Monday, September 24, 2012

Maps dissapoint

Over the weekend, I updated my small personal fleet of Apple products to the latest operating system, iOS 6. I figure it is always best to stay up with software updates, so I bit the bullet.  After playing with Siri on my iPad 3 for a few minutes, I concluded that it was remarkably accurate, but sort of a solution in search of a problem.  I might use it occasionally. I liked the Do Not Disturb feature a lot, though, which will prevent my devices from buzzing all night, but still allow important calls through.

Apple's new Maps application had been getting quite a bit of buzz in the pre-release press, with gushing reviews of its turn-by-turn navigation and Flyover mode. As a GIS geek, that was the feature that I was most interested in checking out. When I opened it for a little exploration, though, it looked like a considerable downgrade to me.  I soon learned that I was not alone: the Internet was a-twitter with map-savvy users complaining about it's inaccuracies, omissions, and problems.

Posting oddities from Apple's Maps app has blossomed into something of an Internet sport in the past few days, and there are plenty of example from Lincoln.  Whittier Junior High School closed 35 years ago, in 1977.  Hayward Elementary School closed 30 years ago, in 1982.  Despite the label in Apple's Maps app, there is no such place as Hatfield Elementary School in the College View neighborhood or anywhere else in the City, and there never has been. There is a Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and it is indeed a National Park, but it is not on the corner of Jefferson and South Streets, not in the City of Lincoln, nor in the State of Nebraska.

I found lots of other examples around town.  Southwest High School, which opened ten years ago, is missing entirely; but Bethany School, closed for three decades, is still depicted on the map.  Apple apparently didn't get the memo about the State Fair moving to Grand Island, or the skating pond at 15th and Lake Street being drained more than 30 years ago, and they must have forgot about Stransky Park--one of the same neighborhood's real gems.

All these little oddities are amusing, but they have little impact on how I use maps.  The accuracy of streets is pretty good, which is the main need in public safety.  The reason I was most disappointed with the new Maps application was the loss of Google's remarkable Streetview, which I use often, and the lower resolution aerial imagery compared to its predecessor. High-quality imagery is great for firefighters and police officers, and the new application is a step in the wrong direction.  As an example, here is the playground at Antelope park, Apple on the left, Google on the right.

The loss of Streetview and the downgrade in the imagery is not offset by the much-touted Flyover mode, which has extremely limited coverage.  I don't live and work in Las Vegas or New York City, and for my purposes, it's hard to beat the Pictometry images in Bing maps' Birdseye View at the present time.


Herb said...

Second sentence of the second paragragh:

"As a GIS geek, the was the feature that I was most interested in checking out."

.."the was"

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I updated to IOS6 and looked at maps in Pirate Mode.

Tom Casady said...


Thank you, sir.

Steve said...

Can you tell if the old army tank and the fighter plane are still there in Memorial Park on the new maps?

pohl said...

Internet time is so strange it's easy to forget that Google's maps are only 8 years old and they weren't very good at the outset. They were smart enough to manage expectations, though, by keeping it in perpetual beta while they worked out the kinks – as opposed to trumpeting how awesome they were.

The new maps will get better with use & feedback, and it will probably be worth the pain in the long run, just to have a little competition in the field.

Tom Casady said...


I hope you are right (and suspect that you are). Before there was Google Maps, there was Keyhole. I was an early adopter, and now it seems quaint by comparison to either Google or Bing Maps. Actually, Keyhole lives on in the .kml file name extension: Keyhole Markup Language.

Maybe Apple's map app will become a contender, eventually. I don't know how anyone will be able to make the investment that resulted in Streetview. Bing tried with the excellent Streetside, but just never grew the coverage area--or at least not quickly enough.

Anonymous said...

A week or so ago KOLN's site ran a story with a map that was cleasrly not Lincoln. Don't know if it was human or computer error. When I pointed it ou, by phone, to the news desk They seemed grateful after I pointed out they wouldn't want to run that map on tv!

Anonymous said...

" I don't know how anyone will be able to make the investment that resulted in Streetview"

Maybe some of this would help.

Steve said...

I don't know about all of them, but at least some of the photos from Google Maps are pretty recent (within the last year or so). I know the overhead 45 degree view of my house can't be more than two years old (probably more like one). I've noticed that the direct overhead view and the street view are both somewhat older, however.

Anonymous said...

This is off topic but I overheard one of the elderly gents at the coffee shop asking about getting his pilot light turned on for the cold weather ahead. Does the Fire Department offer that service for free?

Gun Nut