace it?

It says nothing about the users that have no use for maps and just counts them anyway


It says nothing about anything, really. There may be specific jurisdictions where Apple maps or Google maps falls over because that is an area they happen to have some bad data for - we can't really tell.

Strategically, Apple maps is in a good spot for Apple - Google's offering isn't the major choice of users for a piece of critical functionality.


Apple maps is installed by default on iOS AND is the default mapping app when you tap an address - and you CAN'T change that default on iOS. Given that, their usage numbers aren't as impressive as all that.


Seems odd to just blindly accept whatever numbers Apple provides about the usage of its own apps. Isn’t it going to be inherently at best a little biased? I guess there’s really no possible way to independently verify these numbers anyway.


I'll quote my reply from a similar comment...

What choice do they have? Maps, location data, and the services they enable are critical to mobile devices today, and will only get more so with AR and devices without screens.

“Everybody but Google” isn’t good enough judging by the current state of affairs, and Google doesn’t play by the same privacy rules as Apple, so they seem to have few options.


They could sponsor OpenStreetMaps and dedicate resources to it, donate satellite imagery etc. They'd get a lot of great data in return.


Fun fact: they do! https://github.com/osmlab/appledata

e.g. https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/talk-au/2018-May/0...

> * I work for Apple’s Maps team. We are interested in doing some fixes and improvements to inland water features in Australia on OSM, such as adding and improving geometry of polygons for lakes and wide rivers, fixing broken relations, and correcting alignment issues for inland features when they meet the coast.*

> Atlas [1], a tool Apple created for querying, visualizing, and storing OpenStreetMap data.

> Data Improvement Projects [2] being worked on by the Apple Data Team.

> Building Footprint Data [3] that Apple is sharing.

[1]: https://github.com/osmlab/atlas

[2]: https://github.com/osmlab/appledata/issues

[3]: https://github.com/osmlab/appledata/blob/master/BUILDINGS.md


OSM is orders of magnitude worse than Apple's current data set in my area, and I doubt that's unusual.

So the question for Apple is why tie themselves to a 3rd party platform? If they're going to go to this massive level of effort to generate the best data set they can achieve, they'll want to control the full stack for quality and predictability.

They could feed the OSM-relevant data they create to the platform, but that means a lot more work to create and maintain the integration tools and manage the workflow, along with potentially reduced revenues if they make OSM too good.

I doubt they'll care about any threat from OSM, but I doubt they'd see the overall effort as a good business investment. This isn't as straightforward as open sourcing some software.


> OSM is orders of magnitude worse than Apple's current data set in my area, and I doubt that's unusual.

As ever, define "worse" and "my area".

OSM is consistently worse worldwide (compared to Google, TomTom and Here) for geocoding. OSM is consistently worse for lane guidance. OSM is generally worse than Google worldwide for commercial POIs (shops, restaurants etc.), but on a par with TomTom and Here, and this is very location-dependent.

OSM is better worldwide, by several orders of magnitude, for pedestrian and bicycle mapping. OSM is generally better for non-commercial POIs. OSM is very often better in all aspects (save geocoding) in rural locations, particularly in Europe.

If you're an American motorist then Google is your best map right now. If you're a European cyclist then OSM is really the only game in town. It's not a black-and-white issue.


I was about to respond to the GP asking for details because where I am and as mainly a pedestrian and cyclist OSM is really the only decent solution (unless you like walking 30minutes in a large circle rather than 5).


I think Apple sponsoring and improving OSM would actually be the smartest and best way out of this debacle.

I think a perfect example of Apple doing this is: Webkit. Webkit gets back a lot from Apple (though I'm sure there's plenty of room to be miffed at Apple for being slow sometimes, but it still doesn't disprove the point) and it's a core part of their user-facing applications.

Personally, I'd like to see them just open source what they have and let the world enjoy. Either approach would certainly remove the death grip Google has on mapping solutions right now.

Edit: update for grammar and clarity fixes.


> Apple sponsoring and improving OSM would actually be the smartest and best way out of this debacle

I like to be thinking that, but being aware of me liking that thought, I'm asking myself: would I actually do so being some Apple executive? And I'm not sure I would. I do think that being community-supported is really, really great, and OSM has a pretty good community too. I'm a big opensource proponent, so it's easy for me to say, but I also think having their maps (software and data) free (as in GNU, yeah) wouldn't harm Apple, given the map is not their unique product they are selling. And being a native supporter of something that could be wikipedia for maps would be huge. So, yeah… yay OSM?

But, with all that said: IMO, OSM is a huge organizational mess. Giving them money & satellites, and then just expecting it will all "solve itself out" isn't really something I would do being responsible for Apple Maps. For starters, it's not like all OSM community members automatically become Apple employees, you're basically donating to somebody over whom you won't have any leverage. What's more important, it's not clear what it the goal of the donation, what OSM is expected to do with that? And how it will serve Apple? Their priorities seem to be quite off, OSM doesn't give a shit about any "product" whatsoever, they are just guys passionate about collecting all sorts of geo-data into databases nobody ever uses (at least, as far as OSM is concerned, they are the database: they don't make apps). And it's even questinable if such way of collecting data is the way to go in the age of imaging satellites, widely accepted spyware on every phone, ML and "big data".

And it's not like this is cheap, any way it would be done. And, no offense, but "partnering" with OSM wouldn't be exactly partnering. OSM doesn't have managers, engineers or cartographers any better than Apple can hire, all they have is community, which wouldn't even be OSM community anymore, if Apple rolls out a better (and more accessible) open geo-spatial DB than OSM has. Which, I believe, they are capable of.


Couldn’t they just fork OSM? If OSM wants to merge, go for it. Otherwise we have a new opensource map project. Not sure why we care if the original project lives or dies.


I guess they could. But since they have to do everything themselves anyway, why bother? I'm not sure about the legal aspect, but even so, I'm pretty sure Apple can use OSM's data in one way or another would they need to (in fact, article states that they did use it in the earlier versions of the map). And since they are making the map on their own, nothing forces them to open-source the DB right now: should they decide that it will be beneficial they can do it any time in the future. And should they decide it isn't: they just don't.


Yes they could. The OSM licence requires a share-alike, so OSM would be able to use anything Apple add, but all that's required is a database dump. It would be up to the OSM community to "merge" it back in if they wanted.


WebKit is Apple's project. It doesn't make sense to say WebKit gets back a lot because it's their own project. It's forked from KHTML, but hey nowadays even Konqueror uses WebKit.


And, given Apple's business model, which is selling hardware, one would think they could really afford to give back a bit more to open source.


OSM has some architectural baggage which is holding it down. until it is solved it can't compete with google maps ever.

also Apple need to bring alternate satellite image providers like ISRO, SpaceX


I think it's kinda like Google working with Android as an open source project. Google makes money on Android primarily by using Android as a means of delivering the Google ecosystem. They don't care that it's open source because they don't make money by selling it.

Apple could do the same thing with maps. Support a robust open mapping initiative to make sure their primary business (selling iPhones and other devices) has a solid platform for emerging technologies like AR. Making sure they have a solid maps offering supports the Apple (aka iPhone) ecosystem.

Also similarly to Google, they can still push plenty of proprietary things on top of the open parts of the initiative.


Plus it seems like this would weaken Google's partial stranglehold on the market is a side effect.


Commoditize your complement.


I like that line, is it yours or does it have some further history/examples behind it?


It's been around for a while. Here it is talked about by Joel Spolsky in 2002: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2002/06/12/strategy-letter-v/

Gwern's article about it was recently discussed here on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17047348


This is a great idea. I hope someone at Apple is reading.

Makes perfect sense, they don't need to make money on it, just an alternative to google.


You could fix your spotty coverage yourself. The areas I've been at had exceptional detail.


