I seem to recall, though haven't yet taken the time to dig up evidence, that Apple originally prohibited third-party app developers from offering turn-by-turn navigation. Obviously, that didn't last long.
Lots of good commentary hear, though, and an interesting tidbit that Waze data is incorporated into the new Maps. I hadn't heard that, but it could explain some of the more inane navigation errors.
There was a sort of ban — it had to do with the frameworks necessary to make it happen, as I recall. To do turn-by-turn you have to guarantee a certain response time from the GPS via Core Location as well as a consistent frequency. To my recollection, 2009 was when all the GPS satnav programs appeared, as I reviewed like 14 of them late that year.
Mark, Are you thinking that if app developers wanted to do turn by turn directions they had to bring their own map tiles? I never tracked it down, but I'd guess that this'd be a restriction from Google, that Apple just passed through.
That's what the real limitation was - I believe it was clarified in an update to the iOS terms and conditions after the restriction (and the framework) first appeared.
Google did not allow the use of its data for turn-by-turn. The original iPhone of course did not have a GPS (it used cell tower and known wifi links to estimate its location) and did not have the precision for turn-by-turn apps--such apps appeared soon after the release of the gps-equipped iPhone 3gs
The 3G added GPS. The 3GS added a compass.
I think the more significant story surrounding the Maps app is the terrible state of journalism on technology from mainstream sources. The lack of understanding they show over these issues has created far more confusion for consumers than the Map data ever would.
Many of these journalist simply parrot complaints tht they've read elsewhere and show almost no research to back their claims. Some of them have posted screenshots showing a difference in street and POI detail without noting that many of the markers show on the new Maps app as you zoom closer to the area you are navigating.
They also overlook that the previous app was terrible at providing driving directions, only providing a summary list or GPS tracking that failed to show your next turn despite having your location and turn data. In this way (And many others) the new Maps app is far superior.
As a long time user of Waze, over 40,000 miles last year, I am happy with the new app and look forward to what it will become.
I totally agree.
Stewarts piece is just another unfortunate footnote about the sorry state of today's investigative journalism. What used to be the realm of fact-checking and substantive reporting has morphed over the past 5 years into the realm of internet hits, unsupported sensationalism, and basic poor writing and story structure skills - something perfected over the years by the Enquirer, Star and other gossip rags. Good grief!
Amen! One could hardly call this piece "investigative journalism". It is a totally hack piece that the NYT should be embarrassed for even running. And where was the editor for this piece? Even someone with limited knowledge of apple and the iphone would see the huge errors in this piece. There should in fact be a retraction it is so horrible.
You make a good point - the old Maps app was pretty terrible for directions of any sort. I considered it actively dangerous to use while driving alone, since it was so bad. Hence, I always relied on Navigon, and used Maps only when I was trying to get an overview of an area before going there.
I have a skewed view of Maps (not 3D), because its data is generally quite good in Seattle. It gets confused around the I-90/I-5 intersection, but otherwise gives me excellent directions.
I've only used the turn-by-turn directions once. It was to go from Allston, MA to Boston's North End. That required working around several turns and one way streets and it was flawless. I was pretty impressed.
On the other hand, the town where I live, Maynard MA had several local businesses and restaurants located in Acton, the next town over. But it appears those mistakes have already been fixed. I suspect the issues are far worse outside of the US.
Actually not necessarily! In China, the maps are actually far more accurate as they use one of only a handful of government authorized vendors for maps for their data.
Yet to see a problem in Sydney (Australia), or other parts of the state (NSW) that I've been to since iOS 6 came out.
Tell me about it!
Just last Tuesday, I nearly got in trouble from trying to make an exit on the left of the I-5 East, after exiting the I-90 South, when there was just me in the car. As a non-native of lovely downtown Seattle, it would've gotten messy otherwise…
To be fair, that interchange was pretty bad in the old Maps app, too. (It's also a terrible highway design.)
You nailed it! it is mostly hype-fed from poor journalism. It is the "Antennagate" fiasco al over again. Take a minor problem and blow it up to epic proportions.
"Note that the iPhone 4S, with a slightly different antenna design, never received the same complaints, even though the redesign didn’t eliminate the so-called problem."
Hi Glenn. I think you are wrong on the antenna on the 4S. Apple made significant changes to the antenna design to eliminate the problem from the 4. They added a switchable dual antenna that is able to determine which antenna has the best signal.
I personally have not been able to block the signal on an iPhone 4S where it was trivially easy to do on an iPhone 4.
I see your point. I stated that inelegantly. The iPhone 4S redesign was a technical improvement, but to my experience and knowledge, the problem wasn't experienced or recognizable to most iPhone 4 users. I'll rework that to be clearer.
Covering the antenna on just about any phone will impair the signal, and even before the iPhone 4, many manufacturers offered suggestions on how to "hold the phone right." The true problem with the iPhone 4 was that there was a visual indicator I was also able to block the signal on my 3gs by holding it tightly near the bottom (the iPhone 4s moved the antenna to make it more awkward for the user to block it). It was not a problem in practice, because most people already knew instinctively that you shouldn't clutch your phone too tightly if you are in a marginal signal zone.
So much wrong in that article, which is probably why Mr Stewart isn't allowing comments. He knows he'll be called out if he did.
Journalism in general seems to suffer from a need for horse races. This has been obvious in politics for a while, but it infects tech journalism, too.
Writers seem to default to tearing down the front runner and talking up whatever else is out there. Why would you need their advice if the choice was clear?
In fact, there is room for doing it better. My primary phone is Apple, but I also have a Nexus, because I can do things with it (mostly network-related) that Apple doesn't allow, and I don't want to jailbreak it.
I also have Navigon and a local public transport app installed on my iPhone. I rarely used maps.app before this whole mess. If you depend on mapping, didn't you already fix it? Sure, Navigon is not cheap, but there are others, and if you need it, well, your phone wasn't cheap, either.
I agree—sensationalism sells better than truth. But one little quibble: I’d say Navigon IS cheap! At least, the MyRegion edition, which is far more than I or most people need. (Especially when it goes on sale periodically.) It now has transit integrated too (for a low one-time cost).
Glenn, excellent article in response to the really shoddily written, but for the beginning (as you point out) piece in the NYT. You should submit a version of this as a letter to the editor. Charli, does the author decide whether or not to allow comments? It may be an editorial call but they should be allowed in any event. Jamie, which local transport app do you like to use?
Navigate well, all.
Note that they already added one correction to the article about Microsoft and Internet Explorer (not based on my complaint), which essentially eviscerates his long point on Microsoft/Netscape. The article makes even less sense now.
This article is as well written and informative as the NY Times article is bad. Although I was very skeptical when I read the NY Times article the first time, I appreciate the clarity you've brought to this subject. BTW, here in New York City, the Maps app plus the Subway and Bus app provide far more functionality than the old iOS 5 Maps app.
You wrote: "Stewart confuses the Maps app, a software application, with the mapping data that underlies it and the algorithms for driving directions that Apple put in place."
No he doesn't. He's pretty consistent in talking about the "maps" and "software" but not the "App".
He starts out saying discussing "the decision to substitute Apple mapping software for rival Google’s", and throughout mixes up the app (always written by Apple) and data sources.
When he refers to the "software," he is never talking about the UI nor Apple having written it since iPhone OS 1.
The antenna problem was serious, faced by all and documented by Anandtech. Improvements were quietly introduced with the Verizon iPhone 4, then carried over to the 4S and then the 5. Under identical usage I have found the IPhone 4 AT&T to be a brick without a bumper and unreliable with-by contrast the 5 without a case has excellent signal and has never dropped a call. The antenna problem was far worse than the issue with the maps- on which point, owing to LTE speed, vectors and great UI design, when the data is correct, the new app makes the previous one feel like a piece of junk.
I should phrase this differently, perhaps. For most people, this design issue didn't cause problems. Had it, sales would have suffered: phones would have been returned, new ones not purchased, etc. In practice, it wasn't significant unless you believe the market wouldn't respond to a phone that worked so poorly that people couldn't make reliable calls.
