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Posts tagged with "Apple Maps"

Apple Maps Continues Its US Expansion

Yesterday, Apple Maps received its biggest US update by area yet, encompassing several states in the Midwest and West. Along with it, came a comprehensive update from Justin O’Beirne, who has been chronicling the updates since they began.

Apple started rolling out new, more detailed maps of the US in September 2018 and said at WWDC this year that the new maps would cover the entire US by the end of 2019. With the latest update, which is the sixth, only the Southeast and Central states, Alaska, and a few other areas remain un-updated.

Source: justinobeirne.com

Source: justinobeirne.com

According to O’Beirne’s post, Apple’s new maps now cover over 50% of the US by area and two-thirds of its population, including the country’s ten largest cities. Although almost half of the US by area has yet to have its maps updated, the accelerated pace of updates, suggests to O’Beirne that it is possible the remaining parts of the US may still be completed before the close of the year.

In addition to dozens of GIFs with side-by-side comparisons of the old and new Apple Maps for different regions of the US, O’Beirne goes into detail on the changes Apple has made to identifying roads, parks, and other landmarks at different zoom levels. It’s a fascinatingly in-depth analysis that suggests that Apple has increasingly automated its map creation process.

Be sure to check out O’Beirne’s post for all the details and the many GIF comparisons.

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Apple Maps’ Northeast Expansion Visualized

Yesterday Apple began the full rollout of its new maps for the Northeastern United States. And right on the heels of that release, Justin O’Beirne has meticulously documented and compared Apple’s new work with the mapping data that it replaces. He begins by highlighting Apple’s progress toward launching its new maps throughout the U.S.:

With this latest expansion, Apple’s new map now covers 27.5% of the U.S.’s land area and almost half of its population (47.2%).

Apple has promised that its new maps would be available to all U.S. users by the end of 2019, so the rollout – which began last September with iOS 12 – will need to significantly accelerate from now through December.

The bulk of O’Beirne’s post lets the new maps speak for themselves. Pulling from significant locations all throughout the Northeast, O’Beirne showcases direct comparisons between the old and new maps. As has been seen in other parts of the U.S., Apple’s new maps feature significant expansions of vegetation, new details for features like ball fields and small parks and rivers, and even road enhancements. Apple’s Look Around feature, which competes with Google Street View, is also now available in some of these Northeastern locations, such as in New York City.

Maps in iOS 13 is a big update, particularly if you’re in an area that has the new Apple-designed maps. I’m excited to have the new maps arrive in New York City, and look forward to getting some hands-on time with them over the coming weeks.

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Apple Maps in iOS 13: Sights Set on Google

Apple’s path to a home-brewed mapping solution has been long and perilous, but it’s almost arrived.

12 years ago the iPhone launched with Google powering its pre-installed navigation software; five years later, the botched debut of Apple’s own Maps app led to the firing of a key Apple executive; Apple Maps has steadily improved over the years, but seemingly its biggest weakness is that it has never truly contained Apple’s own maps. The app is Apple’s, but the maps have always come from other sources.

Last year, Apple announced a coming change that had been years in the works: Maps would soon contain the company’s own maps, and they would be transformative. The new maps started rolling out in the US last fall with iOS 12, and Apple claims they’ll cover the entire US by the end of 2019.

Timed with the spread of its first-party mapping data, Apple is giving the Maps app a big upgrade in iOS 13 that represents the company’s biggest push yet to overtake Google Maps as the world’s most trusted, go-to mapping service. Apple Maps in iOS 13 represents – if you’re in the US at least – Apple’s purest vision to date for a modern mapping service. Here’s everything that it brings.

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The Iconography of Apple Maps

Mercury Intermedia, in a post on Medium, shares its extensive documentation of Apple Maps’ iconography over the years:

A few years ago we published a post examining the point of interest (POI) icons within Apple Maps titled More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Apple’s Spotlight Location Icons. POI icons have existed in Apple Maps since Google was the maps provider. But with iOS 6, Apple took full ownership of Maps and introduced a selectable, color-coded POI system with all new iconography.