Yeah, I’ve nothing better to do than roam around fixing maps. It’s not like I have a daily job or anything. /s

It the same argument when someone talks about an issue with an open source software. The response is, “The source code is available, go fix it yourself.” It doesn’t work that way for anything but trivial issues.


I’ve made minimal corrections in OSM. It is nothing like working on code. If you can draw a line, point and click then even you can make difference.


I've fixed a few things in Open Street Map. But, for example, the city line for Redwood City CA at its western edge is totally bogus. That needs to be fixed by automatic reference to some authoritative source, like the USGS database.


i think there was an article a while ago about the OSM community not liking the idea of bots and automation, and how it’s a big problem for people “graffitiing” the maps because it’s manual effort to reset


It's not so much vandalism that is the issue, it's that rampant automatic edits can end up removing meaning from the data (by smoothing out meaningful differences and the like) or if they aren't careful enough, create a giant mess.


With code you need to be able to programme. For OSM you just need to know something about an area. Do you know what the name of that street is? That there's an italian restaurant on that corner? What the house number of that building is? etc etc


> Yeah, I’ve nothing better to do than roam around fixing maps. It’s not like I have a daily job or anything. /s

No one said it has to be your job or passion. I've fixed a couple of areas in OSM, but I've probably spent no more than a few hours working on it in total.

> It the same argument when someone talks about an issue with an open source software. The response is, “The source code is available, go fix it yourself.” It doesn’t work that way for anything but trivial issues.

Fixing a map for a locale you're familiar with is orders of magnitude easier than fixing a bug in an unfamiliar codebase potentially built with unfamiliar technology. That's assuming you know how to code in the first place.


> No one said it has to be your job or passion. I've fixed a couple of areas in OSM, but I've probably spent not more than a few hours working on it in total.

That doesn’t work unless everyone else is doing it. And for that to work, everyone should be using it in the first place. It’s a catch 22 problem. To be fair, it is possible that people do this where you live - which may be a reason why it is usable there, but I have not found that to be the case at the places I have visited.

Perhaps it is not as complicated as fixing a software bug, but the idea is same - the data is available publically, go fix it.


> That doesn’t work unless everyone else is doing it. And for that to work, everyone should be using it in the first place. It’s a catch 22 problem.

If that were actually true, Wikipedia would be no more than four stub articles written by Jimmy Wales.

The real barrier is people looking at a volunteer project and asking themselves "how can I take from this what I want?" rather than "how can I contribute to this, even in a small way?"

No one says anyone has to take on the herculean task of totally fixing all the problems they see in their area. But if you spend a little time fixing something, it will get better and perhaps even attain a high enough quality to satisfy you.


The most likely time for somebody to notice a problem is a) when they are on the move, and b) when it's a location unfamiliar to them. These are terrible circumstances to expect somebody to stop what they are doing and edit a map.


OSM is great for walking and cycling because pedestrians and cyclist are flexible enough to make small detours to map missing paths. In cities it's usually good enough if your destination is in the right spot, you can navigate by walking generally in the right direction. Finding potential shortcuts and getting to map terra incognita is just an added bonus.


And while I really like OSM I must say Apple got it right. The "report an issue" interface on iOS Map is easy to use on the go and requests are actually assigned to people who fix the map. I’ve signaled a few mistake and they all have been corrected.


It's not as complicated as fixing a software bug, but it's not trivial for the first-time user either.

Create an account, figure out how to navigate the interface, figure out what rules apply to your update, apply update, get reprimanded because you followed the explicit rule for "I'm not quite sure what to do with this".


__sr__ you're aware open source actually works. Largely because a tonne of people have entirely the opposite attitude to you for social tasks? Unless you haven't noticed Wikipedia exists... I worked on that long before it was mainstream or generally useful.


One of my besties is the OSM guru & evangelist (day job) and Ingress fanatic (that annoying friend).

He tried to dream up some notions to gamify improving OSM's data. While their current data quality trends are remarkable, better is better, right? (I don't have the gumption to find & link their conf proceedings slidedeck right now, sorry.)

I have interest and experience with GIS, location-based stuff, games. So we tried to brain storm some game ideas.

Sadly, we got nothing.

But I'm confident someone will divine a MineCraft-esque smash hit game. Something simple, fun, engaging, cultural, that with 20/20 hindsight will leave a lot of people facepalming.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingress_(video_game)


"The problem with open source software is that you have to fix it yourself". Unreal.


I spent some time starting to do so, but the gaps are cavernous, and I decided I had I other priorities.


For me the issue is more that they don’t seem to be able to pull it off.

Sure if they could have a super high quality dataset they build themselves it would be stupid to share it, but they don’t have that data, and I wouldn’t bet on them to have it even putting all their weight in the effort.

There is also the issue of motivation for the user to give feedback. If I do it in Google Maps I know it will benefit most users. In OSM it’s a pure gift to the community. Apple Maps ? it’s less clearcut.


The key part in what you said is "my area". There are a great many areas in which Apple Maps is fantastic - usually well-populated cities or surrounding areas in the US.

The reason to partner with OSM would be to cover the other 99% of landmass. It's very, very difficult to scale an operation like that otherwise.


They could sponsor OpenStreetMaps and dedicate resources to it

According to the article, OpenStreetMaps was one of the data sources that Apple used and decided wasn't up to snuff.

The article doesn't specify what the problems were with OSM, or if there were any problems unique to OSM, but one of Apple's priorities is rapid map updates, which is something that can be accomplished faster if it's in-house.

In addition, Apple intends to update its new maps in real-time (new road opens and 100 iPhone users drive on it, it magically appears on the map). I don't think that's possible with OSM.


Apple has a team right now working on OSM: https://github.com/osmlab/appledata/issues

The article just strikes me as plain wrong in this regard. Yes, of course Apple isn't going to use OSM in the Bay Area, but it's a big world out there.


There's no technical limitation whatsoever in the way of using OSM as a primary data source and also doing things like using phone telemetry to add roads to your local display map.

It'd likely be necessary to make that data available under the same license OSM is under, but that'd be it.

The way people use OSM, they grab a dump of the data and then load it into a database or whatever (probably processing it into a convenient schema) and then build maps from that database. So it's pretty easy to have more than 1 source contributing to the map you are displaying.

For updates, edits to OSM are available minute by minute, so if your data ingestion is up to it you don't have to put up with the stale data:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Planet.osm/diffs#Minutel...


That's absolutely possible on osm, in fact new roads are often on OSM before they reach Google maps


Google Maps gets really bad in rural areas, I was shocked on a recent trip in Washington state at how bad their maps are. They seemed to have half the businesses in town on the map, but the roads were inaccurate, missing, and sometimes just plain wrong.

OSM comparatively was of much higher caliber, which was surprising.


My estate is 3 years old. Google has no mention. Apple is incorrect. Openstreetmap is accurate since the day each road was opened up.


That would massively benefit OSM, and if OSM became Apple Maps/Google Maps calibre resource it would also benefit other OSM users including potentially Apple's competitors, but how would it benefit Apple?

Bear in mind if malicious entries got into OSM and made their way into Apple's data, guess who eats the smelly sandwitch for that?


Yeah, but they’re actually collecting all this new data for autonomous vehicles. Improvements to their maps app is just a freebee. For autonomous cars, mapping data this detailed is probably a several billion dollar competitive advantage that they don’t want to give away for free.


Apple already contributes to and works with OSM data.


Agree, Apple should just commoditized maps with a big open source initiative to take the leverage/power away from Google. They just need a highly functional solution for their platform.


Why would Apple want to base their business on their he competency of OpenStreetMaps. As a shareholder, I would find that alarming; as a user, Apple Maps is far better as it is right now.


The usual play is "when behind, join up with others and promote openness". That's what Google and Microsoft are doing vs AWS in cloud, its what browsers did during IE 6.0's reign, it's what Apple did with it's OS kernel, and so on.

It admittedly doesn't seem like a great fit for current Apple.


The two future directions that Apple are heading in are AR (augmented reality) and AS (autonomous systems). Mapping is more than key to both of those domain. It’s a complete no-brainer for Apple.


Well...

Maps, location data, and the services they enable were available on Apple devices before this project. They outsourced to Google, like everyone else. I can see how that's a strategically concerning position, especially considering that they are in a two-horse race against Google, but... you are going to have some uncomfortable dependencies in this business regardless. I mean chips are important.. nevermind.


Are you aware of why Apple left the Google deal?

Google was withholding the latest features from the Apple version, including vector map data and turn by turn directions. There's also indications Google wanted access to user location data in return for some of these features, something Apple was not willing to compromise on.


But giving away most of these features would mean Apple has to host Google's data, something Google wouldn't compromise either.

Sure Google could've promised that they wouldn't collect which tile a phone requested by specific user agent, but that would be silly.


I don't understand why Apple would need to host Google data. That's not how Google Maps on iOS works now, and it is fully featured.


It uses privileged API's


> AR

This is absolutely it. Maps, location data, and point clouds will power ARKit on the phone and perhaps in glasses.

Apple’s mobile UX has always relied on vertical integration, from custom-built A* chips all the way up to iCloud-powered software. Similarly, mastering underlying AR technologies will give Apple maximal control over its AR user experience.


> What choice do they have?

Perhaps this would be too risky, but they could license it from Google?


They did, originally, but Google reportedly wasn't willing to give them everything they wanted without sharing more user data in return.

This seems better for consumers in the long run: better to have two maps apps on the device, both attempting to be comprehensive and accurate.


Originally, they couldn't license the actual data, either, because at least the road network wasn't Google's to license. It came from TeleAtlas (after Nokia had bought NavTeq), Zenrin for Japan and a few more. Things were tricky like that before the Ground Truth project (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsbLEtS0uls) covered enough of the planet.

When Google launched navigation on Android, it lost money in countries not covered by Ground Truth, which I think was everywhere outside the US. That's because TeleAtlas and co. charged N times as much when the same data was used for real time directions.


That's what the relationship was before Google withheld turn by turn directions and wanted more data than Apple was willing to give [1]:

>But multiple sources familiar with Apple’s thinking say the company felt it had no choice but to replace Google Maps with its own, because of a disagreement over a key feature: Voice-guided turn-by-turn driving directions.

>Spoken turn-by-turn navigation has been a free service offered through Google’s Android mobile OS for a few years now. But it was never part of the deal that brought Google’s Maps to iOS. And sources say Apple very much wanted it to be. Requiring iPhone users to look directly at handsets for directions and manually move through each step — while Android users enjoyed native voice-guided instructions — put Apple at a clear disadvantage in the mobile space. And having chosen Google as its original mapping partner, the iPhone maker was now in a position where an archrival was calling the shots on functionality important to the iOS maps feature set.

>And this caused Apple — which typically enjoys very tight control over its products — no end of philosophical discomfort, sources say. Apple pushed Google hard to provide the data it needed to bring voice-guided navigation to iOS. But according to people familiar with Google’s thinking, the search giant, which had invested massive sums in creating that data and views it as a key feature of Android, wasn’t willing to simply hand it over to a competing platform.

>And if there were terms under which it might have agreed to do so, Apple wasn’t offering them. Sources tell AllThingsD that Google, for example, wanted more say in the iOS maps feature set. It wasn’t happy simply providing back-end data. It asked for in-app branding. Apple declined. It suggested adding Google Latitude. Again, Apple declined. And these became major points of contention between the two companies, whose relationship was already deteriorating for a variety of other reasons, including Apple’s concern that Google was gathering too much user data from the app.

I think it was a major strategic mistake on Google's part. But this was the heyday of Andy Rubin, and during that era Google was letting the tail wag the dog in trying to differentiate Android. They've since come to their senses and Android is back to being what it was always designed to be, a vessel for Google's services that actually make money. But that forced Apple to enter this business when they otherwise wouldn't have and now it will serve as a core technology from autonomous cars to AR. And since they're already sinking the capital and doing the grunt work to make Maps from scratch, they might as well earn some incremental revenue from it [2].

[1] http://allthingsd.com/20120926/apple-google-maps-talks-crash...

[2] https://developer.apple.com/maps/mapkitjs/


Apple never got data in the original deal, either. They just proxied tiles and search requests.

That story is cool, but it's missing at least an additional plot twist that "people familiar with Google's thinking" cautiously chose not to mention. I doubt the Apple side would bring it up. Hopefully in ten years someone will write a memoir about those crazy days.

I disagree that this was a major strategic mistake for Google; they had no other realistic choice. A bit of that was informed by the experience with the built-in Maps AND Youtube apps written in Cupertino. The article talks about features and data, but there are other realities to contend with. Of course, Apple had its hands tied by earlier events and choices, too. Things were already on a collision course by the time the negotiations started.


> That story is cool, but it's missing at least an additional plot twist that "people familiar with Google's thinking" cautiously chose not to mention. I doubt the Apple side would bring it up. Hopefully in ten years someone will write a memoir about those crazy days.

This sounds definitive. Is it a conjecture, or do you know something that you're not mentioning (or possibly it is widely known and just I don't know it …)?


I worked at Google on maps during those times. There was a lot going on that isn't public and some bad behaviour by Apple, Jobs very much saw Apple as the dominant partner and didn't treat the maps guys well at all. It was a very difficult relationship in which Apple was unwilling to compromise or negotiate, not even to get what they wanted.


Like the other poster, I was at Google during those days, but I do not want to say too much. I never dealt with Apple myself, but I knew people who did, for both Maps and YouTube. None of them were particularly delighted.

The All Things D article is nice when it comes to drama and gossip, but omits details behind words such as "there were a number of issues". Those twists might be mundane or boring for a good story, but made the divorce even more inevitable. The relationship was doomed to fail.


Thank you for the clarification.


They would be fools to be beholden to another company for something so important.


Make a trade maybe? Google already pays Apple a significant amount to be the default search engine


Google is doing a great job of making their mobile app a PITA to use. I just want to see a map, not a persistent screen filling list that refuses to be dismissed. If Apple were smart they would make it cross platform and strengthen their data collection with Android users.


If Apple made a map that labeled every street on the map at a certain zoom level, I'd switch today. I think I'm the only one who wants to use a map, to, ya know, see what the streets are. Maybe I'm old?


No you are not odd. Often, it's frustrating when trying to read a street name on Google maps, especially in a dense area like a downtown. Google prefers to display business names over street names. And when there are lots of businesses in an area, you won't be able to see a street name until you absolutely zoom all the way in.


This is my #1 pet peeve on Google maps. It's the non-determinism that really gets me. Maybe zooming in will get me a street name? Maybe zooming out will? Maybe if I followed the road in that direction? How about this direction? How about if I follow it a few blocks, then zoom out?

Getting a good dose of impotent rage just thinking about it.


Well now you've gotten me all bothered, too. And if I do manage to find the street name but can't quite read it because the font is too small, I zoom in and the road expands but the font doesn't. No matter how I zoom or pan, it offers either 1) too small, or 2) oops, I disappeared again.


What's even more infuriating in such a case: even many businesses are missing until you zoom way in. On desktop, I've resorted to use gmaps with 50-60% browser zoom to get it to show a bigger part of the map at full zoom while still having full symbol density. It's crazy.

(The most ironic part is the pop-up "You should increase browser zoom level to get a better Google Maps experience!". No, Google, not really.)


Thank you. This drives me crazy as well. (Related: roads that have both names and highway numbers, but the map shows one and not the other, regardless of zoom level.)


