Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Apple delivers a new redesigned Maps for users in the United States (apple.com)
582 points by chmaynard on Jan 30, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 462 comments

I'd been using Waze for a couple of years, and initially it was far superior to Apple Maps. But a few months back, I got really frustrated with it because it led me down some closed roads & ended up doubling my commute time home from work that day. I'd also been noting how off it was on its estimates on when I'd get to my destination. And I was also perturbed by it not knowing the back street entrance to my work site, though I've "paved it" on multiple occasions, it it remains uncorrected.

So I switched over to Apple Maps and started tracking how often it is off in its estimates (& also trip duration) -- I have like a commute that can be anywhere from 40 minutes to 90 minutes or more, depending on traffic -- and I was pleasantly surprised that it got me to destination within +/-5 minutes of when it said it would and that the journey was taking less time that with Waze. It also knew about the back entrance of my work site and was able to route better with some of the smaller side streets in the neighborhood too.

I've always preferred the Apple Maps UI -- it shows all the lanes at top, stoplights are more prominently shown, though the speedometer on Waze was nice, plus Waze alerted you to police presence too. It gives you a buffer when wishing to change route (Waze frequently would change the route and instruct me to take an exit that was 300 feet away when I was in the furthest lane from the exit side) to check off and is totally ad-free, and incorporated into iOS (yeah, Apple monopoly and all, true).

I seem to remember someone posting their results of testing Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze for ETA accuracy, and what you describe was also what they found: Apple Maps was the most accurate, Google Maps was optimistic, but accurate, Waze basically reported the best case scenario. Edit: found the original [0]

I've long thought that Waze creates the illusion of saving massive amounts of time, when its benefits are marginal (although real). I know I personally prefer an active commute to one waiting in traffic, even if travel times are identical. Waze seems to maximize for the latter.

[0] - https://arturgrabow.ski/2018/02/19/navigation-apps/amp/

After using Waze for over a couple of years, I really started getting the impression that I was just a data pawn in a bunch of A/B tests -- like send this one down that route, send that one down the other way & see what happens.

I got that impression, too. On multiple occasions I ignored a suggested turn because I was pretty certain it would be slower, and as soon as Waze adjusted the route based on my turn, the ETA went down. So it should have sent me the right way to begin with, but wanted to experiment with me to test an alternate route.

After enough of those, I reluctantly stopped using Waze.

Yep, I have the same experience. Sometimes it keeps telling me to do a U turn and turn around on their original route. I need to hit stop and reroute sometimes. Definitely not smart...

I use Waze mostly for the police presence. And there was a lot today (end of month...).

A nice feature would be if it sees more police presence than usual you just get a general warning "there's more police presence on your route than usual".

perhaps it's load balancing for other cars. If one entity controls a significant enough portion of the total traffic in the system they might sometimes make a decision that negatively impacts one packet if it helps a sufficient number of other packets.

Absolutely sure Google Maps A/B tests routes too.

Even when sitting next to each other in the same car, Google Maps suggests radically different routes to the same destination on my wife’s phone than it does on mine, often with a 15+ min difference in arrival time. It must be testing different routing algorithms as otherwise they should be the same.

Could also be an optimal routing thing too. If google maps sends everyone down the same path it might become too congested. Especially if the route is a detour around construction or and accident or something.

I think routing is one of those computationally expensive problems (possibly np-complete) to solve. As a result, there's a bunch of clever non-deterministic approaches that get you "pretty good" answers, but depending on the implementation can produce variable results.

A-to-B routing is simple and not very expensive. You can implement it without very much graph theory knowledge. It's when visiting a number of destinations in an arbitrary order that things get difficult.

A-to-B routing is simple in theory. In practice implementing A* on a graph of all the roads in the world is non-trivial. You'd need to figure out some way to split the data up into chunks or to make neighbourhood lookups fast enough to be workable. I'd imagine you'd end up with something of at least the complexity of hierarchical A, but depending on the size of your chunks you'd need to still special-case the start and end chunks. And that's just the first complexity I can come up with.

I imagine the distance is going to be wildly* nontrivial as well. You'd need to factor in traffic density, weather conditions, road works, predicted traffic density, actual distance as well as traffic speed, not to mention fuzzy human things like scenery. Just going for "shortest euclidian distance" will end up with routing through every alley and side-street if it's even the tiniest amount shorter.

I wouldn't be surprised if you end up with a distance metric that looks essentially random unless you're deeply inspecting the graph at the time of routing to see why a certain route is shorter than another.

Of course that doesn't exclude A/B testing, but with google maps they clearly have a routing graph that's updating all the time. It's no surprise that asking for the same route twice can give you different answers. Not to mention they probably include a random factor on purpose so they don't route all the cars through the same street. Of course you'd want the random factor big enough to spread the load, but not so big that random people get shafted by a significantly longer commute.

Seems like an interesting problem to tackle actually, I should look at building an open street map based route planner sometime.

I wouldn't have thought that was necessary, surely. There will be enough Android phones travelling any point in the road network to generate enough data, without Google attempting to generate more data.

The flipside to me is that Waze will send lots of people down the "time saving" path, which is usually a small road, and kinda defeats the purpose.

I think Waze only really saved time when it wasn't popular. Once everyone takes the same shortcut, you're back where you started.

Waze takes more risks, that's for sure. It's still the best one if you know the area you're driving and are willing to ignore the maps.

I still use Google Maps when I'm unfamiliar with the drive for the reasons you mention (ie, it needlessly took me down a busy grid-locked road once).

But otherwise nothing beats Waze for the additional features like construction and police reporting plus it does a good job of finding fast routes far more often than not.

Google Maps also got the person there 5% faster than Apple Maps, in that study.

This really does call for a larger study, though. It would be nice to see how the error bars and potential differences come out across different trip times, and different drivers.

You'd probably end with significantly different results based on country. Somehow the underlying logic of mapping AI seems to be more-or-less of a fit for national road systems — for instance in Europe, with lots of discrepancies between borders, it's really hit or miss: in France and Germany I end up on stupid country roads to save 2 minutes on a 2h drive, but that seldom happens in the Netherlands (granted they have a great road infrastructure). Switzerland is a mess too.

My intuition (listening to AI and DL podcasts) is that they just train too-general US-based (or evaluated or reinforced more specifically) models. Anyhow it's a disappointing situation that e.g. Google maps makes way more mistakes today than it did 5 years ago (but it also does more overall, I guess it's a trade-off, e.g. now it's great for public transportation in large enough cities).

It’s horrible even in the U.S.: the model seems to assume left turns are cheap so I always get these routes which involve 15 minutes sitting at an unprotected turn across heavy traffic. I, and apparently a number of other people I‘ve heard mention it, have largely stopped using it because the times are wildly off - and that’s along the East coast in some very popular areas, not exactly an obscure edge case.

I've been bitten by that multiple times, and had to learn to check a few turns ahead to make sure I'm not about to be asked to make an unprotected left turn across rush-hour traffic in an attempt to save 2 minutes at a light.

I would be interested in trying out a "no left turns" (or at least no unprotected left turns) route preference.

It's just incredible that major map providers don't understand how problematic left turns are.

There's a reason you seldom see UPS and FedEx trucks trying to turn left in crowded urban settings. It's because they cost time and money. Why don't Google and Apple understand that, and give us an option to avoid or discourage left turns?

Or even just avoid turns in general. When I moved to Atlanta in 2014 and was using Google Maps for everything, before I knew my way around, it would often send me on complicated routes that clearly were meant to save a minute or two by doing a "staircase" sort of routing with more turns. Even right turns end up taking time and causing stress because I was always in the wrong lane. (I think they've gotten better with the lane indicators.)

> the model seems to assume left turns are cheap

Happens to me all the time.

It also seems to assume crossing a bridge at rush hour is cheap. My only guess, and this truly is a guess, it is sees people in the bridge lane stopped and the thru lane moving and takes the average.

I have often wondered how the mapping programs handle multiple lanes moving at different speeds. Sometimes my highway exit backs up for a mile, while there are four lanes next to it moving full speed. All of the maps programs show this as blue (no traffic) even though I am moving at ten miles per hour. I’m guessing that they don’t have the ability to distinguish speed by lane.

I remember using some car’s built-in GPS once and it wanted me to take every freeway exit and get right back on after. Because it decided that saves time/distance.

Maps really need a “not worth it” features for tiny optimizations. I’d often prefer a slightly slower route that’s less work to drive.

Oh please YES, the "not worth it", followed by an option to "please take me back to previous path before (because) latest fork = mistake". The very idea of judging the overall travel is a good start (at the end, when they prompt you) but individual datapoints should be reportable as well. I'm pretty sure this would massively help build a dataset with "annotated" cases (good / bad) for RNNs.

> I’d often prefer a slightly slower route that’s less work to drive.

Me too, and I suspect most people — like, when is it ever a good option to avoid a free highway to save 1 minute when the driving is twice or more fatiguing? Are we bodyless machines or animals with a concept for "tired" and "attention"? This is where I feel recent evolutions in DL have been, perhaps, more for the benefit of developers and researchers (efficiency), and maybe not for real human benefits on the user side.

I don't claim the problem is easy, but I know second-hand that what users want and what AI projects solve for may be two very different X.

> please take me back to previous path before (because) latest fork = mistake

Seriously. I regularly travel from Ohio to Michigan and back, and often times if I take an exit for gas, Google Maps will assume I want to take an obscure country backroad for the final 2 hours rather than get back on the highway.

I absolutely do not want to worry about deer, a lack of gas stations, food, and light.

This is especially true in the UK where most rural roads are nominally 60 MPH even if they’re barely wide enough for two cars.

Another possible option to make navigation more human-friendly would be "keep route simple" - so minimize the number of turns, complex intersections, road works (even without delays), backstreets etc, even at the cost of a few minutes extra travel time or extra distance.

My Mom doesn’t even use a cellphone, much less map directions. But she always is amazed at the directions given because she’ll pull out a map and do something with 3 turns what’ll have 20 turns on the map direction.

She’s certainly not wrong that from a UX perspective, simple can be really nice, especially if you’re driving on crowded roads and want to focus on driving.

> I remember using some car’s built-in GPS once and it wanted me to take every freeway exit and get right back on after. Because it decided that saves time/distance.

It feels like cheating to the other drivers who didn’t take the “short cut” and leads to delays all around due to the extra merging going on. (exhibit A: I-85N vs. I-285 in Atlanta, aka Spaghetti Junction)

I live in Atlanta. I’m curious what do you mean?

I never really got into Waze; once I get to know my way around a city I'm inclined to just get around the oldschool way, sticking to arterial roads and all that.

I also used to work for a company where I occasionally visited an office where Waze was really popular with the folks who worked there. And found that that, when we were meeting up somewhere halfway across town after work, I would typically get there before the Waze users about as often as they got there before me. So, not really much of a time saver. Judging from my experiences on the occasions that someone gave me a ride somewhere, I was probably having a more pleasant, albeit lower-tech, driving experience, too.

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd imagine Waze has a law of large numbers problem: The sample size they have for estimating the travel time along any given stretch of side road is smaller, and there's also a lot more ways to route oneself on the side roads, and those two factors compound to mean a relatively high chance that at least one of the routes Waze considers has been assigned a grossly over-optimistic travel time estimate.

Waze also likes to overflow neighborhoods with traffic because it thinks there is a shorter path, which just isn’t a very nice thing to do.

I wonder if those who are more likely to measure something like this are more likely to drive closer to the speed limit? I tend to drive fast and find Google gets me there a couple minutes before ETA, Apple gets me there way before ETA, and Waze just overloads me with more information than I want.

I highly doubt the benefits of Waze are real, at least in Miami. While the random routes that Waze recommends might be more entertaining, it rarely is faster and sometimes WAY slower.

Probably a regional thing. I live in Atlanta and overall the routes are good, and Google maps isn't good accounting for traffic.

I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and when I go back I use Google maps. Waze would take you down roads I'd never use. Also I went to the keys and US1 had an accident. Google maps gave me a parallel road to save me 30 minutes. I thought it was wrong. I turned reluctantly and sure enough, it was a good route... Waze was like derp derp...which was probably to my advantage as everyone else sat in traffic.

I much prefer driving over sitting in traffic. One thing I noticed with Waze is that it would route me way out in the middle of nowhere to my location vs sitting in traffic. It was kind of interesting to see some of these back roads, I'll admit. I did learn some good alternate routes that I would sometimes just use on my own because I knew the freeway was going to be a parking lot.

I mostly use apple maps now with car play which is fine. After we moved my commute went from ~20-45 minutes to ~12 minutes so Waze really isn't a necessity anymore. :/

I love the idea of switching from Waze, which is increasingly frustrating and wrong.

The problem is that having the speed traps and radar sites on there is just too crucial to give up. I've never found a replacement that does that.

Maybe it's a good opportunity for you to start following speed limits and stop risking everyone's life :)

This would be a great idea if speed limits were set by any plausibly reasonable process, but in truth they are set arbitrarily and capriciously.

This would be a great idea if speed limits were set by any plausibly reasonable process, but in truth they are set arbitrarily and capriciously.

Demonstrably untrue. There is an entire very technical industry for this sort of thing. People who take an interest in their communities and go to planning and city council meetings know this. Those who are not involved their communities just complain and blame it on The Man out to get them.

It's extremely variable. You have traffic engineers, sure, but you also have politicians pushing top-down reactive policies to appeal to the limited minority of voters who happen to have the time to go to city council meetings. To say it is "demonstrably untrue" as some universal truth is objectively false.

Yes, lowering the speed limit on a 30 degree declining hill from 100kph to 60kph and having a speed camera at the bottom is "very technical" and not a clear money maker.

You need to break pretty hard to not get fined.

> There is an entire very technical industry for this sort of thing.

The industry being technical does nothing to prevent it's general rules from being dictated by politics. If an engineer does a study that shows no significant increase in injury by increasing the speed limit 10 MPH, I find it highly unlikely the city or state is going to approve it based on those findings.

Driving over the posted limit is not dangerous on most roads.

Driving over the posted speed limit can appear safe when it definitely is not.

My morning commute involves a blind left turn out of a residential street. Cars parked on the curb obstruct my view of oncoming traffic in the right lane. This isn't a problem when that traffic observes the 35 mph speed limit. I've had far too many close calls with self-centered jerks driving 55 mph in that lane. Sporty sedans are impossible to see over a row of parked cars.

If you can't see well enough to turn safely, you can't turn. Making a left into a lane of traffic, you do not have right of way. We have a similar visibility problem with parked cars near our driveway and our municipality allows for a certain amount of yellow paint on curbs adjacent to driveways, specifically for visibility. People generally respect it, or at least park further than before the paint. I'd encourage investigating if this is an option where you live.

> Driving over the posted speed limit can appear safe when it definitely is not.

