Ten years of Apple Maps—Is It Really Worth It Now?

It's getting there, one step at a time but for sure

If you have an iPhone, I recommend looking up the Brooklyn Bridge in the Apple Maps app on your device. In the 3D image, it is possible to see how it extends across the East River, hovering over the highway on the border of Manhattan, and towering over the park that bears its name at the very tip of Brooklyn. When you turn on Apple’s Flyover tour, the camera will gently hover above the bridge in a satellite view on a bright and sunny day. This will give you the opportunity to take a look inside the surrounding pavilion, as well as the trees on Liberty Island and the other side of the East River.

It’s true that the bridge appears somewhat blocky from certain vantage points, but there’s no mistaking that it’s still the Brooklyn Bridge. This is a significant improvement from when Apple Maps initially came out and the structure appeared to be dissolving into the earth.

Ten years of Apple Maps—Is It Really Worth It Now?
Apple

To put it mildly, the liquefied Brooklyn Bridge was only one of numerous abnormalities that occurred with the launch of Apple Maps, a product that will soon be celebrating its 10th anniversary later this month. Other irregularities included the following: The application had one of the most rocky beginnings of any Apple product in recent memory, but the firm has spent sufficient resources into it to make it a fantastic mapping software and a credible alternative to Google Maps. These adjustments are one of the most significant course corrections made to the product during the past ten years.

A disagreement between Apple and Google led to the development of Apple Maps. During the early years of the iPhone, when these two firms were still very friendly with one another, it may be difficult to remember that. At the time that Apple introduced the iPhone, Eric Schmidt, who was serving as CEO of Google at the time, was a member of Apple’s board of directors. Additionally, Google Maps and YouTube were two of the few applications that came preinstalled on every iPhone.

However, as Google moved fast to develop an iOS competitor of its own in the form of Android, Apple and Google evolved to become more formidable competitors. Maps in particular was a source of contention because it looked that Google was withholding important functionality from the iOS version of Maps, denying iPhone users access to turn-by-turn directions as a result. Apple was presented with a compelling argument to wean itself off of Google all of a sudden, and the development of its own mapping application was one of the company’s most significant departures.

AT FIRST, MAPS WAS AN ABSOLUTE DISASTER

On September 19, 2012, Apple discontinued support for the Google Maps app and launched its own version of Apple Maps. It was a total failure from the very beginning of the process. A shadow dominated most of the view of the Statue of Liberty. Apple made a mistake in Ireland by classifying a park as an airport. There was a road that crossed over one of the suspension towers on the Golden Gate Bridge. Even though it was one of the most prominent aspects of iOS 6, Apple Maps wasn’t quite ready for prime time when the operating system was released.

In the early aftermath, Apple made haste to correct the problems that were most obvious to customers. But things were bad enough that just 11 days after Apple Maps was released, CEO Tim Cook published a remarkable open letter apologizing for the debut of a product that wasn’t quite ready for prime time. At the time, Cook had only been in his post as CEO for a little over a year.

Ten years of Apple Maps—Is It Really Worth It Now?
Apple

Cook noted that Apple’s mission is to “create world-class products that give the best experience possible to our consumers.” “We try to make products that are world-class at Apple.” “When we introduced our brand-new Maps the week before last, we failed to live up to this claim. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused our consumers, and be assured that we are putting out every effort to make improvements to Maps. One month later, iOS software leader Scott Forstall was sacked, apparently for refusing to sign that letter. The reason for his termination is unclear. A top manager on the mapping team at Apple is said to have been terminated immediately after Forstall departed the company.

Apple’s journey to improve Maps began with a stumble right off the starting line, which marked the beginning of a long and twisting path. At first, there were very insignificant changes, like as straightening out the first warped Brooklyn Bridge and recreating the lost Statue of Liberty. However, the application was still far behind in terms of basic capabilities and the accuracy of the mapping, so Apple began purchasing startups to assist remedy major flaws in the app’s functionality. One of them was a startup that gathered location data through crowdsourcing. A pair provided apps for public transportation. One of them was a new GPS company.

