Posts tagged with "google maps"

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps vs. Transit

Concise, well-illustrated comparison of transit maps from the developers of Transit for iOS:

Transit maps are hard. Really hard. Even for Apple and Google. Piecing a transit map together, city by city, agency by agency, stop by stop, without it turning into a hairy mess is INCREDIBLY difficult. So far, no one (not even Apple or Google) have been able to create a transit map that is both automatically generated and well designed. Why is that?

As Apple outlined at WWDC, their approach to transit takes a long time because it involves manually curated details (things like signs, directions, and cultural conventions that match the real world), which wouldn't be possible with an algorithm alone.

That said, I can vouch for Transit in Rome. The app is excellent. Well designed, with some clever interactions (such as an "arrive by" option to plan a trip on a timeline), and a joy to use. It's also the only decent transit app that combines public transit with local car sharing services on the same map.

I wish Apple Maps transit data was a) available in Rome and b) as flexible as Transit.

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Google Tweaks the Design of Maps and Adds Areas of Interest

Google Maps is on the move. Just last week, Google added enhanced crowdsourcing features to Google Maps making it easier for users to edit map locations and add richer information about them. Now, Google has updated the design of its iOS, Android, and web apps to make them easier to explore visually too.

Downtown San Francisco before and after.

Downtown San Francisco before and after.

The goal of the Google Maps update was to create a less cluttered look:

… as part of this update, we’ve removed elements that aren’t absolutely required (like road outlines). The result is a cleaner look that makes it easier to see helpful and actionable information like traffic and transit.

Google also modified the typography and color scheme of Maps to make it easier to identify different map elements.

The update to Google Maps includes an all-new feature as well – areas of interest, which are shaded orange. The shading, which is determined algorithmically and by humans makes it easy to spot areas where you may want to zoom in to browse points of interest.

I like the design changes that Google has made. In the before and after screenshots of downtown San Francisco above, the neighborhood names and other points of interest are much more legible than they were previously, which should make it easier to use Google Maps to explore and navigate new places.

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Google Enhances Crowdsourcing of Its Maps Data

Maps are a highly competitive corner of the mobile device landscape. Today, Google added features that make it easier for users to add new places, suggest edits to locations, and verify other users’ submissions.

Google announced on the Google Maps blog that adding and editing locations has been expanded worldwide in Google Maps and Google Search. In my limited tests, I only saw links to edit locations in Google Maps, but it may be that the feature is still being rolled out to Search.

In addition, you can now add additional details about a location that you find using Google search. As Google describes it:

There’s more to a place than its business hours or address—you might want to know if a place has a romantic vibe, serves vegetarian food or offers outdoor seating. Now on Google Maps for Android and when searching on your mobile phone, you can contribute what you know about a place so that others can benefit from the info as well. Knowing these types of details helps us build a deeper understanding of a place so we can better help users find the places most relevant to them.

I added some information about one of my favorite Chicago restaurants and found the process to be easy and fast. On iOS this only works if you use search in Safari. Android users can also add location details in Google Maps.

Finally, Google has opened up verification of user-submitted data to other users. If new data has been added to a location you can indicate whether it is accurate or not. After a location receives sufficient support for a change, Google will make it permanent.

Mapping services are only as good as the data behind them. Google continues to push forward at a fast clip and adding legions of users to its efforts to provide valuable map data makes a lot of sense. Apple Maps has made great strides since its introduction, but I’d like to see something like this added to Apple Maps to help it catch up and stay competitive with Google Maps.

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Google Maps & Apple Maps: Cartography Comparison

When I linked to Justin O'Beirne's analysis of Google Maps in May, I asked:

It'd be interesting to see the same comparisons between Apple and Google, as well as between old Apple Maps and Apple Maps today.

Not only did Justin deliver (for context, he designed and led the development of Apple Maps' cartography), he's started an entire series detailing the cartography of Google Maps and Apple Maps.

At its heart, this series of essays is a comparison of the current state of Google’s and Apple’s cartography. But it’s also something more: an exploration into all of the tradeoffs that go into designing and making maps such as these.

These tradeoffs are the joy of modern cartography — the thousands of tiny, seemingly isolated decisions that coalesce into a larger, greater whole.

Our purpose here is not to crown a winner, but to observe the paths taken — and not taken.

(Can you tell he left Apple in 2015?)

I couldn't stop reading the first post in the series, in which Justin compares the choices Google and Apple have made for displaying cities, roads, and points of interests on their maps. Utterly fascinating and amazingly detailed.

I've always preferred Apple's overall design and balance of their maps (which Justin's data confirms), but, in my experience, their data (POIs and roads) was either old or inaccurate. My area in Rome seems to have improved in the past year, and maybe I should try Apple Maps again.

I'm looking forward to Justin's next entries in the series.

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What Happened to Google Maps?

Fascinating study by Justin O'Beirne on how Google Maps changed from 2010 to 2016 – fewer cities, more roads, and not a lot of balance between them on a map at the same zoom level.

He writes:

Unfortunately, these "optimizations" only served to exacerbate the longstanding imbalances already in the maps. As is often the case with cartography: less isn't more. Less is just less. And that's certainly the case here.

As O'Beirne also notes, the changes were likely made to provide a more pleasant viewing experience on mobile devices.

I understand his point of view – the included examples really make a solid case – but I can also see why Google may consider the average user (looking up points of interest nearby, starting navigation on their phone) and think that most users don't want that kind of cartographic detail anymore.

It'd be interesting to see the same comparisons between Apple and Google, as well as between old Apple Maps and Apple Maps today.

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Google Maps for iPhone Adds Pit Stops

Aditya Dhanrajani, writing on the Google Maps blog:

Life is full of the unexpected—things that send us scrambling for a gas station in the middle of nowhere, looking up a florist on our way home from work or searching for a restaurant as we tour the back roads of our latest vacation destination. Finding and navigating to these last-minute pit stops used to force you out of navigation mode in Google Maps—and away from the traffic updates, turn-by-turn directions and map you rely on to stay on track.

That changed last October with an update to Google Maps for Android that lets you add detours to your route, without ever leaving navigation mode. And starting today, this feature will start rolling out on iOS as well, in any country where we offer navigation—more than 100 worldwide. So no matter where you’re from, where you are, or whether you use Android or iPhone, making a pit stop is now a breeze.

This is going to be useful in Rome (which I don't know well enough) and it's another differentiator from Apple Maps. I also like that they added the ability to 3D Touch the app icon and start navigation to your Home address.

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Google Maps Gets Apple Watch App

Google has released an update to its Google Maps app for iOS today, including a new version for Apple Watch. I was curious to check out Google Maps' debut on the Watch: while I knew that they couldn't replicate the experience of Apple's excellent Maps app, I was hoping that watchOS 2 would give them some room for experimentation.

Instead, Google has shipped a basic Watch app that shows a list of directions for Home and Work addresses configured in the iPhone app. I guess this could be useful if you've been looking for a way to print out directions on your Watch's screen, but I don't know why you wouldn't use your iPhone for that, with proper navigation tools and spoken feedback. Missed opportunity for Google considering they could have at least included a complication for quick access to the app.

Thankfully, you can check out ETA 2.0 for iOS, which has been updated for watchOS 2 and that includes a great complication for traffic information, public transit support, and more.

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Ten Years of Google Maps

Great story by Liz Gannes on the first decade of Google Maps and its impact on society and technology.

I'd add this: as we enter the wearable era of mobile, it'll be interesting to see how each platform owner will leverage the wrist screen space for mapping.

Apple is going to put at-a-glance directions on the Watch, and, as I assume the Maps integration will be deeper than what is going to be allowed to third-parties with WatchKit, that may be enough to make me reconsider my daily usage of Apple Maps.

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Google Maps for iOS Getting New Material Design

With an official blog post, Google has announced that a new look for its Google Maps app for iOS and Android will roll out “over the next few days”. Based on the company's new Material Design aesthetic, the new app will feature a blue interface with drop shadows, redesigned buttons, and more.

Bold colors and textures are in—and Google Maps is on trend, with a slick new style to make traveling with Maps even easier. Over the next few days, when you open up Google Maps on your Android or iPhone, you’ll be greeted by bright colors and a fresh new design. This new look is all about creating surfaces and shadows that echo the real world; with Google Maps’ new material feel, layers and buttons come to life so you know just where to touch to get directions, recommendations and imagery.

In the US, the app will also integrate with OpenTable for restaurant reservation. The Google Maps app for iOS still hasn't been updated to the new design, but you can find more screenshots here.

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