Your comment may be true except for the "faced by all" part. The iPhone 4 was the single most popular smartphone model when it came out, and it's still sold with the same antenna design today, so obviously "all" don't have a problem with it. Yes, signal reduces in certain grips, but it just wasn't an issue most of the time for most people and for those for whom it was there were cheap workarounds (bumpers, etc).
On the other hand, I think Maps is the same way. It's really a good app and the data isn't as bad as the popular press is making it out to be. It fails some people, but seems to work for most, most of the time. So the comparison to the antenna problem is perhaps apt. I don't think Jobs would have been as profuse in his apology, but I also don't think it matters... Jobs isn't here anymore, let's not bring him up for every one of these articles.
I don't think that commercial success is a good measure of quality: people also bought Windows licences and ABBA albums by the millions. But I agree with the re-wording: most people, myself included,used it mainly as an ultraportable computer, used a bumper or a case, tolerated dropped calls or terrible call quality etc - or lived in areas where signal quality is so good that the impact of this issue was negligible. In my experience (NYC/at&t-three different iphone 4 devices) if only the antenna had been improved between the 4 and the 4S, the upgrade would have been worth it. Using the 5 is a delight in that respect.
ABBA is one of my favorite bands and operating system, music, and smartphones have different usage patterns, but I think Windows can illustrate why numbers of users does matter for this discussion. An os has one job, run the applications for productivity and recreation. Windows annoyances are tolerated and many are only noticed by power or multi-platform users. There was one modern Windows product that first adopters did regret, Vista, and it underperformed in degree and rapidity of installed base penetration. You're right, popularity is not proof of excellence, but it is a strong indicator of fitness to the consumer's requirements.
What is it about ABBA that causes people to lose their minds?
"(Buying a new iPhone 4 or 4S today would also include iOS 6 and the new Maps app, although those models could theoretically be downgraded to iOS 5.)"
A new iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S bought today could not be downgraded, theoretically or otherwise, to iOS 5. A used iPhone 4 could be downgraded, if you had previously jailbroken and saved your SHSH blobs. A used iPhone 4S could not, at least not for now.
Thanks for the clarification. I did say "theoretically" (as I knew it wasn't straightforward); I didn't realize it was essentially impossible.
Once you upgrade to iOS 6 or purchase a new 4/4S with iOS 6 installed, there's simply no way to put iOS 5 on it? I honestly never tried, and I know Apple sometimes posted betas that mentioned the baseband code would be irreversibly updated.
The key here are what are called the 'SHSH blobs.'
Since iOS 4, Apple has blocked downgrading iOS devices. So as beta builds and upgrades are released, they'll have a limited "window" for issuing SHSH blobs, which for the purposes of this discussion, are basically restore tokens.
SHSH blobs are UDID-specific and iOS version-specific (4.3b1, 6.0 GM, etc). So your device has to be issued a SHSH blob for the build you want to place on it. Even if it IS issued during the window, Apple clears the SHSH blobs for old builds once the window has closed, so unless you've personally saved the particular blob you need to downgrade (which you can only do if you're jailbroken), you can't use it to downgrade anyway.
To make matters more complex, A5+ devices have additional security measures that makes saving SHSH blobs still not enough at this point to downgrade. The dev team may get past that someday (hence my hedging on the 4S).
But A4 and prior devices still can, IF you saved your blobs.
> Third, Stewart claims that the situation was resolved in a way that “Microsoft eventually agreed that Windows users could designate their own Web browsers,” which is completely incorrect. Solely in Europe, Microsoft had to provide a kind of “ballot” that allowed users to pick among many browsers to use.
Without reading the NYT article, I'll say this might be referring to the "Default Programs" control panel. This has existed since at least Windows XP that let's users choose, of all things, default programs for handling registered documents and protocols.
Whether this is your mistake or not, it's worth noting that Microsoft has provided this feature for more than a decade. Apple with iOS has not.
He is not referring to that (nor am I). He was referring to the settlement in Europe that led to the inclusion of a selection to download a browser.
The Times article was later revised to remove and update this, and now it makes substantially less sense.
It is honest of you to admit you are critiquing an explanation without having read the context.