Therefore, the fact that it's left up to the drivers to guess when it is safe and when it isn't means many folks are going to guess wrong and speed when it's unsafe. Would be much better if the signage just actually accurately reflected the safe limits.

That strongly depends on where you live. If you live anywhere where things other than cars going roughly the speed limit are on or around the road that speeding is definitely dangerous. In Germany that's basically all roads except for the Autobahn and some country roads.

For any value of "over"? Strapping on a rocket engine and going 900 mph meets the logical definition of "over the limit".

Driving within a reasonable margin above the limit is safe on most roads, under good surface and visibility conditions.

When you’re not distracted or tired, have great visibility, and there are no hazards or unexpected behavior by other road users. This is true far less frequently than people believe.


The speed traps and radar are now showing up in Google Maps in Australia for me it’s great and very accurate. I have no idea who puts the markers there.

You as a Google maps user can report various things, its a speech bubble under layers button with a + sign in it, in Android.

Google owns Waze...

(I wonder if the Waze ToS admits to having any crowdsourced data entered by users flow through to GoogleMaps?)

The crowdsourced data seemed combined when I had both waze and Google maps running once.

As for legality, the "content" you submit (which looks to include road condition/event submissions) is sub-licensable and transferable, https://www.waze.com/legal/tos "rights in content".

Pretty sure it comes from the Waze users; Google owns both.

Google Maps has speed limits, police and other warnings. Been there for at least a few months now. Not sure how accurate they are as I doubt they have as much engagement/reporting as Waze.

Doesn't this info come from Waze?

You as a Google maps user can report various things, its a speech bubble under layers button with a + sign in it, in Android. I do now, for any cop cars, debris on road, accidents etc.

I'm not sure about the initial data, but I get popups while driving using Google Maps when I pass things asking questions like "is it still there"?

This lines up with my experience. About a year and some change ago, it was undeniable to me that Apple Maps had become markedly superior at directions than Google Maps or Waze. GM/W would routinely just be very off and give me the alert to make a turn as I was passing it at speed. Apple has made one howler in the past year or so, directing me to a closed road — recovering from that took about 45 minutes because it was in rush hour at a bad spot — but I looked afterward and I’m pretty sure Google Maps would have given me the same route. Apple Maps’ directions for which lane to be in for an upcoming stoplight or exit are also far more accurate and helpful for me.

I use Apple Maps, but I still think Google Maps is superior at directions only because Google offers more alternate routes and Apple sticks to the usual routes almost all the time. I also think Google is better at updating accidents on highways and ETA calculation.

But Apple Maps has one massive advantage which is the reason I ditched Google Maps and that is the UX. I love how simple it is to read the maps. Important information is shown prominently during navigation and the UI feels super clean. Google Maps, on the other hands, feels really cluttered and slow. It takes a good few seconds just to see the map after you open the app because they are loading all the unnecessary BS like new restaurants, nearby events etc.

I agree with this. I use both Waze and Google maps. I opened Apple maps after a long time a few days back and i was suprised not only with the effcient directions but also the maps and the fact that i can clearly see the name of the road.

Waze also shows me distracting landmarks like McDonalds that stand out on my map, annoyingly. It doesn’t offer me a way to customize what I see or add in restaurants I’m interested in.

Customize it here: https://www.waze.com/business2

I personally use Waze over Google maps for navigation during commute times as it has the advantage of routing with HOV lanes. Does Apple maps support this? (I'm on Android)

Does waze work with detached-HOV/paid lanes? Google maps just gives up when taking the I-75 express lane to/from Atlanta since it's so far from the main interstate.

Waze works fine with them. But it's an option you have to turn off and on, you can't just click a button and route a different way. Sometimes it gets confused as well if you don't take a HOV lane that it wants you to.

Same here. The other night I needed to drive from East Bay to SFO in the rain, and Apple Maps said it was going to take me 43 minutes with an ETA of 7:27PM. I ended up pulling into the parking garage at 7:28PM. Despite the rain and the red bridge traffic, the estimate was almost perfect. In my experience, it's almost always within a few minutes of correct.

In the midst of the world (rightly) turning on big tech's abuses, efforts like these make me optimistic about our industry on a whole and help me recover some of the enthusiasm that led me into tech in the first place.

I love how this effort relies on & amplifies what were before relatively obscure specialties

The mapping wars elevate cartographers, mapping specialists, GIS data nerds, mobile computing / compression phds, GPS parsing engineers, ex-dod intertial navigation specialists, etc.

And rallied them around a massive, insanely big problem of mapping and organizing the entire physical world in real time and relying on consumer grade hardware to drive incredible fidelity.

It's humbling and really cool to see people that have dedicated their lives to these disciplines that were somewhat relegated to specialized use cases enter the "rockstar" stadium to deliver something that legitimately changes the way that billions of humans interact with the world

As much as I agree with your general sentiment, Apple Maps, like many of Apple's mobile apps, gets a boost from Apple's anti-competitive practices. It's utterly ridiculous that we can remove default apps from iOS, including Maps and Safari, but we can't set new default apps to replace them.

If we ever get serious about increasing competition in the tech sector, an easy place to start is letting users set default browsers, maps, and email clients on their devices.

What's worse for consumers in the end though?

One profession missing in the parent comment are the researchers innovating on differential privacy. Apple has taken great pains to figure out ways to improve their maps without storing massive amounts of private user data, to the extent that they split routes in half, fuzz addresses, and analyze the start and end of trips independently.

There's an argument that Google had such a huge head start on maps, that without Apple having the capacity to set defaults (on a platform that is not even a plurality of users), Apple Maps wouldn't have gotten enough users to justify improvements to where it is now. Apple also didn't get serious about having its own maps until Google attempted to exercise their at-the-time near-monopoly power to jack up licensing costs. Now the mere existence of Apple maps puts pressure on Google to improve the privacy features of its own map products as we've seen recently.

Apple funds map development through device sales, and Google does it through targeted advertising, map services for third parties, and profiling users. Do we value competition only of mapping products, or should we also value a diversity of business models for mapping products? It's no small decision to bring in the Kommissar.

While I sympathize with your viewpoint, you're imposing your personal values on consumers who demonstrate their willingness to exchange personal data for free services every day. You and many HN users may balk at this, but most people are ok with trading privacy for real-time traffic predictions. Apple shouldn't receive an unfair market advantage because they embody the values you hold dear.

Sidenote: I disagree that Apple Maps' success puts pressure on Google to up their privacy game. On the contrary, Google Maps comparative advantage is their data trove, as there are many more users of Google Maps than Apple Maps, so they seem more likely to lean on that to succeed.

I wouldn't look to the market to improve privacy, since as I said above, the market clearly doesn't care about privacy much at all. Without a seismic shift in public attitudes towards privacy, it's up to the government or the companies themselves to adapt.

> you're imposing your personal values on consumers who demonstrate their willingness to exchange personal data for free services every day.

Are they demonstrating their willingness, or do they simply not understand that there is a choice to be made? Considering the trivial difference in mapping performance in most places, I doubt most people would be willing to give up their privacy in exchange for saving a few seconds on their drive to the mall.

> Without a seismic shift in public attitudes towards privacy,

If people were truly aware of how much data is collected on them, how many people would opt in for the marginal benefits you get in return?

There have been so many opportunities for a grassroots pro-privacy movement to develop, and yet there isn't one. Devastating hacks (Target, Yahoo), election interference (CambridgeAnalytica), and yet nothing.

Acting as if people are unaware of data collection is disingenuous. If you told the average facebook user how much facebook and its third-party partners knew about them, I doubt many of them would stop using the platform.

