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Monday, February 4, 2013

Apple's horrible new maps shouldn't have been a flag day

It's been a couple of months since iOS 6 hit and forced users to deal with a suboptimal mapping experience. I wrote about it at the time, and my position was simple: I was staying put.

Recently, I started thinking about how they handled this. Given that they must have been working on this for a while, why did they introduce it to the world as a flag day?

There are hordes of people out there who want nothing more than the latest thing any company puts out, and Apple stuff is no exception to this. They want the newest version of anything, and that means both hardware and software. I imagine they'll even install the full set of Official Extra Apps just because they come from that company. I'm talking about stuff like "Find my Friends" and "Remote" and anything else which can be added later.

Given this, why didn't Apple ship this new maps thing as an application earlier, like back in the iOS 5 days? All of the bleeding edge people would have jumped on it and would have started using it. A bunch of them probably would have thought it was glorious because they think that company can do no wrong, but at least some of the new users might have picked up on some of the bigger issues.

What's more, the original maps application would still be there for fallback purposes. People could have tried out the new stuff without having to forever lose the old stuff. If the new application was any good, it would spread by word of mouth from the early adopters, and perhaps even the cautiously slow people like me would try it out eventually.

After that, it would be a logical thing to add to version 6, or 7, or whatever happened to be the next big release. It wouldn't be surprising to anyone, and it would have gone through enough of a wide-scale shakedown to hopefully find the most obvious problems.

The way it happened in real life makes me think it was one of those things where a deadline approached and they shipped whatever they had.

...

I have iOS 6.1 on a device I don't use for actual navigation purposes. It's an old phone which no longer has cell service. On it, the maps are downright ugly. Points of interest are still in the wrong place even though I reported them months ago. There are nonsensical attempts at neighborhood names all over the place.

Bogus iOS map of Santa Clara

You can see this on your device if you're unlucky enough to have this running, or just look at my screenshot here. Look at the area just west of Santa Clara University. There's this label which says "SANTA CLARA EL CAMINO". As near as I can tell, that's just the names of two different streets which happen to be on either end of that area: Santa Clara Street and El Camino Real. Nobody I know calls that area by that name.

More snarky people like me might call it "downtown, or what's left of it after they did that urban renewal thing in the 60s", but people who don't want to get into that would probably just say "Old Quad". That's an actual name used by people who live in the area.

Does "Old Quad" appear anywhere on that map of this area? Of course not. Just below that, there's "LINCOLN BELLOMY", which again seems to be a pair of streets in the area. Nobody calls that area that, either.

"CITY CENTER" is something of a stretch. Sure, city hall is up there and has been ever since the aforementioned urban renewal, but the center? It's just a bunch of city government offices, a museum, a couple of historic buildings, and a park or two. "CITY HALL" would be perfect, but they didn't call it that.

It seems they just made up a bunch of names for no particular reason in an attempt to look more "plugged in" to local labels than they really are. It's garbage, and it needs to go away. It irks me every time I see it.

I have one final rant: what the hell is this thing?

Texas?

Here, I'll "crop, zoom and enhance" to make it obvious:

Panhandle on crack

Did Texas annex a huge chunk of New Mexico? What happened there?

If it's not immediately obvious what's wrong with this image, compare it to a proper rendering courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons. Notice that there is no "western addition" to Texas in real life.

Get it together, Apple, or get out of the way.