Apple Maps: Functional, But Needs More Work

After I posted this post about my wife’s problems with Apple Maps, we decided to give it a useful test. We decided to compare it to our Garmin Nuvi 1350 LMT which seems to be reasonably bullet resistant. The first thing we tried was to try to navigate from our house to the our Yoga studio in mid-town Toronto.

Yes, The IT Nerd does yoga. Let’s move on shall we?

The problem with this test was that within the first two minutes of routing us, Maps told us make a left turn on a street that it is illegal to make left turns on. The Garmin when asked to route us to the same place didn’t make that mistake. In fact, we could not get the Garmin to make this sort of mistake anywhere we tried it.

That’s plus one for the Garmin.

However, here’s where Apple Maps shines. When we made a right turn to detour around this mistake, it re-routed us instantly. Compare that to the Garmin which can take up to 45 seconds to do the same thing.

That’s plus one for Apple Maps.

Now for the second test, we routed from our condo to Forks Of The Credit Provincial Park. There isn’t a street address for the park, but I managed to find GPS co-ordinates for the park. So I entered them into the Garmin with no issue. However, I was not able to enter them into Apple Maps. Instead, I had to search for the park using Apple Maps. Navigation was uneventful until we got close to the end. Apple Maps wanted to route me onto private property and then park the car to walk to my final destination from 3.3 KM’s away. That’s a #fail. The Garmin got us to 1.2 KM’s, but wanted us to navigate to the final destination by driving off road. So, both had issues with this test. However, the Garmin didn’t try to navigate me through private property. Thus that combined the fact that it got us closer to the Park makes the Garmin the winner of this test.

After hiking around the park for 2 or so hours, we decided to stop off at a local Tim Horton’s. Using Apple Maps, we were quickly able to find a nearby location. The Garmin couldn’t find the same location. So that’s a win for Apple Maps. But on the return trip we wanted to navigate home. The Garmin was able to come up with a route within a minute. Apple Maps had problems getting us a route as we had problems with getting a cellular data signal. It was unable to search for our destination until we were able to move to a location with a better cellular data signal. That’s one of the weaknesses of having a smartphone based navigation system. Since the maps aren’t resident on the phone, you need a cellular data signal to be able to navigate. Lose that cellular data signal and you’re pretty much out of luck. That makes the winner of this test the Garmin.

Other oddities? The vocalization in Apple Maps is weird and inconsistent. For example, it mis-pronounces street names, but to be fair so does the Garmin. But not nearly as badly or as often. Also, Apple Maps refers to street names that have a common name and a highway as the highway. For example, Bloor Street in Toronto is also known as Highway 5. That might be dis-concerting to some. Also when you hit a junction in a highway or a major road, Apple Maps may either not direct you in the right direction (for example, stay right on to highway 401 east collector lanes) consistently, or does so too late to be useful. That forces you to pay attention so that you keep going on your intended path. The Garmin is perfect in this regard. Now, one can argue that you should be paying attention anyway, but consider this. The whole reason to have vocalized turn by turn navigation is so that you can focus on driving. Thus this is an important feature that should work all the time.

Here’s one plus for Apple Maps that we noticed. The street information that Apple Maps displayed was really detailed. For example, when we went up highway 410 north and got to highway 10, it accurately displayed the number of lanes dropping from three to two. Not only that, when the road narrowed, Apple Maps displayed that too. The Garmin doesn’t do that and that would be a handy feature to have.

What’s the bottom line? Apple Maps clearly is something that could work for users of iOS 6 equipped iDevices, but it has a bunch of things that need fixing. Clearly it was released a bit too early. If Apple fixes these issues in short order (which is apparently already happening), Apple Maps could give Google Maps a run for its money. But as it currently stands, iOS 6 users should be looking elsewhere for their mapping and navigation needs.

One Response to “Apple Maps: Functional, But Needs More Work”

  1. Nice and honest ‘review’. Apple Maps has potential, but needs a loooooooot of work.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: