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Posts tagged with "maps"

Opening Any Apple Maps Place or Address on the Web

Yesterday, Benjamin Mayo reported that Apple published public webpages for “some landmarks and points of interest” listed in Maps:

Apple is now publishing public web pages for landmarks and POI in its Apple Maps database: here’s one such place. The website link shows details about the place such as location, name, telephone number and reviews. The design is identical to the cards in the iOS 10 Maps app.

When on an Apple platform, these URLs appear to act as deep links into the native Maps app. If viewing in Chrome or on a non-Apple device like Android, the fallback webpage is loaded. The purpose for these URLs is unclear, but it may possibly foreshadow a larger move by Apple to offer its own online mapping service to compete with Google Maps on the web.

I did a bit of digging, and I discovered that you can open any Apple Maps place or address in another web browser if you reformat the URL properly.

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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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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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Apple’s Spotlight Location Icons

Fascinating look by Rusty Mitchell (via Sebastiaan de With) at Apple’s location icons, used in Spotlight for iOS 8:

In our iOS 8 UI Kit for Illustrator post, I mentioned becoming obsessed with finding all of Apple’s new Spotlight Location icons. I was excited to discover these icons because they are the first large-scale generalized set of pictograms created by Apple, and I was curious to see the depth of the set and how harmonious it is when viewed together. To date I’ve been able to locate 96 of these icons, but there are a few that I have seen in Maps that I haven’t been able to trigger in Spotlight. I’m sure there are still others that I have yet to find at all. In this post, I want to take a moment to highlight a little about the icons and then — since you can only search Spotlight for nearby locations — give some instructions on how to create a GPX file and use Xcode’s handy Simulate Location feature to search for location types that may not be available near you.

As Sebastiaan also notes, I’d love an in-depth look at Apple’s landmark icons used in Maps but absent from Spotlight results (here’s the Colosseum in Rome and Duomo in Milan, as shown in Apple Maps).

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The State of Maps

Maps for iOS 6 wasn’t well received, prompting an apology from Apple and a brief App Store campaign that featured alternatives such as Google Maps. Apple’s core problem: they just didn’t have the data or the mapping prowess to compete with Google, the previous maps supplier and a popular provider for search, directions, and transit information. Apple’s strategy was to provide a core Maps experience, letting developers ship apps on the App Store that could take the spotlight for reviews and transit info.

For the past year, Apple has been trying to hire a number of “Ground Truth Experts” while acquiring companies like HopStop and Embark. They’ve made lots of improvements to Flyover, revisiting popular tourist spots to patch messy data. It’s a continual work in progress, but one year later, I expected to see more progress.

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Crowsflight Points You in the Right Direction

I think maps are useful when choosing your destination, but when navigating the city streets, orienting yourself by finding landmarks on a tiny screen can be tricky. I like this idea of having a pointer, a directional compass that at least tells you you’re heading in the right direction.

I like the concept behind this app. I could have used something like this a couple months ago when I ended up parking several blocks away from my destination (yay city parking). Maps got me close to my destination, but the walking directions didn’t quite follow the walking paths available and it’s semi easy to get lost in your phone instead of paying attention to your surroundings. Crowsflight shows you were you should be looking for your destination, features a quick search feature (useful when stuck on slow 3G), and built-in maps as an additional way to find nearby points of interest. It’s one of those things where you ask yourself why you need another compass, and end up realizing that it can be super useful when smart features are attached.

You can download Crowsflight for free from the App Store, and unlock all of the features for a dollar via an in-app purchase.

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Google Maps SDK For iOS And URL Scheme

Google Maps SDK For iOS And URL Scheme

Alongside the launch of its official Maps app for iPhone, Google has also released a developer SDK to let third-party apps embed Google Maps directly. As detailed by Andrew Foster at the Google Geo Developers blog, the SDK – which requires signing up for API access – will allow developers to integrate Google Maps with their own apps, displaying embedded 2D or 3D Maps views with markers and info windows. The blog post also confirms that the SDK will work on the iPad; Google has confirmed to The New York Times that a native iPad version of Maps is indeed coming.

The SDK features vector-based maps that load quickly, allowing users to easily navigate 2D and 3D views, rotating and tilting the map with simple gestures inside your app. Developers can also change the Google maps view to include information such as traffic conditions, and control camera positions in 3D.

In the SDK documentation, Google says that the appearance of Maps embedded through the SDK is the same of the Google Maps apps, and that the SDK “exposes many of the same features”.

However, the SDK isn’t the only way for developers to integrate with Google Maps. Using a URL scheme, developers can point to the Google Maps app and launch it from their app into a specific view or map object. Documentation for the URL scheme is available here. Developers can link to Google Maps with specific views, modes (standard or Street View), set zoom levels, and pass directions with the URL scheme.

It’ll be interesting to see how and when Google Maps-compatible apps such as AroundMe or WhereTo will support the new Google Maps SDK. The addition of a URL scheme shouldn’t be underestimated either, as it’ll enable regular users to launch the app using tools like Launch Center Pro.

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