I mean, there's other map providers as well. OpenStreetMap is generally good with providing lots of map detail (whereas they are not good as a Google at providing the sort of in-depth information like opening times or that this shop has been rated 5/5 by the owner, their mother and their alt account).

https://www.openstreetmap.org/

Popular app that uses OpenStreetMap-data: https://osmand.net/


I also find it frustrating you can't tap on a place while you're in "directions" mode. If you're going somewhere and want to see if some place on the way is open, you have to exit directions, tap the place and then request directions again!


Oh, you want to know the name of that major street? Too bad.


not that it is the best (or even good) solution, but you can drop a pin on the map to see the address including the street name


Google Maps always nags me to login to improve my experience. I hate that; hate the idea of one more entity collecting info on my daily patterns and travels.


It's annoying that notifications are on by default, but just as with any other app, you can either mute all notifications or go in and disable specific types with pretty high granularity.


To sorta the same point, I use the YouTube app on my iPad and I am logged in because I to see my subscribed channels. Now google has asked me to sign up for YouTube Red like 1000s times now in the app. You would thing after the 999 no they would understand yet....


Google maps is also very weak/nonexistent with planning a specific route, saving it, and using it. It's possible to plan a route with the web version, but there is no way to save it so it's usable past that. Sending it to mobile google maps and it recalculates everything.


I do cross country drives and love PIP on Android. I also like how I can schedule a stop at a gas station or grocery store based on how it impacts my route.

The only complaint I have about maps is that it doesn't seem to know where I'm going next. Nine times out of ten the place I'm navigating to is the same place I navigated to from the same spot yesterday.


Google Maps lets you save common routes (plus detects ones you haven't yet) and pull them up quickly... like a daily commute route. Which powers the 'warning your drive to x is 10min delayed with traffic accident' stuff on Google Assistant.

The problem is that while Google Maps is very popular, it's not easy to find and use these features. I just came across is accidentally one day. Or it's possible Google asked me if I wanted to save if when it detected I do it often. It's been a while so my memory is a bit hazy on the original workflow I took.


> The problem is that while Google Maps is very popular, it's not easy to find and use these features.

While talking about hard-to-find-and-use features: sometimes, when I try to get directions, Google offers to download them for me for offline use.

This is frustrating because it only happens sometimes, but I want it almost all the time. There's a relatively easy way to download offline directions for a specific region, but I can't find a way to download offline directions for a specific route (including, presumably, a small fuzz of nearby information—I don't know what it downloads when it offers, since I find this hard to reproduce). Just downloading all the regions involved is impractical for, e.g., cross-country drives.

Do you know how to download offline directions for an arbitrary route, when Google doesn't prompt me to do so?


Also Google will use your calendar to populate the list of destinations -- I think.


Why am I in charge of managing this in the age of AI? That's my complaint.


Just tap the map... Quite easy to use Google Maps by scrolling around the map.


Admittedly I live in a very densely populated place, but now everything is hidden until you hit the correct 'zoom zone' - I still use it of course but it's less usable and far, far more bloated...


I too live in a densely populated place and easily see the full map. Do you have a screenshot? Here's what it looks like when I open, if I tap on the map it goes to full map (no search bar, no buttons on the bottom).

https://imgur.com/a/5tfuz2p


What's the name of the street between Pine and Union. Seems to be an important street. But no, Google would rather display the Chipotle rather than the street name. If I'm looking for Chipotle, I'll fucking type it out in the search box. Don't display me random businesses, just show me the damn Street name!


It's not trying to hide the street necessarily, it's recognizing that it can't display the street AND the business name because the text would either overlap or be too cluttered to read. Not being able to prioritize street names over place names, or not being able to switch off place names entirely would be a valid criticism, but I suspect there's an attempt to make the "default" experience the best balance without requiring that people tweak a wall of knobs and levers. It's not going to please everyone, but that may not be a realistic goal anyway


And if you're looking for the name of the 3 other businesses in the same building as the Chipotle, good luck! You might have to zoom in another 400%, and get lucky.

Now what if you're trying to casually browse the map to get an idea of what's around you? Have fun!


If you're looking for a specific business you would type it in the search box... By default it highlights places I often go, popular places, landmarks, etc. Highlighting a lunch place at lunch time makes a ton of sense to me.


Every Seatteite should know the names of the downtown streets with this mnemonic - “JJesus CChrist MMade SSeattle UUnder PProtest”

From south to north the streets are:

James John Cherry Columbia Madison Marion Spring Seneca University Union Pike Pine


If I already knew how to get around, I wouldn't have opened a mapping app.

"You should already know all the streets" is not what I would call a scalable approach to labeling maps.


Jefferson, James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, University, Union, Pike, Pine. IIRC. The rest of the sequence seems correct.


What a ridiculous thing to say. I guess they only make for locals who know the area.


Neither you nor the street pay Google as much as Chipotle does - maybe that's part of the issue?


I have been to that Chipotle a bunch of times and have searched for it multiple times (to get its hours), it makes sense to highlight it on my map. I just compared on the web version with logged in vs Incognito tab and Chipotle is only highlighted in the logged in version (along with other places I like). The public version sticks to larger POIs (hotels, museums, venues, etc).


Why would you need to see the name of the street? You're much more likely to pull open a map to go somewhere instead of learning about street names in your own neighborhood. If I want to see every street labeled I can just zoom in, but 99% of the time I just want to go somewhere.


Here's a use case: I was in NYC the other day, and GPS doesn't really work on the sidewalks in Manhattan. I was trying to find the Empire State Building, but I couldn't see it from where I was. I knew I was in the right vicinity, but the GPS kept hopping from block to block and I had no idea.

I had to look at the street signs and compare to the map on my phone to determine where I was and where I needed to go.

"Why do you need to see the name of the street" is a really odd question to me.


Exactly, not showing street names presumes gps works and that its self evident where to go.

I don't get why a MAP, won't show street names. Its maddening when you have street signs and have to look around to figure out what street you're on in the application.

I'll just say Google is great at making AI and A/B testing away things that are useful and needed in a pinch.


GPS signals bounce off skyscrapers so it doesn't work so well in any city. But hopefully the AR they showed at IO will solve that problem: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/08/maps-walking-navigation-is...

If not, the current strategy I use is to google map search a business I see and the street name and that usually works.


Why would you need to see the name of the street?

And this is the heart of the Google philosophy: Second-guessing the user, rather than delivering what the user asked for. A map is a tool, not a guessing game.

You're much more likely to pull open a map to go somewhere instead of learning about street names in your own neighborhood.

If I'm in my own neighborhood, I'm probably not using a map. If I'm somewhere new, I pull out the map. Maps 101.


> And this is the heart of the Google philosophy: Second-guessing the user, rather than delivering what the user asked for. A map is a tool, not a guessing game.

Well this user is happy, I don't want a digital copy of a paper map. I love the dynamic aspects of Google Maps and hope they continue to evolve new ways of showing me what I want before I do anything.

> If I'm somewhere new, I pull out the map. Maps 101.

And still I ask why would you want to know that the street is named Pike? When I'm somewhere new I don't care what any of the streets are named, I care about what is on those streets. Street names matter for turn by turn navigation, but just browsing around are useless to me. Seattle could change the name of every street tomorrow without warning and it wouldn't change where I want to go for lunch.


Sounds like you've never been given an address. Or know of any famous streets. Or have never been curious about the world around you.

From your example -- If I'm in Seattle and I see "Pike Street" I might wonder if the city's #1 tourist attraction, the Pike Place Market is nearby.

Or I could just let Google decide what's best for me like a good, compliant income bag.


Addresses are meant to be searched, something that Google Maps is surprisingly bad at, at least in France... Paper maps need street names, because that's how you search but that's not the case when there is a computer helping you.

As for places of interest, I've seen an article that blew my mind. By analyzing business concentration, they are able to deduce the interesting parts of a city (they are shown in a different color on the map). And it works. Famous streets tend to show brightly, and even if you don't know the name, you know there is something there.