Having now read the NYT article... I'm really confused. It's like 6 or 8 authors' articles were combined into one, then, for some reason a few articles written in the late 90s were thrown in.
I think my criticism of the comparison to Windows still stands. For more than a decade Microsoft has allowed components to be replaced or removed. Apple hasn't, yet, made such a concession in iOS. But clearly the author of the NYT article really has no clue what he's talking about.
I agree on the first. The extensive editing after its first publication certainly made it worse.
But I think you're reading it wrong about Windows because Stewart is referring to (and so am I) the Netscape/Microsoft battle at a point that Microsoft insisted Internet Explorer was integral and irremovable, and when it pushed ActiveX as a way to "break" the open Web. Not the case now, to be sure, nor for a decade really.
Map data source aside, I think the following are frustrating regressions and I hope a well conceived alternative is in the works:
• Ability to switch modalities for a trip from driving, to walking, to transit. iOS 6 Maps requires you delete your trip and re-enter to change modalities.
• I found street view (not 3D view) to be very useful. Apparently Apple did as well since it has existed for quite a few years in previous versions of maps. To be able to actually see the front of a house or see a sign clearly labeled on a business is useful.
• Having pins drop directly on top of a business' actual building rather than a parking lot in a plaza is also missed.
• More detailed traffic conditions. The new lines that show up are nearly as legible to know where congestion is.
To Apple's credit, the new turn-by-turn direction interface is well done. I love the nuance of the screen automatically knowing when to turn on and off to give additional direction and for how long to stay on.
To me the biggest story here is: How could the NY Times have allowed such a stupid, ignorant, insipid, uninformed story to be "printed" on its front page?
How about stock manipulation?
The power even of the New York Times in the middle of a firestorm about mapping data in general combined with early sales figures for the iPhone 5 to move the stock reliably up or down is absent.
Ignoring the cynicism that the New York Times somehow could invest or hedge a single stock and commission a story and its timing to make that happen.
Or that an individual writer could predict the outcome of a single stock (or industry) based on an article he had written.
I actually think there are very big similarities to Internet Explorer. I can't actually switch which map program I want to use. You already listed a number of examples of things Apple won't let other maps programs do, and then you dismiss them as no big deal. Let me add another: Open a contact in Address Book and click on their address. Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to open that in your "default" map program, say Mapquest? Too bad, we won't let you have a default map app. Or web browser. Kind of reminds me of IE.
It's true — Maps is better integrated. But recall that Internet Explorer both was tightly integrated and had capabilities that no other browser could match. I don't find the bar between Maps and other programs that severe at all. In TomTom, for instance, I can tap to select a contact entry in a couple of non-onerous steps.
There isn't exact parity, to be sure, but although you can't access Navigon from within Contacts, for instance, you can access the systemwide contacts from within Navigon. So the difference is in how you perform the action, not in whether or not the action is possible (in other words, you don't have to maintain separate contacts in your mapping apps).
I Dont understand the big deal here. yes, apple did say that Maps was in Beta. But they made the mistake of touting it as a benefit when releasing the new iphone. But if people want to continue to use google maps all they have to do is visit the page in safari, click the share button and save it to home button. then you have essentially the same functionality. Also give the new maps app a chance to get more "smart". Siri was not perfect when released.
Maps was not and is not advertised as being in beta.
Good stuff! I hope Glenn has shared his excellent analysis with the author of this NY Times article.
Starting with Glenn's aside about 'antennagate', it was a real and unusual problem. Yes, all or most phones are affected by the capacitance of the hand but the iPhone 4 problem appeared to be caused by the conductivity of the hand. I suddenly found I was unable to send SMS from a position where I had never had a problem with my 3G, I tried again wearing a surgical glove. Signal restored. Removed glove, signal disappeared again.
I don't use my 4 for navigating as I have both a portable Garmin and a built-in sat nav in my car. I do access Maps from Contacts and that really reveals the very poor quality of the basic map data. However, it's had the advantage of leading me to other map apps. MapQuest is not available outside the US but the superb UK Ordnance Survey is amazingly free. However, as long as I'm unable to access the other mapping options from Contacts, the Maps app will be dead wood for me.