It was clear during WWDC that Apple is forging ahead with its Maps app at full-speed. Not only were several interesting refinements to the app and its underlying data announced during the conference keynote and sessions, but Apple continues to improve the functionality of its maps throughout the year, adding its Look Around feature to Seattle, Washington today.
Look Around was the marquee addition to Maps in iOS 13. The feature, which competes with Google Street View, provides a 3D representation of the world from a car’s vantage point. When you zoom far enough into an area that supports Look Around, an icon of a pair of binoculars appears in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Tapping it opens a separate overlay that you can pan around by swiping and move through by tapping along streets. The animations are smooth and the images high-resolution, making Look Around a terrific way to explore an unfamiliar area before visiting.
Seattle joins ten other US cities as the eleventh area to add the Look Around feature. The last city added was Chicago and parts of its suburbs, which were added in April.
At WWDC, Apple announced that Apple is updating its map data in Ireland, the UK, and Canada later this year. With the US map data updated, I’m glad to see Apple moving forward in other countries. I expect that before long, we’ll see other countries add the new map data too.
Also, I hope that the addition of Look Around in Seattle marks an acceleration of that feature. It’s a fantastic resource in the 11 major urban areas it covers. Still, I’d love to see Look Around expand to smaller cities and public spaces over time, making it useful to a broader cross-section of the world’s population.
Apple has updated the Look Around feature of the Maps app to include Chicago, and as always, Justin O’Beirne has all the details.
According to O’Beirne, Chicago, which is the tenth US city to be added to Look Around, is the biggest expansion of the feature by land area to date. Not only is the city included, but so are many of the surrounding suburbs. The feature still covers only about 0.3% of the land area of the US, but by covering eight of the country’s ten largest US cities, Look Around accounts for nearly 14% of the US population.
For more details on the update, including fantastic animated GIFs that visualize the expansion of Look Around to Chicago and previous cities, be sure to read O’Beirne’s full story.
Apple has shared a new web-based tool that provides insights from Apple Maps on mobility trends. According to Apple’s press release:
This mobility data may provide helpful insights to local governments and health authorities and may also be used as a foundation for new public policies by showing the change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit in their communities.
The tool can be found at apple.com/covid19/mobility, where you can view driving, walking, and transit trends for 63 countries as well as major cities around the world. Apple’s press release also explains how the data is collected and addresses privacy:
Maps does not associate mobility data with a user’s Apple ID, and Apple does not keep a history of where a user has been. Using aggregated data collected from Apple Maps, the new website indicates mobility trends for major cities and 63 countries or regions. The information is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions. The data sets are then compared to reflect a change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world. Data availability in a particular city, country, or region is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day.
Having tried the tool, it’s fascinating to see the differences between the effect of mobility restrictions around the world. I’m glad to see Apple sharing this information on an aggregate, privacy-conscious way that hopefully can help governments and health organizations around the world assess the effectiveness of measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.