Of course it doesn't mean that street names are uninteresting, but on a map, choices have to be made. And tbh, when we have all these powerful tools, street names are, I think, secondary. It is not that I think Google choices are the absolute best, just that what works best on paper may not be the best for computers.


If I'm navigating to an address I would put it in the search box... Who in their right mind would decide to hunt around the map to find a specific address? Pike Place Market was one of the few things highlighted on the screenshot I posted so that seems like a strange example.

Obviously we use the product differently, but I'm not using Google Maps to study for The Knowledge exam. I am looking for POIs which is what Google emphasizes, streets are just part of getting there (and are then emphasized when you're in navigation mode).


Who in their right mind would decide to hunt around the map to find a specific address?

Anyone who's been given a wrong location or directions by Google Maps. Repeatedly.

Like when Google Maps tells me repeatedly to drive my car through the lobby of a hotel to get from Point A to Point B.

There's plenty of examples of Google Maps screwing up royally and people needing to use Google Maps as an actual map. Just Goog... oh... right.


No the street labels don't even always show on maximum zoom. Yes I want the street name even if I'm going to the Chipotle they display because it's easy to know that I'm walking to Main Street then turn left versus checking my phone every block to see if I'm there yet.


Exactly what I was going to add. Also if your battery is low, it's much better (for me, at least) to just memorize a few turns and then shut down the app. I don't need my phone pinging GPS constantly while it's in my pocket, and especially when exploring a new city, that's exactly where it should be if you want to take in the neighborhood while you get to your destination.


> Why would you need to see the name of the street? You're much more likely to pull open a map to go somewhere instead of learning about street names in your own neighborhood. If I want to see every street labeled I can just zoom in, but 99% of the time I just want to go somewhere.

Your comment literally seems to say "Why would you do this thing, since I don't?". Surely that reasoning is just as specious as (say) asking why someone would want a vegetarian restaurant, since you eat meat?


There's a huge amount of construction in Seattle right now. The streets around my office are constantly closing and opening on different days. Sometimes it is easier to just look at a map of the neighborhood and navigate from that. If Google wants the app to be used for navigation only they should have called it Google Navigation.

I like riding my motorcycle around and exploring the city. I may not have a specific destination in mind or want to take the most efficient route. being able to quickly pull up a map of my location mapped to signage in the real world is indispensable.

Naming streets is the entire point of a street map. It literally maps names to streets.


> Naming streets is the entire point of a street map

No, it's not. Showing where streets go is important independent of naming; street maps exist for places with unnamed streets (and include the unnamed streets), which would not be the case if mapping names to streets (or vice versa) were the entire point.


Ok fine, it's only a very valuable feature.


But aren't streets just a way to get to a places and therefore places are more important than street names?


No. When I visit friends I go to 1432 Union St. not to Walmart. I wouldn't even know how to tell the taxi driver where I want to go if not by the address.


I think he's talking about when you are in turn by turn directions you can get into a mode where there is no way to get out. You need to throw away the app to get out.


How do you do that? I've navigated at least 50k miles with Google Maps and have never encountered this once.


I always understood it as avoiding a complete dependency on Google, since (some form of) Maps is a must-have feature for any modern smartphone. After the Schmidt/Android thing I think the Apple leadership basically assumed Google would screw them over sooner or later if they could.


This.

So many folks (myself included) rely on our phones for GPS & navigation, and having the UX for that be monopolized by one player is leaving a huge use case for your phone in the hands of your biggest competitor.

I think Apple has the opportunity to make a very unique & compelling experience, with their deep integration with the OS that they don't offer to outside developers. Though we'll see if they can actually execute.


> and having the UX for that be monopolized by one player is leaving a huge use case for your phone in the hands of your biggest competitor.

This makes me wonder: where is "Apple search"?


It's called Siri and Spotlight :)

For example, see Safari Suggestions - https://imgur.com/a/uyd20c6


That would be true if Siri and Spotlight were the main entry-point for users to start a web search, and I doubt that.


It’s already a common user behavior to type your query right into the address bar, and that’s where this is in Safari. Spotlight is just the (confusing imo) branding


> Spotlight is just the (confusing imo) branding

Wait, isn't Spotlight the name for Apple's local search (and maybe it's now used for whatever kind of unified search iOS likes to do?), whereas Safari's feature of treating things entered into the address bar that don't look like URLs as search queries is just a common redirection feature (analogous to the Firefox Awesomebar/Omnibar/whatever it's called now) that has nothing in particular to do with Spotlight?


For many Safari users, it is the the main entry-point for searches.


Doesn't your screenshot show that these Safari Suggestions are powered by Google?


Search in general is _hard._ But vertical specific searches & use cases can be tackled by different apps.

I would argue that my pushing for more prolific relationships with developers, you sort of chip away at this competitive threat with more specific, vertical-oriented searching experiences.

Example: I'm searching for restaurants nearby, I _could_ open Google, or I could leverage the Yelp/OpenTables of the app store.

Same thing for travel - flights, hotels, etc. all have apps that could, in theory, better serve the user than the catch-all "Google Search" app.

Maps is a slightly different beast; it's almost as ubiquitous as the "Phone" app itself .


There are other big search engines beyond Google. And currently Google pays Apple quite a bit of money to stay the main search engine on Safari.

But I would be very suprised, if Apple had not a team working on search algorithms, so they could start a search engine of their own, if the need is there.


Apple wouldn't do search to go head on with Google. Apple's search would be very specific to the domains that it cares about businesses for Maps, music, movies, etc.


And yet, any search on Apple devices is super weak


Siri search works well enough within the domains that it does directly -- restaurants (integrated with Yelp), locations, movies, movies, tv shows, sports, etc.

Anything it can't do directly it punts to Bing.


> After the Schmidt/Android thing I think the Apple leadership basically assumed Google would screw them over sooner or later if they could.

That's a level of moralizing that isn't really appropriate for analyzing decisions like this. It's equally true, and for essentially the same reasons, that Android as a whole exists because the Google leadership basically assumed Apple would screw them over sooner or later if they could.

Businesses compete, basically. It's a good thing and the efficiencies that result make us all wealthier. It's only "screwing someone over" in the myopic eyes of the internet fan boi.


> t's equally true, and for essentially the same reasons, that Android as a whole exists because the Google leadership basically assumed Apple would screw them over sooner or later if they could.

That is the whole reason. Same with Chrome.


> Apple leadership basically assumed Google would screw them over sooner or later if they could.

This should be the default assumption for any relationship - doubly so when corporations or big $$ is involved. That's why we have legal paperwork even for inter-family agreements - your Mom & Pop may love you now but in 20y when dementia sets it, that may be out the window (or Mom dies, Pop remarries and Step-Mom hates your guts, etc etc).


Apple doesn't have to "win". Apple just needs to have something good enough for them to tightly integrate into their other services. Bing's purpose for Microsoft is both to be a revenue generator and to not be dependent on Google for search. Apple's only motivation for Maps is not to be dependent on Google for Maps and for integration into iOS.

Every time someone doesn't use Google Maps, Google loses ad revenue. If people don't use Apple's maps, Apple has lost nothing but a few bragging rights.


If people don't use the app, it gets worse for other users of the app (network effects for traffic, corrections, etc.), which means fewer people use the app, and so on. Ultimately, if the quality of the app is bad, Apple remains dependant on others for mapping services.


This right here.


Maps is to Apple as G+ was to Google. Apple doesn't want to do it, they have to do it. They're afraid that without that category of data (in this case location, in G+'s case social versus Facebook), their overall product line won't be able to compete.


When Apple started working on Maps Google was the only game in town and they were certainly using that advantage. They set the terms for using peoples location, both for location awareness using Wi-Fi access points and for live traffic tracking. Also the good features were Android only (vector maps, navigation).

Shortly after Apple Maps was introduced Google suddenly came through with these features but they lost access to peoples location and being the default app for locations on iOS.


