Noah J Nelson on Monday, Sep. 24th
App Attack: Turnstyle’s weekly look at web, mobile and desktop apps.
That Apple’s new Maps app for iOS 6 is getting creamed by the blogosphere isn’t news. Although I’m more than willing to cut Cupertino some slack when taking the long view, in the short-run it’s pretty rough going. We’ve collectivly become dependant on the maps on our phones. Probably too much.
Not that all the changes are bad. Actually, the new 3D imaging is rather entertaining. There’s the Tumblr dedicated to the visual glitches that have rendered satellite imaging data into New Aesthetic grotesques. It can also be a lot of fun to try and figure out just when the satellite imagery was taken. The images of downtown Oakland (above) were clearly captured while Occupy Oakland was still in full swing.
And then there’s Transit, which points the way to what Apple might be thinking when it comes to a new Map ecosystem. One of the big gripes that users are having with the new Maps is that you can’t get walking and transit directions natively in the app. Instead if you want to get a transit route, Maps gives you the option to use one of several third party apps that plug into Maps.
Transit is a free option that does the job in a workman-like fashion. There’s very little polish on the UI chrome that surrounds the Apple provided map. A banner ad at the bottom of the screen is rather obtrusive on Transit’s own home screen. Coming in from a link in Maps renders that problem pretty moot as the directions swallow up the ad in a blink of an eye.
Right now the app is being deluged with one-star reviews, mostly from people complaining about the Apple Map app. I suppose, since there is no review page in the App Store for Maps, that is makes a kind of sense that users would be venting their rage here, but it’s still technically misdirected.
What no one seems to have noticed is that this architecture for Maps could in the long run be a lot better than the Google ecosystem. If Apple sticks to this structure and seeks to keep partnering with other information services– Yelp is already pulled in for restaurants and stores– we could see more companies hooking into the large iOS user base, accelerating the transformation of mobile into locative computing. A Map app that was the gateway to multiple layers of data– ala Layar– but that was widely adopted– by being baked into the OS– feels like a necessary next step towards creating a digitally animated world.
For that reason Maps, for all its flaws, is exciting.
Will Apple be able to weather the arrival of a Google iOS Maps application and keep pursuing the strategy? We should know by the beginning of the year, if Google can release their stand alone Maps in time for the holidays.