We took particular notice of the icons included with iOS 8 when Apple began using larger versions of these icons at the system level as part of their new Spotlight search feature. Apple has continued to iterate on these icons and has made several additions and refinements. With iOS 10 for example, Apple redesigned the Maps app to use the larger POI icon set directly on the map itself. This post will examine how the system has grown and evolved over the past few years.

If you’re interested in design, iconography, or how these things have evolved over time in Apple Maps, the post is a fantastic resource and fun exploration of the little details that make a significant mark on user experience. For example, the article includes quotes from designer Scott Dunlap comparing Apple’s icon changes over the years and what purpose those tweaks served, as well as offering feedback for how Maps’ icon set could stand more improvement, particularly for greater clarity at small sizes.

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DuckDuckGo Switches to Apple Maps for Location Searches

Today, DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused web search engine, began using Apple Maps for location-based searches. The company, which previously used OpenStreetMap, switched to Apple’s MapKit JS framework, which Apple introduced at WWDC in June 2018.

General search results and DuckDuckGo’s Maps tab both embed Apple Maps’ familiar UI with options to display street, satellite, and hybrid views of locations combined with Yelp data for businesses and other destinations. According to DuckDuckGo, users can search by address, geographical place, business name and type, and nearby. Clicking or tapping on the map preview in search results expands the map while selecting a location highlights it on the map.

With respect to location tracking, DuckDuckGo says:

At DuckDuckGo, we believe getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds. Naturally, our strict privacy policy of not collecting or sharing any personal information extends to this integration. We do not send any personally identifiable information such as IP address to Apple or other third parties.

DuckDuckGo explains elsewhere on its site that it uses GEO::IP lookup to determine users’ location by default. For better results, users can grant DuckDuckGo permission to use their browser location data, in which case DuckDuckGo says searches are still anonymous because the company does not store location data on its servers.

I tried DuckDuckGo’s new Apple Maps integration with several different searches. The search engine had no problem finding the coffee shop I was at this morning, and the familiar Apple Maps UI is a definite plus. However, the results weren’t as good when I ran a few ‘near me’ searches. Searches for coffee, pizza, and barbers ‘near me’ all returned better results before I granted DuckDuckGo access to my location. Of course, these are just a few non-scientific searches from one location, so your results may be different.


Justin O’Beirne Evaluates Apple’s New Maps and How They Stack Up Against Google Maps

Source: justinobeirne.com

Source: justinobeirne.com

Justin O’Beirne has written about the evolution of Apple Maps and how the app compares to Google Maps several times in the past, which we’ve covered on MacStories. In his most recent analysis, O’Beirne asks whether Apple’s new efforts to update Maps has closed the gap with Google Maps. Backed up by over 100 images comparing the two sets of map data, the answer appears to be a qualified yes. In some respects, Apple has caught up and even passed Google, but in other areas, it remains behind.

Apple also has a long way to go before its Maps update is complete. As O’Beirne notes, the currently-updated map data covers a small fraction of the globe consisting of Northern California and a slice of Nevada. However, those 48 California and 4 Nevada counties contain a lot of new details.

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Apple is Rebooting Its Maps App with Rebuilt Map Data

Source: TechCrunch

Source: TechCrunch

Next week, Apple will begin rolling out new map data as part of the iOS 12 beta. The company, which provided an extensive preview to Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch, has been rebuilding its map data from the ground up, relying on its own data collection instead of third-party providers.

As a part of the preview, Panzarino interviewed Senior Vice President, Eddy Cue, Vice President Patrice Gautier, and ‘over a dozen’ members of the Apple Maps team. According to Cue, the process of rebuilding Maps began four years ago. Cue told TechCrunch that instead of relying on a patchwork of data sources from third-party vendors, Apple decided to leverage a combination of sources in its control, including the millions of iOS devices in service around the globe:

“We felt like because the shift to devices had happened — building a map today in the way that we were traditionally doing it, the way that it was being done — we could improve things significantly, and improve them in different ways,” he says. “One is more accuracy. Two is being able to update the map faster based on the data and the things that we’re seeing, as opposed to driving again or getting the information where the customer’s proactively telling us. What if we could actually see it before all of those things?”

So, Apple began collecting map data in 2015 from a combination of dedicated Apple Maps vans, high-resolution satellite imagery, and what Apple calls probe data from iOS devices, all supplemented by hundreds of human editors. Panzarino, who took a ride in one of the Apple Maps vans, describes the tech they use:

In addition to a beefed up GPS rig on the roof, four LiDAR arrays mounted at the corners and 8 cameras shooting overlapping high-resolution images – there’s also the standard physical measuring tool attached to a rear wheel that allows for precise tracking of distance and image capture. In the rear there is a surprising lack of bulky equipment. Instead, it’s a straightforward Mac Pro bolted to the floor, attached to an array of solid state drives for storage. A single USB cable routes up to the dashboard where the actual mapping capture software runs on an iPad.

He also describes the probe data as:

Essentially little slices of vector data that represent direction and speed transmitted back to Apple completely anonymized with no way to tie it to a specific user or even any given trip. It’s reaching in and sipping a tiny amount of data from millions of users instead, giving it a holistic, real-time picture without compromising user privacy.

Throughout the TechCrunch piece, Apple emphasizes that data is being collected with privacy in mind using techniques like route segmentation and data anonymization. Cue told Panzarino:

“We specifically don’t collect data, even from point A to point B,” notes Cue. “We collect data — when we do it —in an anonymous fashion, in subsections of the whole, so we couldn’t even say that there is a person that went from point A to point B. We’re collecting the segments of it. As you can imagine, that’s always been a key part of doing this. Honestly, we don’t think it buys us anything [to collect more]. We’re not losing any features or capabilities by doing this.”

The new map data is being rolled out in the US first. Apple says that data will be seamlessly integrated with existing map data beginning with the next beta release of iOS 12, which is scheduled for next week. The first region to get a refresh will be Northern California, with new areas added throughout the US over the course of about a year.

The result should be more accurate, frequently updated maps that do a better job reflecting points of interests, topography highlights, and other details that aren’t present in Apple Maps today. Judging from the screenshots in Panzarino’s article, the changes should be noticeable and useful, though the design of the app itself is not changing during the rollout of the new data.

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Apple and Ito World Strike Bike Sharing Data Deal

Bike sharing data in Apple Maps got a big boost today in a deal struck with Ito World, a real-time transit data company. Apple Maps already included some bike sharing data, but according to TechCrunch, the partnership means Apple Maps now has bike sharing data in more than 175 cities in 36 countries.

If you type ‘bike sharing’ into Apple Maps, it will scroll to the bike sharing station closest to you. The app also supports searches near other locations, using queries like ‘bike sharing near Chicago Union Station.’ Each entry in Apple Maps provides the address of the bike sharing station and a link to the website of the company that operates it, but there are no details about the number of available bikes or parking spots.

Apple has struck several deals with third parties over the past couple of years to add data like electric vehicle charging stations and parking lot data to Apple Maps. I expect we will continue to see third-party arrangements like the one with Ito World because it’s a faster way for Apple to try to close Google Maps’ local data lead over Apple Maps than collecting the data itself.


A Year-Long Experiment Comparing the Best Map Navigation Services

We all have our own anecdotal reasons for thinking a certain map navigation service is best, but few of us are willing to perform a committed experiment that gathers enough data to prove our beliefs. Artur Grabowski, however, did just that.

In an experiment that began early last year and led to recording 120 different driving trips, Grabowski compared the big three mapping services: Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Waze. Though more complex studies could certainly be done, Grabowski kept things simple by focusing on answering only three questions:

  1. Which navigation app estimates the shortest travel time?
  2. How does each app over/underestimate travel times?
  3. Which navigation app actually gets you to your destination most quickly?

His results found that Waze estimated the shortest travel times, but that actually wasn’t a good thing, because the service also had the least accurate estimates. Apple Maps estimated the longest times, but that resulted in it being more accurate than its competitors. Google Maps, meanwhile, most often produced the fastest actual travel times, with Apple Maps and Waze placing second and third, respectively.

Grabowski’s tests are accompanied by the asterisk that his routes were all taken in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Apple Maps is likely at its strongest. Even so, the data he compiled over the year is fascinating to analyze, and shows just how competitive these services are with each other in the areas that matter most.

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