Keep in mind before Apple maps, Google maps did not exist on iOS for turn-by-turn nav... once Apple released maps Google quickly followed suite with adding turn-by-turn nav to Google maps for iOS.


At this point maps are a platform hygiene factor. If you're going to be Apple, you can't rely on Google or any other 3rd party vendor for what is seen by users as a basic feature.


I think part of the issue among users is that "rely[ing] on Google" was (and probably still is) a perfectly acceptable approach that already worked reasonably well until Apple inexplicably replaced it with Maps.


Their reasons for replacing it were entirely explicable. Go look it up.


Maps is more than streets and driving directions too. Increasingly I use Google Maps to find & post reviews of local restaurants and cafes and to find interesting new places to go when I'm traveling. Google Maps is in a completely different class for this kind of thing than Apple Maps. Lately it even links to relevant web articles about the best places to visit in a local area. All Apple Maps has to offer here is a sort of half baked integration with Foursquare and TripAdvisor.


At least Apple doesn’t market to me based on places I visit. Tim Cook cares deeply about this, the folks at Google — privacy is contrary to their business model. “Security” is important at Google, but privacy definitely isn’t.


It's a classic Apple privacy protection move.

Apple wants to allow users to make map data requests anonymously using a random identifier that changes frequently.

Google wants to link the device requesting map data to a particular user account.

Google was playing hardball and refusing to provide turn by turn directions (as they did on Android) unless Apple stopped protecting their user's privacy.

Rather than give in, Apple decided to roll their own mapping service.

It's all about the difference between how the two companies make money. Google chooses to monetize their users' data. For instance, using their location data to tell it's advertising customers that a user has entered a store that sells their product. More recently, they have started buying credit card purchase data from third party data brokers so they can go farther and inform an advertiser that someone who saw their ad ended up buying the product advertised.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/607938/google-now-tracks-...


This was not the point of creating Maps at all. It was to be able to approach the negotiating table with Google over maps from a more favorable position. Google was making certain demands to add turn-by-turn directions to the original maps app that Apple didn’t want to concede to.


> This is exactly the stuff where Google is very hard to beat

... because Google/Android abuses peoples privacy by following them everywhere, which gives them an advantage/much more data.

"Google admits it tracked user location data even when the setting was turned off" : https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/21/16684818/google-location...


If your going to talk about abusing people's privacy then perhaps you should also mention how Apple abuses the privacy of their Chinese users by allowing the Chinese Government to have unfettered access to all of their cloud data.


That's such an apples-to-oranges comparison...

There is nothing Apple can do to preserve their Chinese user's privacy against their own government. Either they stay in China and allow the government to access their citizen's data, or they leave China and another phone manufacturer will allow the government to access their citizen's data.

Google on the other hand is under no such pressure to violate their user's privacy. They could stop at any time, but have decided that the increased revenue and margins they can extract from the data is more valuable than their user's privacy.

This seems so obvious to me, I don't understand why this false equivalence is brought up so often.


> There is nothing Apple can do to preserve their Chinese user's privacy against their own government. Either they stay in China and allow the government to access their citizen's data, or they leave China and another phone manufacturer will allow the government to access their citizen's data.

Apple could absolutely leave China if they really cared about privacy; the backlash against the govt would be huge - your argument "but if we're not abusing your privacy, someone else might instead!" just backs the claim that Apple is doing it by choice, and their own free will. Both are doing it for money.


There will be no “backlash” against the government. China is not a typical democracy.

And do you really want a corporation to have the ability to hold a nation state hostage? What’s next? Allow us to sell our stuff without taxes, or we’ll shut shop and let you handle the outcry? Allow us to circumvent <insert a corporate unfriendly law here> or we’ll let you have it?

For better or worse, a corporation can’t be allowed to dictate the policies of a nation state. Yes, it is sad that the Chinese don’t get the same privacy rights as citizens of other countries, but that is a problem with the law of the land, not any company.


Actually, there is something Apple can do. They can start by not offering iCloud services in China. Sure, it would be an inconvenience for many, but at least they would be protecting the privacy of their users by not sharing their data with the government.

>Google on the other hand is under no such pressure to violate their user's privacy. They could stop at any time, but have decided that the increased revenue and margins they can extract from the data is more valuable than their user's privacy.

There is also no pressure on Apple to violate their users privacy. But, they do it because China represents a large percentage of their revenue growth. If it were not for their cooperation with the Chinese government their stock would tank. China is one of their largest markets, if not the largest, so of course privacy was always going to take a back seat.

>This seems so obvious to me, I don't understand why this false equivalence is brought up so often.

Probably because of Apple's hypocrisy on privacy and human rights. It's absolutely disgusting to listen Tim Cook preach about human rights and privacy, with every interview he does, considering their business practices in China.


> They can start by not offering iCloud services in China.

Even better, they could only offer end-to-end encrypted services in China so that the datacenter operators can't track more than the ISPs already can.


At the same time, there is no pressure on users to use iCloud. Or even buy Apple devices. Apple doesn’t have a monopoly in any segment.


China was a big market for Google. But they pulled out for censorship/privacy reasons, letting go of billions of $.


That is one of the worst arguments I’ve ever heard. Apple (or any other company) can’t refuse the law of the land. Had they refused, the Chinese government would simply have told them to pack their bags. Someone else would have replaced Apple and the users would still be in the same position.

Apple can go against prevalent business practices, other companies etc, but they can’t go against the law. And they shouldn’t even try! Do you really want a corporation having enough power to go against the law? If you live in a country where someone (including the government) can legally force you to forego your privacy, there is literally nothing you can do - except try and get the laws changed - something you may not have the power to do - even in a democracy.

The difference between Apple and Google is that Google is doing things which may not be desirable despite no law compelling them to. If the US government (or any other government) manages to pass a law which says that Apple must turn over all the user data they have - or that they must collect certain types of data, there is nothing Apple can do other than comply - or shut shop. The sole reason other Apple can resist other countries’ governments is because no one has passed laws similar to China yet. There are people who resist the passage of such laws - something that is not the case with China. Apple (or any corporation) is not going to war with a nation state over the rights of the said nation state.


Your defense of Apple's cooperation with the Chinese government is repugnant. Apple could have easily decided not to open data centers in China if they really valued the privacy of their Chinese users. Tim Cook said that privacy is a human right. Apparently, Tim Cook doesn't believe Chinese citizens deserve privacy because they happily hand over all of their data to the Chinese government. It's quite clear that that the additional revenue generated by the Chinese App store and iCloud services far exceeds the human rights of their users.

>The difference between Apple and Google is that Google is doing things which may not be desirable despite no law compelling them to.

No, the difference between Apple and Google is that Google decided to leave China rather than cooperate with the government.

>If the US government (or any other government) manages to pass a law which says that Apple must turn over all the user data they have - or that they must collect certain types of data, there is nothing Apple can do other than comply - or shut shop.

Shut shop? You mean like how Google shut shop?


I am not defending Apple. My point is that no corporation an (or should) is above the law. If the law is problematic, it should be fixed. But no one can be allowed to go against it.

Let’s say Apple leaves China. So what next? Do you have any contingencies outlined where the people of China get their rights?

And by the way, it’s not about Cook. Decisions like these are made by the board with shareholders’ agreement. I recommend you learn how things work before you go bashing.


They did, and they're back in China now.

https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/30/google-is-quietly-formulat...

There is a simple fact here you seem to be ignoring. If you want to do business in China, you follow Chinese laws.

If you have issues with China's human rights, you should encourage your local government to take up that issue. Your post reads like a bunch of raw emotion and statements like "Tim Cook doesn't believe" that which are just impossible for anyone BUT Tim Cook to know. Relying upon supposition of what you think a person thinks, and extending that to a company to arrive at a conclusion of: money > human rights is... pretty sad as arguments go.