You seem pretty disconnected from what normal people see and experience. Ask some random/ non-tech people about those hacks, data-breaches, and what their privacy expectations are when doing basic things like web searches. I guarantee you most people don't know who Cambridge Analytica is and couldn't tell you which major banks/ retailers have been breached.

It's not just ignorance, but a sense of helplessness. People don't feel in control and don't have any clue how they might reduce what data leaks out in their daily lives. The thing is, they are absolutely right.

I know and understand a lot of this stuff and I don't feel like I'm in control of my data. Even if you take precautions, Google and Facebook track your progress across the web. If you don't use Google Maps, Google still tracks your location using your IP address for network calls (often when you aren't deliberately connecting to Google services) and both Google and Facebook have been slurping up people's purchase history through credit card companies.

How is someone who doesn't have a clue about this stuff supposed to exert any control or choice when the people attacking their privacy out-gun them so thoroughly?

Press release from google, 2019-10-02:


* Added incognito mode to maps

* Expands auto deletion of old data to include locations, and location searches

Now... this might not be due solely to competitive pressures from Apple, but it was a topic of conversations I had with pro-privacy Android users I know who have been warming up to iOS. Feature introductions like this definitely take the edge off.

By this same logic, consumers are willing to exchange their inability to set a default Maps app in exchange for the iPhone bundle, at the price Apple provides (discounted because of the services revenue they can extract.)

> Apple shouldn't receive an unfair market advantage because they embody the values you hold dear.

Then buy Android if that's a tradeoff you're willing to make.

calling ignorance a willingness seems a bit much to me.

iPhones are not the market leader and do not have to follow molopoly based rules. They can allow apple maps only and all is legal.

Google didn’t try and raise the price, they demanded user data in exchange for access.

Anyway it was clear that Google got leverage out of the deal, for instance they wouldn’t allow navigation while it was available on Android, no vector maps while they were available on Android etc.

That was never going to work for Apple.

Good correction! Though I recall that negotiations broke down across both factors.

Are you saying users should give up freedom privacy( even though apple is willing to give up in china ). User choice is still better then corporate handouts.

One specific thing that bothers me is that Microsoft got in trouble for bundling IE with Windows, but apple doesn't get in trouble when they block all browser apps that don't use Safari under the hood. How is this different? I want Google and Mozilla (and anyone else) to be able to make iOS browser apps from scratch if they want. It wouldn't be an issue if you could sideload apps easily, but the app store is really the only legit way to get apps on your non-jailbroken iPhone.

Apple doesn’t have sufficient market share to be considered a monopoly. That’s generally how they’ve skirted around the issue, and by positioning themselves as a premium brand, they can raise prices on their hardware to the point that market share remains sufficiently small to not be subject to monopoly laws.

At the time of the MS/IE lawsuit (2001), Microsoft Windows had well over 95% of desktop operating system market share.

Fair point.

Because the DOJ suit against MS was misguided and unnecessary. It had little effect on eroding Microsoft's supposed stranglehold on the browser market. When browser monoculture began to really hurt consumers and innovation the market found solutions through improved collaboration (W3C getting its act together, and developers embracing web standards), business model innovation (mozilla foundation embracing open source vs. Netscape charging $40 for a commercial license), and better technology and industry/community collaboration (khtml and webkit). Even some eventual deadends like Flash played a role at the time in routing around the untenable, but very temporary, situation of IE v.4-6 dominance.

Edit: I want to add that during the suit MS reps had a glib but prescient defense: "we think web browsers should be free". They meant as in beer, but they were right in the larger sense, and few would disagree with them today.

Netscape was arguing that their by-then totally crappy commercial browser deserved protection from the state, when their demise had a lot more to do with insane bloat and their embrace of groupware.

The big differentiator here is that Microsoft had a dominant monopoly on PCs. Apple is a huge huge player in the smartphone space, but they're still in no danger of having a majority of the market.

Microsoft got in trouble for licensing deals: strong-arming OEMs to force them to bundle Windows. Apple doesn't license iOS.

The issue with the browser (and sideloading) is security. Browsers by their nature are essentially apps that run arbitrary code from an unknown location. How do you ensure security of the devices if you don’t control the browser?

Safari is great on iOS. I’ve never felt the need to run something different. Same with sideloading apps. I’ve never seen the need for that. Maybe I’m an Apple fanboy but I think they’re doing the right thing in both cases.

Apple doesn't have the market share MSFT did back then.

You can remove them? Android doesn't allow me to remove them wasting my space.

Not setting a default is bad too. Wish I could get there.

Apple won't even let you remove the Chess app from macOS without disabling system integrity protection.

and then, even if we could set the default browser, having a webkit-Chrome is stupid also...

and webkit firefox

> letting users set default browsers, maps, and email clients on their devices.

This is so disingenuous. It's called Android. People hate it. Although the walled garden may offend you personally, the market at large has spoken.

Of all the options to hate Android, having the option to change default clients is probably pretty low...

It's probably enough to make anyone switch to Android, but it can still be a welcome addition to iOS

Are you implying people hate Android and that iOS is way bigger in terms of market share?

Isn't that kind of self-defeating, though? Like the ACA without the individual mandate? The only way this works is if people use the apps on the iPhone. There's nothing stopping you from using Google Maps on an iPhone but, in order for the tech to improve while remaining strong with privacy, is for Apple to utilize their existing technology. Also, I disagree that it's anti-competitive. Users are always allowed and able to switch to another device/ecosystem.

It's extremely similar to the microsoft IE issue, users should be able to set a default web browser.

The difference is that Microsoft dominated the market. Apple has a relatively small slice of the smartphone pie.

If Google restricted the user in the same way, that would arguably be closer to the Microsoft situation because their marketshare is 2x Apple's.

How about we bake in competitive openness regadless of company size? Why is it right to build corrals as long as yours is not the biggest?

Because the user has an easy choice. Monopolies are not a problem in themselves, it’s when that monopoly is leveraged to crush competitors out of the overall market.

I seriously don’t understand why this sentiment(not yours) is so prevalent on HN. If we want competition in the tech sector, it seems to me that government enforcement of modulization would only hinder such competition. Why should a large corp’s web dev team care about mobile safari if they can just write on their page, “it seems you are using safari on mobile, we recommend downloading mobile chrome(AppStore hyperlink) and setting it to default, as of $PREVIOUSYEAR we will no longer support it.”? To me as things currently stand(that is Apple is not a monopoly), Apple’s walled garden approach absolutely embodies the spirit of a free market. Consumers have the choice of products and the defaultness of iPhones is fairly widely understood at the market level, best I can tell. Anecdotally of course, but almost all the l people I’ve talked to who buy an iPhone state that they buy it because they “don’t want to think about their phone” that seems fair to me.

Exactly! And, to my point that's being voted down, it really only works the way it's intended if they have the ability to control each step of the ecosystem. If they allow people to replace experiences at different points then it's not possible to ensure the consistency that Apple's really known for.

I think this is fine, but only if we also bake in all of the things that Apple has achieved using their dominance.

- Strong encryption - Privacy Protections - Not using user data

I think that depends on how you define "market". Globally, sure, but in the US that's not the case


The market is all the places the devices are sold. So global makes sense. If you define the market as San Francisco then Apple might have a monopoly. But that feels a little like market gerrymandering.

Even if you were going to restrict to just the US, Apple still sells fewer than 50% of the phones.

Fewer than 50% is different from "Google sells twice as many"

> The market is all the places the devices are sold.

