Technology: Apple is Ruining in Favor of their Maps Services

I wanted to open by saying this critique is not about Apple Maps’ quality as in a slight of the map itself and all of its attributes. This is a product rant. I previously worked at a company supplying map data to Apple so I want to make that clear up front.

via MacRumors:

“Apple Maps users will soon be able to order food or groceries, purchase tickets, make hotel or dinner reservations, view movie showtimes, schedule an appointment, and more directly in the app via participating businesses.”

Apple, via their Business Connect Site:

“We created Business Connect to provide Apple users around the world with the most accurate information for places to eat, shop, travel, and more,” said Apple’s services chief Eddy Cue. “Apple Business Connect gives every business owner the tools they need to connect with customers more directly, and take more control over the way billions of people see and engage with their products and services every day.”

This is a timely announcement because just yesterday, I recorded a video of what I consider a very crappy experience that’s new to this version of iOS available today. The experience of researching a place you’d like to go and then going back to do a different search takes multiple clicks. It’s also not human friendly how you clear the floating tile, nor is it clear what all of these guides are doing and why there are hundreds of them.

Some of my gripes with Maps on iOS 16:

  • Pushing the App Store on me both the jump to install Yelp or apps of the POI like CVS/WalMart/Shell/Subway, etc when I’m just trying to find a place to get fuel for my car
  • If I’m seeing the arrival time to a place (you have to route there to see this), I have to tap 6 times to get back to the search window. Once on the X, then the End Route button then the X on the POI then the X on the search, then the Cancel on the pop up tile. Just to go back and search for something else or browse traffic. It is a lot of tapping when you’re trying to do research on the road of where to eat. This behavior is the same on CarPlay
  • The very slow animations of zooming and panning around the map. They’re slow so the human consuming this content can understand and feel the context. Zoom out, pan right (east) then zoom in. I’m sure there was testing but it’s way too slow when you’re trying to consider a few different options for where you want to get tacos
  • Big City Things, algorithmically deciding what to show me. When I’m panning & zooming without a search, and zoom VERY close in to a strip mall to see the list of businesses, it might show me 1-2 of them. I know there’s a cafe there. If I search cafe, suddenly it shows up (after zooming me out to show all cafes in a 5 mile radius). What I want is the number of the cafe I’m driving past so I click the find me arrow in the app, zoom very close and Apple Maps tells me nothing is there between the salon and bar but I know there is….I’m looking at it! Google Maps shows you everything if you zoom in to maximum zoom but Apple doesn’t
  • Similar issue, searching for cafe it shows you 25 or so in a 5 mile radius. There are easily 100 of them but it’s showing me, seemingly at random the 25 listed on Yelp, I assume?
  • I searched for Hot Chicken on Saturday in a neighborhood in Charlotte. It showed me 10 locations all about 2-10 miles away. I opened Yelp and did a similar search, there was a Dave’s Hot Chicken 1 block from me but that wasn’t showing on Apple Maps
  • Traffic, Apple must think it’s a usability enhancement to not inform me the second I’m on the slowest route. TomTom does this really well. They will actively tell you they found a faster route and it’s never been annoying. It seems to always be when the route is 5 minutes faster as the threshold but on a 12 hour road trip, I’ll get re-routed 2-3 times which I like. Apple rarely offers this option and we’ve done side by side testing on road trips
  • Guides, they are prominently featured on the floating tile where you would search but I truly don’t know why. I’ve tried to use them but I don’t really care what a famous chef likes to eat when she’s in Atlanta. I’m nowhere near Atlanta.

The Apple Maps iOS 16 experience is not good and then there are rumors that Apple Maps will be adding advertisements this year (via AppleInsider) and today’s news that Apple wants businesses to move goods through Maps and presumably all of this will be happening in 2023 with iOS 17.

I’ve been using Apple Maps less and less over the last couple of months. I’m living in a new place (Charlotte, NC) and so I’m relying on Maps more than ever and have began to rely on TomTom Go, TomTom AmiGO and TomTom GO Ride (all in beta) for getting around. They’re three different apps for three different use cases. They all have live traffic, they all use POI databases from multiple vendors and they have zero advertisements or any tomfoolery that makes getting from point A to B difficult.

I’ve been telling my wife that once Apple makes Maps worse than it is today, I’m going to have to uninstall the app and rely on TomTom’s pure navigation apps. I am also using TomTom Maps within BMW’s Connected app which works very well sending map data to the TFT screens on my GS and R18 motorcycles. I also have the Garmin Zumo XT (Powered by HERE Maps) on my GS and 701 for navigation without a cell phone and finally, TomTom is built into my RAM 1500 and Volkswagen Tiguan and offers both good maps and live traffic through the cellular modems built into those vehicles.

This is NOT a Pro-TomTom post or at least that’s not what it was intended to be. Apple does not have a monopoly on how I navigate with my cell phone and there are competitors that are more integrated with pure navigation / maps that aren’t Google (or Google Owned like Waze) which is taking a similar approach to Apple treating its Maps product like an ecosystem where the Maps app does it all.

I don’t like Google doing this and I certainly don’t agree with Apple’s choices here. The Apple Maps app is already a mess and they’re about to make it worse. All I want is to type in an address or POI name and get directions there with some active prediction on traffic which will offer up faster routes if they’re available. TomTom does this and isn’t charging me for it. Apple is moving away from that.

It’s just very disappointing.