APPLE CHIPPED AWAY AT KEY FEATURES

That assisted Apple in getting a head start on removing key features. iOS 7 includes a popup that asks users to contribute to the improvement of the service by providing the locations of their most frequent visits. After its launch in 2012, Apple Maps did not initially provide instructions for public transportation until iOS 9, which was released in 2015. One year later, the application underwent a significant makeover that made the navigation far more user-friendly in iOS 10. In iOS 11, Apple included an interior navigation feature. (During that same year, it also updated the app’s symbol to depict the spaceship campus of the corporation.)

However, the company could only achieve so much success. Apple Maps was still nowhere near as good as Google Maps, and one reason for this was that it relied on data from third parties for the majority of the information that it displayed in Maps. Therefore, beginning in 2018 with the release of iOS 12, which was around six years after the first introduction of Maps, Apple began the process of rebuilding Maps with its own data. This necessitated a significant expenditure on Apple’s part in mapping every area in which the company desired to enhance its coverage. The organization started dispatching its very own mapping vans, which were outfitted with camera systems, lidar arrays, and an iPad that was connected to the dashboard. In addition to that, it uses “pedestrian surveys,” which are basically just people walking around to collect data. Some of them have backpacks that are loaded with various sensors.

Ten years of Apple Maps—Is It Really Worth It Now?
Apple

The introduction of the new maps was gradual; initially, they were only available for the Bay Area in California; however, the updated maps appeared to be of much higher quality. They made nature much more visible by using green patches to indicate parks and forested regions in a more comprehensive manner. In addition, they made it simpler to differentiate between roadways by using different widths and additional labels. You can view a few samples of the updated maps in this blog that was written by Justin O’Beirne, who monitored the development of the improved maps in great detail.

It wasn’t until January 2020 that Apple announced that its redesigned and updated Maps app was completely functional across the United States (a bit later than its estimate of the end of 2019). But Apple has done more than just update the appearance of Maps. In more recent editions, it has also been adding a significant amount of new features. In 2019, Apple released iOS 13 with a new feature called Look Around that was similar to Google Street View and allowed users to see locations from street level. In the same version, it also incorporated real-time directions for public transportation and the capability to let others know when you anticipate arriving, or ETA.

With the release of iOS 14, Apple included cycling instructions, which is a feature that Google Maps has had for a very long time as well. Additionally, Apple included electric vehicle routes, which may be beneficial if the much-rumored Apple Car ever becomes a reality. With the release of iOS 15, Apple added stunning 3D details to a select number of cities, introduced augmented reality walking directions (also available in a select number of locations), and enhanced driving directions. You will now be able to plan out instructions for a journey that includes a number of different stops thanks to a major update that will be included in Maps as part of iOS 16.

Ten years of Apple Maps—Is It Really Worth It Now?
Tom’s Guide

This is all to say that Apple has been quickly ramping up how fast it introduces features to Apple Maps, and I think the product is much better as a result: for me, in Portland, Oregon, Apple Maps became my go-to maps app a few years ago. This is all to say that Apple has been quickly ramping up how fast it introduces features to Apple Maps. Apple Maps nearly never fails to point me in the proper direction when I need it most, despite the fact that I mostly use an iPhone and a MacBook Air, so I will confess that the experience is significantly enhanced by the fact that those are the devices I use.

You’ll note I said almost. Although Apple Maps has caught up to Google Maps in many respects, it does not yet have the capability to download maps for use when the user is not connected to the internet. While I wait for Apple to implement this feature, I plan to continue downloading Google Maps before going on extended trips away from home so that I can store a map of the area I’ll be in just in case.

Ten years of Apple Maps—Is It Really Worth It Now?
Apple

The fact that I live in a big urban region in the United States also allows me to use Apple Maps. One of my coworkers in Europe is dissatisfied that Apple still does not provide directions for bicycling in Amsterdam, which is widely regarded as the cycling capital of the world. Even though Apple initially began talking about the new maps in 2018, the company’s updated maps are still only available in a select few countries outside of the United States. These nations include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Even if it still has space to develop (Apple, please eliminate the Yelp integration for reviews! ), almost ten years after the initial introduction of Maps, the business has transformed it from a complete joke into something that many people will find to be very usable. On the day that Maps was released, if you had told me that would be the case, I’m not sure I would have believed you. But here we are, and XKCD noted not so long ago that Apple Maps is getting better and better now.


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