I must have missed the part where Google is letting state run Chinese companies run their data centers and sharing the data with the Chinese government. When that happens then Apple and Google will be on equal footing when it comes to China.

>If you have issues with China's human rights, you should encourage your local government to take up that issue. Your post reads like a bunch of raw emotion and statements like "Tim Cook doesn't believe" that which are just impossible for anyone BUT Tim Cook to know. Relying upon supposition of what you think a person thinks, and extending that to a company to arrive at a conclusion of: money > human rights is... pretty sad as arguments go.

What's really sad is that Apple's revenue from China is far too lucrative for Tim Cook to really care about human rights and privacy. Tim Cook knows he'd probably be ousted as CEO if he ever tried to exit China.


> I must have missed the part where Google is letting state run Chinese companies run their data centers and sharing the data with the Chinese government. When that happens then Apple and Google will be on equal footing when it comes to China.

Are you suggesting Google is being allowed to store Chinese citizens’ data on servers outside China? If the servers are within Chinese territory, it doesn’t matter who is hosting them - they are subject to the same laws.


I thought it was pretty clear. Google has no data centers in China which means they don't subject their users to unfettered government searches of their data.


Google has been trying for years to get back into China and they have no problems acquiescing to whatever the Chinese government requires to do so [1].

[1] https://twitter.com/amir/status/1009899502512115712


I routinely come across people who claim they are using google maps when they don't even have it installed on their phone. They call apple maps => google maps.

For majority of those people Apple maps works good enough and for other there is always Google maps. Apple does not have to beat Google maps out of existence, that is not the Apple's objective. Their objective is to make sure they are not dependant on Google for maps. It is easy to build that kind of product.


I think you've nailed this on the head. I can't help but feel the whole "random huge messiness" of maps data must drive Apple to distraction, they're dealing with something that they can't control when their entire ethos is about fine tuning products to the nth degree...

I really don't think Apple is either capable or comfortable with dealing with the kind of messiness maps data represents vs google, who is essentially an expert on wrangling such data.


I think you underestimate Apple as an engineering organization. They have repeatedly pulled off stunning technical achievements in widely disparate domains.


Apple makes phones, what are phones used for? Messaging, phone calls, maps, and cameras. Everything else is noise.

Of those four things, which has the most potential to monetize? Maps.

People look for restaurants, for gas, for hotels, for rentals, for real estate, Etc. All of those things are being offered by a vendor who would love to know when you're looking and would love to be able to put their pitch in front of you when you are.

Maps is to phones what the browser window is to laptops.


I wonder why Apple hasn’t adopted and expanded open street maps, it’s frankly of google quality and it’s open.


This is my #1 complaint about the product as well - it would be really nice if they let you dismiss or collapse the list.


But rewriting from scratch will be a good test to see if software engineering really is in as much if a better state in 2018 as people assume.


For those interested, this site gives good thorough comparisons between different map services (mostly Google & Apple): https://www.justinobeirne.com/

Latest entry in Dec 2017: How far ahead of Apple Maps is Google Maps? https://www.justinobeirne.com/google-maps-moat


If you haven't read that Moat essay, it is a detective work of art. Highly recommended.


I just want to second your comment because I can't stress enough how badly I want anyone who hasn't read it yet to read it. The week he published it, I must've shared it with every single person who I felt might even remotely care for it. It's a phenomenal piece.


It's worth the risk?:

This Connection is Untrusted

You have asked Firefox to connect securely to www.justinobeirne.com, but we can't confirm that your connection is secure. What Should I Do?

If you usually connect to this site without problems, this error could mean that someone is trying to impersonate the site, and you shouldn't continue. Technical Details I Understand the Risks


That's odd, the cert is valid Let's Encrypt expiring Wednesday, September 19, 2018.

Maybe your DNS got hijacked? There's been some connectivity outages in the US this morning.


Note the author worked on Apple Maps for the first few years.


This is an interesting fact that I did not know.


If you compare the article, the main takeaway is that Apple seems to be starting to use some of the improvements that Google has been adding to their map program the last several years.

-Satellite imagery to generate build footprints. -Lots of human intervention -Land based car imagery


Which is both a good and a bad sign. It's good that apple is doing these things, but not encouraging that a year after a blog post highlights some of the more interesting things google is doing, apple starts doing them. Apple maps isn't catching up, they're just barely keeping up with Google maps. And their PR people are doing a big push to brag about it.


TFA clearly states that these changes have been 4 years in the making. You can’t roll stuff like this out a year after reading some article on Hacker News.


i dunno; their “street view” vans are purportedly far more advanced than the google cars, and their privacy features seem pretty damn excellent.

the article mentions being able to create a 3d, textured world and do some pretty interesting localisation (street signs that look like local signs, fonts that match local fonts etc) that shortens the gap between the real world and the map.

id say that from a UX perspective (even if their core data isn’t quite as good, which we really can’t comment on yet) they’re doing a lot of interesting things that google isn’t doing.

that’s not even to mention that they’re doing it all while respecting their users’ privacy... something that google will likely never do any more than obligatory hand waving toward.

it think they’re doing quite a lot better than google maps, but it’s just not data related.


That’s super interesting.

A point that I often see missing is that Niantic (Ingress then Pokemon Go) historically is strongly bound to Google.

The get people’s real world movements for long periods of time, it’s even included in the game mechanics where you see path with consequent flow of people. Coupled with all the user submitted and user validated “places of interest”.

Overall it’s a tremedous amount of data of pretty decent quality.


This article was a beauty. Also, if I remember correctly, it was written by an Apple cartographer.


Something that drives me nuts about Google Maps is how much of it leads you to non-spatial lists of data. We are spatial beings asking spatial questions. Don't make me do the work of linking a list of restaurants to dots on the map. This is a significant cartographic challenge but I think it's key to making map software a joy to use.

I don't have an iOS device so I can't comment on current state, but I hope this gets first class attention.


That is a very jarring experience. I'd much rather get the pins and have to click to see what they are rather than losing half my screen to the list.

Another problem is that it loves to move your viewport -- sometimes just a small zoom out or something, but sometimes moving you entirely, or searching around your current location instead of in the selected map area. I would prefer it if every viewport move had a prompt saying "Hey, I'm going to move your map to some other area" and give me a chance to complain, or have some sort of seamless "save this view" thing that goes into a stack in the corner so I can go back to the view that I was looking at.


> searching around your current location instead of in the selected map area

This is absolutely infuriating for trip planning.


Worse is when you're looking for something local but it decides there's a great match halfway around the world and zooms you all the way there.


I'm amazed at how long this particular behavior has persisted...how often does someone search for a local business 5000+ miles away without being explicit about it (ie moving the map to that far off area, or putting it in the search query itself).


Agreed, the amount of times it defaults to finding something a thousand miles away is significantly more infuriating than the rarer case when I want to specifically do that.

If its a fairly fresh app launch, default to around me


Every time I try to search for Asian, I get sent to Asia while my location is in the US. I have no idea how anyone would find that sort of "typo" correction and redirection halfway around the world useful.


Kids using Maps as a globe would find that useful. Why not search for "Asian food"?


1. I'm perfectly fine with "Asia" redirecting me to the continent, which is generally expected behavior. I don't understand why a word that clearly means something distinct needs to redirect there as well.

2. The lack of consistency is especially annoying. "Italian" redirects to Italian restaurants in my area, and the same goes for "Chinese", etc.


Where do you land when searching for "Italy" or "China"? I wouldn't call this "lack of consistency".


Hmm which use case is more common...kids usings Maps as a globe, or people looking for Asian food?


I was in NYC 2 weeks ago (live in Miami). If I search for "Walgreens" the first 2 autocomplete suggestions are still locations in Brooklyn, and the third is the general text search for "walgreens". Options 4, 5 and etc onwards are local stores, but also not sorted by distance.