Certainly US regulators / courts don't purport to have jurisdiction over foreign markets, agreed? The aforementioned EU case against Microsoft was about the EU market alone.

"Users are always allowed and able to switch to another device/ecosystem."

Google would like you to have a discussion with the EU on their behalf.

Google's market share globally dwarfs Apple's. That comparison isn't the same at all. If Google pushes their own products on consumers using the power it has established in that market, it's a monopoly and the EU is 100% in the right in enforcing restrictions to that. It's exactly the situation Microsoft found itself in during the 90s.

....what are you talking about? This is just an update on yet another closed platform.

If apple cared about elevating the discipline and righting the abuses of big tech with their mapping app they'd partner with OpenStreetMap and make the data public rather than continuing to silo all the data about you and everyone around you.

Instead we're continuing the closed source data gathering land rush and trying to beat google at its own game.

Why do you equate “elevating the discipline” with “give away the data?”.

Are you suggesting Google didnt elevate the discipline of search because their backend is closed?

How do you elevate a discipline by hiding literally everything behind NDAs?

By raising the quality bar of what is expected?

Apple Maps _is_ OpenStreetMap in many countries. In Denmark it's used for turn-by-turn navigation even.

(Source: Talk by Apple employee at the OSM'a 'State of the Map' conference 2018 https://2018.stateofthemap.org/2018/T081-Working_with_the_Co... )

Then why not do it everywhere and upstream the changes?

Why should Apple give away their improvements?

I’m genuinely curious why you think they should do this.


Because they would be legally obligated to when using OSM as a base for anything.

Also, because it would benefit society.

If Apple was legally obligated to contribute back, they would do so.

They have a good history of community contribution (eg. Darwin, WebKit) so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, instead of some random anonymous internet commenter angst.

....no they don't. They actively avoid the GPL versions of various things they use so they don't have to give back even though it hurts their users.

I’ve never heard that argument as to why Apple avoids the GPL.

I also don’t see how it is consistent with their behavior. For example, Apple wouldn’t need to change anything to bash to make its latest version run on MacOS. Yet, they don’t ship it.

On the other hand, the argument that they don’t avoid the GPL in general, but specifically GPLv3 because of legal concerns is consistent with their behavior. They shipped the latest GPLv2 licensed bash for years, but avoid any GPLv3 licensed version.

Apple made the MIT-licensed zsh the default shell in macOS over the GPL-licensed bash precisely to avoid the GPL.



Apple has historically been hostile to the GPL. Remember when Apple removed the GPLv2-licensed VLC from the App Store in 2011?


VLC didn't return to the App Store until the iOS version was dual-licensed under the MPL 30 months later.


I don't think what you're posting is inconsistent with the observation the person you're replying to made -- Apple is hostile more specifically to GPL 3, which a lot of companies seem to be (rightly or wrongly). IIRC, a lot of GPL-licensed stuff that came with OS X, like bash, just stopped being updated by Apple when it moved from GPL 2 to 3; moving to zsh lets them keep their default shell up to date while also keeping whichever execs/lawyers have decreed "Thou Shalt Not GPL 3" happy.

Also, IIRC, Apple doesn't have a policy of prohibiting GPL-licensed software from being in the App Store, but rather, the FSF's own interpretation of the GPL is that its terms are incompatible with the App Store's terms.

That's absurd. From Licensing WebKit (https://webkit.org/licensing-webkit/):

> WebKit is open source software with portions licensed under the LGPL and BSD licenses available here.

Even though those licenses don't require it, Apple still actively develops and publishes enormous FOSS projects. Here's a page that lists more of them: https://developer.apple.com/opensource/

Apple gives back way more than they're legally required to. They don't like the GPLv3 specifically, but's worlds apart from saying they avoid the GPL or that they don't want to give back.

It’s not that simple. https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Common_licence_interpret...:

”I created a layer on top of an OSM map. What do I have to put under your license?

You have to determine whether what you have created is a Collective Work or a Derivative work, under the terms of the OSM licence.

If what you create is based on OSM data (for example if you create a new layer by looking at the OSM data and refering to locations on it) then it is likely you have created a derivative work.

If you generate a merged work with OSM data and other data (such as a printed map or pdf map) where the non-OSM data can no longer be considered to be separate and independent from the OSM data, is is likely you have created a derivative work.

If you overlay OSM data with your own data created from other sources (for example you going out there with a GPS receiver) and the layers are kept separate and independent, and the OSM layer is unchanged, then you may have created a collective work.

If you have created a derivative work, the work as a whole must be subject to the OSM licence. If you have created a collective work, then only the OSM component of the work must be subject to the OSM licence.”

IANAL, but I think anybody can overlay OSM data with traffic info, satellite photography, layers with names of shops, etc., without creating a derivative work.

There's a myth that the market offers rewards proportional to value provided.

In reality, the market offers rewards proportional to value that can be withheld, as leverage for price negotiation.

It would be a big deal to create an economic system that reliably measures and rewards benefit to society. I haven't the faintest idea how.

Why don’t you work for free? That would also benefit society. Be the change you want to see in the world.

My understanding is that Bing, Apple, and Here have all already been working with Open Street Map for years now.

Yeah so wrong of them to invest millions into their map data and not immediately give it away to their competitors!

> It's humbling and really cool to see [cartographers, mapping specialists, GIS data nerds, mobile computing / compression phds, GPS parsing engineers, ex-dod intertial navigation specialists, etc.] enter the "rockstar" stadium to deliver something that legitimately changes the way that billions of humans interact with the world

The thing is, they did this before. But the interaction just wasn't direct. All of those people were doing important work for government and business organizations wherever getting around and knowing where you and other things are mattered, and improving the quality of services.

Now we get first-hand experience with their work, which is fantastic. Map apps are probably the thing that most enticed me onto a smart phone and the thing I'd have a hardest time giving up.

I just hope that every time we remember the before and after for these amazing conveniences, we remember that all these disciplines and professionals were important beforehand, and that there are others that are woven quietly into public and private life. Because there's a lot of voices right now that seem interested in burning down institutions and not enough curiosity in what those institutions have done for us.

> relatively obscure specialties

This is such a Silicon Valley perspective.

What abuse? how is it right? It's the news industry that is leading and fuling attacks on tech companies for selfish financial reasons, and "big tech" is their term, it's a testament to their efficacy that people in tech drank that kool aid.

Congrats to the teams who did this! It’s been a long time coming.. and a lot of people said along the way that Apple should just give up it was too far behind. Perseverance (and a lot of resources) can go a long way!

It reminds me of some advice given to me by a heavily successful industrialist friend — never dismiss your competition, for the world is not static.

The teams are mostly 1099 contract workers through a third party with no benefits and no hope of advancement or future employment as full-time employee of Apple since their contract specifically expires in one year. They make around $20/hour usually right out of college in a town (Austin) with one of the fastest growing cost of living due to the influx of all the tech companies who got tired of the California scene and decided to move to Texas for the sweet tax cuts and business-friendly environment.

I'm sure the contract company siphons most of the contract value from Apple and the dedicated workers doing all the GIS work, the turn-by-turn descriptions, business identifications, etc. updating all the things that made the original Apple Maps such a delicious joke are left with an income that barely meets expenses in a town where those expenses are steadily rising. This job for them is just a resume filler though they aren't even allowed, due to NDA, to specify exactly what they do (what software or skills they use) or who they do it for when they update their resumes so that before the end of their one year contracts they can find a real career-type job.

It is a great update to a product that did originally suck though. It isn't Apple employees who are doing the actual work. They're the supervisors.

Your phrasing is ambiguous about what those teams actually do.

If it's just a data entry or "look at this picture and type down the name of the restaurant" job, then I'd say $20 is pretty good. If it's actual software engineering then yeah it's pretty terrible pay.

It looks ambiguous to me too. Sorry. I should've read it more closely before posting as some of those sentences really get leggy.

i am a well-paid contractor who disagrees

Then you obviously are not one of the $20/hr contractors referenced in my comment. I am willing to accept that there are other contractors involved who are earning more for their efforts. Congratulations to you and I hope you find tremendous success no matter where you choose to apply your talents.

Do you have any evidence to back up your assertion?

Evidence of what? The rate of pay? The nature of employment of those doing the grunt work? The cost of living in the Austin area? The reason(s) why tech companies that had their start out of state open facilities in Texas? The general feeling that the first iteration of Apple Maps was substandard to the point where most agree that it sucked?

Apple gave them an option that was better than all others available to them. Otherwise they would be doing that other option instead. So thanks, Apple!

It is very likely that you are correct. Thanks, Apple!

"Is it Apple Maps bad?" --Gavin Belson, Silicon Valley

They had no place to go but up. That first version was absolutely embarrassing. I'm honestly surprised they were allowed to make it this far. To this day, I still do not use Apple Maps. As much as they try to get me to use it with all of the iOS embedding they've done, I still won't use it.

This update may make me switch from Google Maps. The UI in Google Maps has always been confusing and cluttered. There's a search bar, then quick search buttons underneath, then the layers button, "Explore nearby", explore, commute, "For you", and then finally the hamburger menu.

Apple Maps is a lot cleaner but the only thing missing was the quality of the actual maps. Hopefully that has changed now.

There's also the ability to collaborate with people who don't have an iOS device. If someone creates a Collection in Apple Maps I just don't get to participate. If someone creates a shared list in Google Maps I can see it on my phone, a web browser, someone with an iPhone...

And Google gets to see it too. And all their advertisers.

Google doesn't give your map collections to advertisers.

It's true that Google gets to see them, but Apple is no better in that regard: they store your collections on their servers too (where else would they store them?).

Apple is better in that regard.

End-to-end encryption

Maps keeps your personal data in sync across all your devices using end-to-end encryption. Your Significant Locations and collections are encrypted end-to-end so Apple cannot read them. And when you share your ETA with other Maps users, Apple can’t see your location.

Other useful sections on that page worth reading: "Location Fuzzing", "Random Identifiers", and "(on-device) Personalization"

From: https://www.apple.com/privacy/features/

_SHARED_ collections between multiple Apple users are not E2E encrypted.

Don't spread misinformation on privacy, it'll mislead people into sharing too much data.

That’s interesting. Can you point to a reference for that?

I would have assumed that shared collections with a group of iCloud accounts would be e2e encrypted like iMessage groups are e2e encrypted. Glad to revisit that assumption.

My favorite feature of Google Maps is how it gets 10x slower when you turn location history off. And then it obnoxiously prompts you to turn it back on for an "improved user experience." I've duplicated this exact experience across several generations of smartphone including a relatively recent Galaxy S7. Turning location history back on makes the slowness go away.

I don't have this experience on Pixel 3. I also have location history off and have never gotten the prompt. Does that come up in a specific usecase?

Disc: Googler but nowhere close to Maps.

Yeah, whenever my fiance or I try to search for a location, it takes maps several seconds to let us start typing. It only does this when we turn location history off. Honestly one of the things that drove me to stop using my G4 was this issue, because I had thought it was a performance issue with the phone. Then my fiance showed me how slow her S7 was with location history turned off versus on.

Regarding the prompt, it's always on in the search screen but starting a search makes it go away.

I just cold-started the Maps app, and search and keyboard opened instantly. May be try deleting the app data and cache? If not, not sure what's the issue honestly.

I just replaced the phone with an iPhone.

Google's treatment of Android users vs. its treatment of iOS users for the same app is insightful: in the former case, the treatment imo borders on the abusive with mandatory and permanent changes required to data collection to be able to do trivial things such as activate a Google Assistant using the Home app.

Google maps used to be fantastic, but in the last year or so it's become so fucking toxic - constantly spamming suggestions and asking questions, even during navigation (in other words, distracting me from driving!).

Apple maps may not be quite as good (the lack of cycling in my neck of the woods is annoying) but at least it's not trying to crash my car.

It is really annoying how it auto-switches to routes that it thinks will be faster.

"We've found you a faster route. Switching in 10 seconds if you don't press 'no thanks'..."

Come on, Google, there's a semi truck braking in front of me and I'm trying to make sure it's safe to change lanes, can this wait?

But the "is [reported hazard] still here?" bubbles don't bother me as much, since they go away after a few seconds. I think all of the cues are intended for passengers who are navigating for someone else, but the developers should keep in mind that some people use their phones as a standalone GPS navigator.

Why not? Because it started out bad.... 7 years ago?

I've tried it several times after various upgrades, but just never has won me over. There's multiple competing products. This particular one has always been behind in usability. There's just always been something that wasn't up to snuff, and I stop using it. I have better things to do than suffer with less usable software.

In the old days of Macromedia Freehand and Adobe Illustrator, each version would add features and updates that would make it slightly better than the other. I would use it until the other came out with their new version. It was a constant ping pong/leapfrog of competing products trying to win until Adobe ultimately won outright. In my testing, not once has Apple Maps leapfrogged to be the leading app.

Anecdotally Apple Maps is still really bad. I have tried using it to drive and walk around major cities in the last two years and it just completely misrepresents where some roads are, it doesn't catch up with construction, etc. etc.

This announcement today was about the release of entirely new rebuilt maps data for the entire US, from the ground up.

Yes it's almost as if this thread is attached to an article about how Apple Maps is not the same as it once was

Wasn't the rollout happening by region all through 2019? Doesn't necessarily mean EVERYONE is getting new data TODAY.

Look at the previous coverage on this blog - https://www.justinobeirne.com/

The PR piece says:

"Apple completed the rollout of this new Maps experience in the United States and will begin rolling it out across Europe in the coming months."

Yes, which means that the person you are responding may have had new data already from the old rollout. Not sure what are you trying to say from this comment.

I interpreted "Doesn't necessarily mean EVERYONE is getting new data TODAY" to mean that they don't have new data at all. My original comment was a reference to the "the last two years" of the GP, suggesting that their experience will be different now than 2 years ago. Perhaps in the last year it was already different and still not good enough, or perhaps it wasn't different yet and now it will be so the two year old data isn't sufficient to judge anymore. Only fjp can say.

I meant this to imply that my experience likely did not include the new data or experience or whatever they updated. I’m always cheering for a really good G Maps alternative and will give Apple Maps another shot

Anecdotally I have been using it for the last 7 years and it's been perfectly fine around multiple US states and dozens of cities. The only glitch I had was driving out of the Dallas airport, but Google Maps had the exact same glitch.

Don't worry, everyone has problems driving out of DFW airport with or without a maps app. From it's left exits to the merging lanes from cloverleaf ramps/exits, it is amazing there are not more accidents than there are.

Honestly, the redesign aside, it's really impressive how quickly they are catching up with most Google Maps features. Given, I haven't tried these myself and can't attest to their quality, but in the article they list: Real-Time Transit info, Sharing ETA, Indoor Maps, etc. They also got street view, and more.

