Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Apple's iOS Maps fixed?

In the last few weeks I've used Apple's maps a few times.  The only time they failed me was when they were given the incorrect address.

When I originally used Apple's Map app with Google maps, I was doubtful about Google's maps because the directions Google had given me previously often put me several blocks away of my destination.  So, when I switched to an iPhone, I went with a Telenav app because their apps on my various phones got me where I was going.

However, I was confused when I first used their app on the iPhone.  I was getting strange directions and a couple of roads were called "country road" instead of their names.  I realized something--the Navteq that I saw in my feature phone versions of the Telenav GPS app now said TomTom.

I was trying to get to a shopping center in New Jersey, just south of the George Washington Bridge but I hadn't been there for several years and I took a wrong exit in Fort Lee.  I started the Telenav app and it immediately told me to "turn around", which always seemed its favourite thing to say.  I worked out where I was and found the road, but the app wouldn't shut up, even after I closed it.

So, I tried other apps like Waze trying to find something that worked for me.  Waze was cute and was helpful in avoiding trouble but wasn't helpful in navigating.  It was better as a live map to view traffic backups.  However, it would ask me if I was in heavy traffic when I was at a red light.  Once I finished my trip, I removed it and have never used it again.  Here is an interesting tidbit: Google supposedly has bought Waze and Apple never bid too seriously on the company.

Telenav and my memory have worked pretty well, but I hesitated to subscribe again.  Since my new car and Bluetooth connection, the audio doesn't seem to work, which is most of the reason for the subscription.  Of course, Telenav doesn't have a problem...ever.

That brought me back to the Apple app.  It uses the same TomTom maps, which is both a blessing and a curse.  It has given me easy audio directions, plus an easy to understand display that doesn't shift with the orientation of the phone.  It has worked well and got me where I needed to go without trouble.  The roads now have the correct name.  The best thing about it is that it works well with a 2G data connection.

What's that mean?  Too many times, I've been between cities and I get slow map updates or none at all.  The GPS knows exactly where I am because that's independent of cellular data, but figuring out where I am (other than "here") is impossible.

I suppose Apple has forced TomTom to get their act together and that's a good thing for anyone using the TomTom maps.

Update 2013.06.17: Since I've been back in Philly and Jersey, I've been using navigation more.  I think TomTom's maps in Jersey are just not very good.  I can't blame them for not being able to handle jughandles, but they need to get me into the correct lane before the intersection, not when I'm unable to switch.  I had quite a bit of fun getting from Freehold Raceway Mall back to Northeast Philly via Trenton but it did save me the bridge toll.  If I'd been using gasoline, I'd probably have burned up the money I'd have spent on bridge toll looping around the bridge, though.

I used Waze on the trip from Ohio to Philly and into Jersey.  It finally knows about stop lights!!  I complained when I first used it last year that it would ask me why there was a slowdown but there was no red light button to tap.  Now, it shows the stop lights.  However, it still asks the same question about slowdowns where a stop light has not been added at an intersection and there is still no button to tap.  Recently, at a major intersection in Ohio, it asked if there was a slowdown while I was sitting at the red light.  I replied "stop light" in the comment.  I got an e-mail later that it was unresolved "The map problem you reported on Waze on Jul 7, (stop light) has been reviewed by benjaminmeyer2013 but wasn't resolved, most likely due to insufficient information or non-exact location."  They pointed me to the position on the map editor, but I have no way to add stop lights.  smh  Why lesser intersections show stop lights and that one doesn't--I'll never know.  I have somehow activated the voice recognition a number of times but I'm not sure how to do that.  It never seems to work when I want.  It must be me.

Update 2013.08.18: Having been 5702 miles to San Jose, California and back, I've had a chance to use Apple's Maps and Waze more extensively.  Both become confused and apparently, there is also a problem with compass interference with my iPhone 4S, as it regularly switches directions when I stop--or an app complains about compass interference.  This could be my substantial electro-magnetic field or just some typical flaw in circuitry.  Who knows?

For the most part, the apps worked well and either could get me where I wanted to go.  I thought that the Apple/TomTom data was somewhat more reliable and straightforward, especially in San Jose.  I tried using navigation for a few miles and a few hundred miles.  When there were more intricacies on city streets, Apple/TomTom got me there but with the compass interference, I had to ignore some of the instructions when stopped.  Waze was better at ignoring the compass interference, but maybe because it decided on odd routes.

I never did really get the hang of walking navigation until it was too late.  I really had trouble in San Francisco and I might as well have been using a paper map.  That said, I got to see a lot of the city that was interesting, but my feet got more action than they should have.

I still don't understand why Apple didn't purchase the company behind Waze.  They're apparently working on this crowd-sourced information anyway, so it would have been a quicker step, but as quickly as Google has integrated the information into Google Maps, I'd think that they were working with Waze for a year beforehand, and the purchase was just the formality of it all.

Update 2014.02.22: I was using Yelp, which uses Apple's Maps application.  The Maps application told me to turn a certain way onto the highway.  The only problem is that there was no entrance there.  I was in a shopping mall parking lot a few hundred feet from the road, and I had to go the opposite direction to exit the mall.

Since the last update, I bought an iPhone 5c.  Today, I noticed the same direction switching.  It doesn't happen nearly as often.  It happened twice, rather than at every intersection.

Apple has bought several transit mapping companies, including the people behind the Embark apps.  I was using one in California.  I still don't know if they've made any progress with their Maps application but it was amusing today. 

Update 2015.12.08: I just saw article-after-article about Apple Maps being the dominant maps on iOS.  Obviously, Google Maps are used more overall.   That shouldn't surprise anyone since Android is in many more places.  There are certainly quite a few US$50.00 and cheaper Android-based phones for prepaid service.

I don't use Apple Maps that often.  Usually, I'm using Waze, which is owned by Google.  Waze is somewhat problematic, thinking that I want to head into freeway traffic jams, rather than faster local roads.  Apple Maps has been particularly bad about not having shopping center entrances mapped and telling me to make a U-turn at the next street.

They're both a pain, in that they lag enough that they don't tell me in time, when I'm leaving a parking lot, to be on the opposite side of the road for a maneuver.

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