Isnt there a "Search this area" as you move the map to a different location?


Critically, that option only appears after Maps hijacks your view to wherever it pleases. The same applies to other filters too, such as "open now."

I'm stil amazed how hard Maps makes it to view a street name. I can fill my screen with a street and nothing else, and I still won't see its name. I feel like they actually do it on purpose to breed dependence on Maps for navigation references.


  > I'm stil amazed how hard Maps makes it to view a street name.
Even worse: rivers and streams


Come on now, guys. Street and landmark names are the LAST things we need from a mapping application...


> I'm stil amazed how hard Maps makes it to view a street name.

This is one of the reasons I prefer Apple Maps to Google's -- because IMO they do a slightly better job of that. Still wish it would be better, it's a daily nuisance for me.


Yes, but it doesn't show up until after you've done a search, which means the damage may have already been done.

Suppose you want to find things that match X near some landmark Y. As far as I know, you have two options. One is to search for the string "X near Y" and hope Google parses it correctly. The other is to search for Y, memorize its location on the map, search for X (which has a good chance of moving the map view to some random location), pan and zoom back to Y from memory, and click "search this area". It's a huge pain.


Yup. If the app was map-centric you wouldn't have to ask. Just start showing more markers.

If each query was a layer, you would also have a basic GIS. You could allow the user to start asking spatial questions, such as, "Show me where all the Chinese food restaurants (layer 1) Best Buys (layer 2) are.

"Hmm. I need to go to Best Buy but I'm flexible about food. Let's tap X on the Chinese food layer and search for Poutine restaurants instead."


My favorite is when Google Maps asks questions while you're driving.


And when it refuses to accept a vocal "Accept" or "Decline" when those are the buttons, because it doesn't know what you mean.


The critical part you missed out was the default selection that almost never 'surprises' you.

Do you want to take a shorter route? "No | Yes (auto selects in X seconds)"

I feel this is possibly the best way you can provide the options.


I think it should be "Yes | No (auto selects in X seconds)".

I think changing from your current plan unless you panicedly (and in my jurisdiction, illegally) press a button to stay the course is just generally bad UI.

Part of this is I just don't trust Google Maps' new route to actually be faster. It seems Google Maps doesn't properly weigh the cost of these items, which leads to it's suggested route usually being slower:

* Crossing bridges during rush hour.

* Making a left turn without a light across 3 lanes of traffic.

* Going down small residential streets that are too narrow to safely drive the speed limit.

* Routes that require turning onto a busy road without a light and the corner having really poor visibility.


Oh yes. I've been a designer for a (locally) competing maps service, and I failed miserably at convincing the PM and devs that we should do quite a lot of work (changes to already established behavior) to make sure we aren't ever moving a map viewport user has set up, and that violating this rule makes people angry.


This was a constant source of frustration when I did a trip to another country last year. Adjusting the viewport when the user doesn't have data is a bad idea because you can't load assets for the new view. Yet, Google Maps did this all the time.


It's a mix. I like having a list I can very quickly scroll through and filter. Clicking places one by one when there's 20 isn't that fun. You can also slide down the list and click on the map once the results appear though.


Apple has the luxury of not needing to shove ads in their mapping application. Google needs to show you a list so they can put ads there or shuffle the priority for a high value advertiser.


Apple Maps also heavily relies on lists because lists work really well on mobile devices (infinite scroll!). And as spatially aware as a few here on here, the majority of people do much better with a list of nearby spots.


Yes. I'd much rather get a list of restaurants within a certain radius -- assuming the list shows me some basic summary information like price, rating, the distance, and whether it's open -- than get a map with a dozen mystery pins I have to tap on one by one:

[tap] Oh, sushi. Not in the mood for that. [tap] Oh, that's closed. [tap] Oh, that's too close to the one I already tapped, let me zoom in... [pinch] [tap] Oh, sushi again.

I'm genuinely surprised at how many people here apparently consider that a better user experience.


> I'm genuinely surprised at how many people here apparently consider that a better user experience.

Or that Google (of all companies!) hasn't rigorously tested this and found that lists work better. They convey so much more information and the whole reason you're using a map is because you don't know where stuff is, so you're going to need all that information.


I'd assume it depends a lot on what you're searching for, and also what mode of transportation you're using.

If you search for something like "McDonalds", you care about which McDonalds is easiest to get to, and you don't really care about anything else.

Even if I'm looking for something more vague like "restaurants", I still usually prefer to see everything laid out on the map, but that's because I usually walk places, so location matters a lot to me.


Something that drives me nuts with maps is when zooming in/out the map often jumps - very quickly - to a region off screen. Seems like an easy fix. Does anyone else experience this?


I've only experienced this on the iPhone X, after iOS 11. It happens in many apps, not just Google Maps, and constantly. For example, pinch-to-zoom in Adobe Lightroom often has it jump to a random place in the image. Since nobody seems to be talking about it (and my friends haven't encountered it) I've suspected it to be some kind of physical fault with the touch screen, or perhaps an interference issue with my screen protector, not necessarily a bug in iOS. But who knows.


Yes. Had this on several iPhones I used (SE, 6S, X), on iOS 10 and iOS 11, probably earlier versions, too.

I absolutely cannot understand why this isn't fixed. This happens so often.


never seen this. Which platform ?


All the damn time for me. I use an iPhone SE on the latest iOS


WHy don't we have the tech to detect hover on touchscreens yet?

Being able to hover your finger over certain points and quickly browse the options on a map would be great.


> WHy don't we have the tech to detect hover on touchscreens yet?

We do. Samsung used to have this on their phones (not sure if they still do):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRzUzRD9Y8k


I'm a person without disabilities, rather slender fingers and quite some savvy w/ computers and I have difficult time not tapping stuff by mistake, not sloppily fat-thumbing stuff when I didn't even mean tapping anything or accurately tapping smallish things from among many others. I'd rather not deal with trying to not hover random stuff on top of that.


The Blackberry Storm (and Storm 2) made clicking in the screen the "tap" action and tapping (but not clicking) the screen the "hover"-equivalent action.

I really liked the idea (and thought the hardware was pretty good on the Storm 2), but was too unusual on too-unpopular a phone to do much of anything.


I worked on BB Storm. It was created by request from 'the major carrier that didn't get the iPhone contract' as an 'iPhone killer'. It was done with haste, and with specific, ugly requests from 'up on high' and was rolled out too early.

BB never really understood how to do 'experience' - except in things at their core like battery length and keyboards. As nuanced and insightful as they were there ... it's like they considered everything else a joke, or didn't want to go deep.

The whole screen on Storm moved - neat idea - should have never made it out of the lab. Or at least, not in the manner it was. It was possibly ahead of it's time as I could feasibly see Apple doing something like this - the new MacPro trackpads are very, very nice. So subtle.

But it's all history now :)


Dunno with fingers, but Wacom has that for their tablets, and it's quite lovely.


Interesting. iPhones have the force tap. I assume android has something similar. We could use that as the hover action.


Actually what am I thinking. The long tap (press?) makes sense as hover. And basically acts as that now.


It doesn’t make perfect sense, though, and (possibly because of that) doesn’t quite act as it now.

With a mouse, the 3 actions

  - hover
  - click
  - double click
form a sequence where each action is an extension of the previous one.

Ideally, the actions triggered by them are extensions of the previous one, too. With the mouse, we have that:

  - hover        = tell me more, but don’t really do anything
  - click        = tell me more and select this item
  - double click = look, select, and open this item
A big advantage of that is that it allows the interface to be faster. A GUI can react to a click by selecting an item without having to wait whether it will be part of a double-click, for example.

⇒ if we can’t get a real hover, in an ideal world, a softer or shorter finger tap, not a long one would mean “tell me about this”. I doubt we can shoe-horn that into the UI this late in the game, though.


"force touch"? Or adding a bit of that old resistive thingy to capacitive screens?

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