Of course, it's much easier to copy features than innovate, the latter takes years of UX research, while the former can simply just take all the lessons learned and implement the final iteration. That being said, it sounds like Apple has invested big time on their Maps team, doing so much is so little time is truly impressive.

As recently as a month ago apple maps sent my coworker miles from his destination to a very bad part of town. It is still pretty bad.

> to a very bad part of town

As if the quality of the town they got sent to is somehow relevant?

I think it underscores the ramifications of the bad software.

So… your friend entered the wrong address?

Not necessarily. Apple Maps sometimes has problems with street addresses that start with compass directions.

You enter 1234 East Main Street and it sends you to 1234 West Main Street.

I've had this happen to me multiple times in both Minneapolis and Albuquerque. Strangely, it only seems to happen while in foot, not while driving.

My coworker claimed they entered the name of a chain store and it sent them to a dead strip mall.

If they only could provide offline maps like google maps. That feature is fantastic in the desert areas in the west where you have no connectivity. Even the search function works great when offline.

Also search still works better in google maps. Apple Maps doesn’t find the Office Depot near me but one 100 miles away for example.

It’s sad that technology has actually regressed despite exponential increments in processing power and storage capacity.

It used to be that you could buy a mapping software and install it on your PDA/Pocket PC and it would run fine despite a CPU speed in the megahertz.

Nowadays offline maps is some niche advanced feature despite even low-end devices have enough processing power to come preinstalled with an offline map.

Have you used offline maps in Google Maps? And compared it to the old mapping software you're talking about? It's kind of amazing, and frankly I often don't notice the difference between online and offline.

The maps sync on a regular basis, it's got detailed information about businesses including hours open, and it will route you different ways based on anticipated traffic at that time of day. It's also surprisingly not niche, as the app automatically sets up zones for places you visit frequently; odds are the majority of people use it without even realizing it.

I used that PDA software back in the day, and frankly it was pretty lacking. Route finding never took that much CPU. We moved to the cloud because the benefits of serving the data vastly outweighs the drawbacks for most people.

But google has demonstrated that an offline cache can work great.

What's amazing about it? It just has a local copy of the data. Big deal.

Not true. Search works pretty well offline too. Much better than any other offline mapping app.

My point was that offline isn’t the default, which means most people don’t even know about it or wouldn’t have it enabled for the times they actually need it.

That makes sense. It's well hidden and a little awkward to use.

So it's a local copy of the data and the search algorithm. Again, big deal.

OpenStreetMaps has some good apps with offline support but their search function is usually pretty bad. If they could crack search OpenStreetMaps would be a winner.

Check out MapFactor Navigator. Has a good single-line global offline search feature, usually two search terms (such as street/POI name and city or postal code) suffice. Also very good turn by turn voice navigation, an intuitive touch UI and other things one likes to see in a GPS app. Completely free on Android with OSM offline maps (which they distribute in a heavily compressed but rather complete format). Not affiliated but wouldn't drive out of town without it. You can also buy and use commercial TomTom maps within the same app if preferred. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mapfactor.... There is also an iOS version.

I have had this app for a long time. First on android, then on iOS. From what I see it has a google online search and then search through state, city and street. I can’t just you “Broadway , New York” or “Indian buffet” while offline. Otherwise the app is great.

Well the current Android version (don't know about iOS) _does_ have one-line offline search functionality. Perhaps you just need one or two more search terms.

Check the OSM Scout Server & related apps:


It's a local service running on your device that handled offline data updates (all data packs are generated from SOM data) and then provides various services (routing/tiles/geocoding/advanced PoI search) based on this offline data to navigation apps running on the device.

I really nice concept IMHO, but I'm a bit biased as I'm the author of one of the navigation apps (modRana) that make use of OSM Scout Server if available on the device. :)

There is an app called "Here maps" (free) which lets you download map data for individual states and countries for offline usage.

This is what I use. My argument is that this basic feature should be part of default navigation apps.

The annoying thing is that google maps is still much better :(

We use this when traveling abroad, it's extremely helpful to know exactly how to get from A to B before you buy a local sim card.

Yes it seems kind of comical that a simple offline cache wouldn't be included as an easy to tick off thing to include in this huge undertaking.

Apple Maps has come a long way since its disastrous initial release. For about a year now, I have rarely used Google Maps. I typically find Apple Map's routing to be just as effective, even for avoiding traffic, accidents, etc.

Yup I switched about a year ago because I liked the CarPlay interface the best out of [Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, Subaru Built In Maps]. And the privacy over Google Maps is a huge bonus.

My favourite feature on iPhone is it telling me where my car is parked. Sometimes I go to a meetup at a local university, which is also a rats nest of roads and alleyways, and this has saved my hide multiple times

Google Maps has this now as well.

I tried it. But then for some reason Apple Maps asked me to U-Turn on the Garden State Parkway. That's not an option.

Back to waze i went.

I hear Apple is pretty responsive about correcting reported errors. There's error reporting inside the app that includes a spot to attach a photo. Of course, this can be problematic when driving and I much prefer Waze's error reporting.

How do you do this for directions?

You have to do it after, or simply stop the navigation, but once you do, if you select the “Report an Issue” option from the Info menu you can pick from your recent trips.

Once you do so, you can select the wrong turn/other problem from the list of steps and describe the problem.

The biggest improvements are only within the US, though. In most places in Europe, Google Maps is still way better.

It's appalling in Amsterdam and with no cycling directions it's useless.

They finally updated buildings in New Orleans that had been demolished in the 90s well before Katrina but are still giving a dangerous routing from the west bank of the river to downtown that you will get ticketed for if police will see you do it. The alternate ramp has been complete since 1992.

> its disastrous initial release.

I'm no fan of Apple but I'd hardly call it's release disastrous.

If Apple could bring bicycle directions into the app, I would probably never use Google Maps again.

Any idea why they haven't / are there plans to add cycle routes in the future? It seems like a glaring hole in functionality (more than "street view")

I suspect it may be california-centrism. Bikes are a vital mode in Europe and many other parts of the road. In california car is king, bikes are either recreational or for hardcore commutes.

You can see similar assumptions in how Siri is designed. (“Users only speak one language at a time”) or the effectiveness of multilanguage support in autocorrect. Most people outside north america use their own language + english fairly frequently. At least those in apple’s customer demographic.

Sure, there’s plenty of California-centrism, but from where I’m sitting, a multilingual Siri sounds like a massive technical challenge. I also remember how long it took Google to roll out bike directions, and just how awful it was at first, when it was rolling out.

Bicycle directions are more challenging than directions for cars, public transit, and walking. I’m just speaking from my own personal experience, here. In every city I’ve lived in, I’ve had to test out different bicycle commuting routes until I found one which I liked. Walking and driving I will just take the fastest route and be done with it. Everyone has different preferences for bicycling for how much elevation climb they can handle, how much traffic they tolerate, etc.

Or maybe they’re busy rolling this massive update out (they’ve barely completed the US and have yet to finish Europe).

Yet to start with Europe.

Bicycles are very popular in many places in California; UC Santa Barbara has an amazing bike culture.

Counterpoint: google has bike directions and exists in California.

Google Maps' icon is also a location pin, while Apple Maps' is a highway. Google also has 21% of its local staff bike to work [1]. Apple's campus is so far that you can't realistically live in SF proper, you mostly have to drive. These kind of different motivations and cultures bleed through to their products.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/this-heat-map-shows-a-fundam...

Google has much more of a non-CA and non-US engineering presence than Apple.

It's a super tough problem. Even Google Maps messages you that it's a feature in progress (paraphrasing of course), and they've had years of a head start on this.

You know that got me thinking, biking rules vary far more than for cars.

Depending on your location, pedestrian traffic, streets, street traffic, etc. It might be best for you to be on the sidewalk. Or maybe you should instead be on the road since the road is only 25mph and there's pedestrians on the sidewalk. Maybe there's a bike lane, maybe there isn't. Maybe a town has a law saying you HAVE to bike on the road.

Are you allowed to cut through parking lots? Is it a dirt road? Can everyone's bikes handle dirt roads? What if it just rained, cars can still cross a wet dirt road, but I'd rather take a different route if possible on a bike.

That's not including the terrain challenges (which google seems to incorporate). I'd far rather take a route that takes an extra 5 minutes and is basically level vs a route that saves time but requires you to go down and uphill. Heck even wind conditions change can change the "optimal route" in some cases.

> Maybe a town has a law saying you HAVE to bike on the road.

I think that's usually the case.

This page [1] says:

> The law in most areas of the country require bicycles to follow the same rules of the road as other motor vehicles. In essence, riding your bike down the sidewalk is the same as if you hopped the curb and started rolling it in your car.

[1] https://www.campfirecycling.com/blog/2008/07/09/top-5-rules-...

Not always though, for example here in Michigan [0]. At least around here some of the streets are NOT the kind you want to ride your bike on, and there's only a few pedestrians on the sidewalk (so it's not a big deal even if you stopped and walked your bike around them).

> Bicycles may be ridden upon a sidewalk, but cyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and are required to give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

And to make it even more complicated:

> Further, official traffic control devices or local ordinances may restrict bicycles on sidewalks in some areas.

[0] https://michiganbikelaw.com/michigan-rules-of-the-road/

Doesn't seem that different. Basically, you're expected to be on the road and obey road rules, but you're allowed on the side walk if the local ordinance doesn't ban it and you give right-of-way and a wide berth to pedestrians.

i.e. riding on the sidewalk is more of an exception, and is typically allowed for kids.

This is pretty common, I believe. I looked up my local (Cambridge MA) laws and they say the same thing (and have a list of the sidewalks you can't bike on), and New York state looks the same.

In the dot.ny.gov FAQs, they explicitly say that sidewalk riding is legal unless posted, but is specifically intended more for young children.

Well, I'm quite happy with Openstreetmap's directions for biking (I mostly use OSMand, but there are other apps/routers).

They have elevation, private/public roads, road surface, bike lanes, etc, and routers can take it into account. Of course, that doesn't really take into account varying laws, but that might be reflected in the maps themselves (private/public places, bikes allowed/disallowed, etc).

See also https://www.opencyclemap.org

Openstreermap drives me crazy.

They use the designations “town” and “city” as a way of ranking places in terms of importance.

Here in the UK that designation is almost arbitrary.

There are several large towns with greater population and navigational importance than surrounding smaller cities.

All the commercial map providers, including Apple Maps, grok that. Only opensteetmap seems still rigidly to the town < city thing. Would be much better if they could use population instead.

In the UK, the City designation is political and not based on size. So I agree, a worthless proxy for size.

OSM does record population, and many sites that use OSM data parse that information. I think you're overstating the importance of the demo stylesheet on openstreetmap.org, which really isn't significant: OSM is all about recording factual map data and making it freely available.

Not sure if stylwsheet has a different meaning in the context of OSM but it is what is shown when you zoom out that I’m objecting to.

If the OSM project is just about data then it’s doing a great job.

If it’s about a usable navigation experience too then it’s failing because in the UK it doesn’t take local politics into account when deciding what to display.

It’s 95% about data.

FWIW OSM was founded and is still heavily influenced by the UK. As a UK user I like it that ceremonial cities are tagged and displayed as such. YMMV.

I have no problem with ceremonial cities being marked as such.

What I have a big problem with is that major towns, by both population and local importance, are left off the map until you zoom to a low level.

I find this annoying enough that I actively avoid OSM based sites because it. It makes using OSM difficult to see major towns in relation other major cities.

Meanwhile there’ll be a tiny ceremonial city with a huge label over it.

> Depending on your location, pedestrian traffic, streets, street traffic, etc. It might be best for you to be on the sidewalk. … Maybe a town has a law saying you HAVE to bike on the road.

Depending on location indeed. The majority of US states still make it blanket illegal to bicycle on a sidewalk, codified into early highway laws. (It's also probable the last time those laws were effectively enforced was somewhere in the middle of the 20th Century.) There are states where it is illegal, but individual counties or cities (or strange in-betweens like townships) override their state laws and allow it. I don't know of any examples of the opposite where a state allows it, but individual towns forbid it, but I wouldn't be surprised.

I made a comment to a sibling with an example from Michigan. I won't copy paste the whole comment but Michigan allows biking on sidewalks but you have to yield to pedestrians. But individual towns may add their own restrictions.


I think you could release a simplified version of biking directions that isn't perfect, but better than nothing:

- For a limited number of cities, determine which streets the city lists as having separated bike lanes, painted bike lanes, or city-designated "bike friendly" streets. Mark them on the map appropriately in a different map overlay (or on the transit overlay)

- Bicycle directions prioritize those streets.

It's not perfect, but this would be enough for me to use the app.

Painted bike lanes are really unreliable, but otherwise that sounds like a great idea.

Most of the painted bike lanes I see in suburban Washington are painted in some of the least safe bike routes. There's a ton of bike lanes that are just painted along major thoroughfares with actual top speeds of 40 or 45 miles per hour.

They should really do it by speed limit and presence of features that obstruct car traffic. Streets that are a pain in the ass to drive on are the best streets to bike on.

Even some of the Bike Routes in Seattle are on roads that I wouldn't feel safe biking on because traffic typically clocks at 10 or 15 MPH higher than the speed limit around the curves on the route.

There are of course plenty of bike routing sites online, generally based on OpenStreetMap source data.

I run cycle.travel (https://cycle.travel/map) which offers super-fast bike directions in Europe, North America and Australia/NZ. It has a number of unique features under the hood that I think lift the quality of its routes above other similar sites (but then I would say that). Always happy to entertain offers if Apple want to buy me...

Would you mind elaborating on why this is such a difficult problem?

I think you ninja'd me, I just made a comment contemplating some of the different challenges of bike navigation.

Because unlike Google, Apple is a California and especially Cupertino centric company so most of their employees have probably never used mapping outside the confines of their car. Transit and walking directions are decent on Apple Maps but still leaps and bounds behind Google Maps. Just shows how forcing all your employees to live and work in the same place is incredibly limiting

That is not accurate at all. Biking is huge and many employees use public transit all across the Bay Area.

Shits hard yo

It is, but please don't post unsubstantive comments to Hacker News.

HERE WeGo (erstwhile Nokia Maps) does bicycle directions. Unbelievably brilliant in Europe with pretty much all cycle paths included.

Apple should just buy Wahoo.

Shout out to all of Justin O’Beirne' amazing analysis on all things maps. https://www.justinobeirne.com/ -he's even got an updated post related to this press release.

It makes me sad that Apple followed Google with the idea of coloring maps green based on satellite photos of trees rather than actual parks. Why anyone in Silicon Valley thinks I give a shit where trees are is beyond me. I used to be able to pull up maps and instantly see any parks around me. Now they're practically invisible.

What? You aren't interested in forests unless they are in a park?

Why would I be? Where I live virtually everywhere is a forest, so the entire map is painted green. When I open a map I'm generally looking to go somewhere, so knowing that my neighbor Bob has a lot of trees in his yard isn't very helpful.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact