Why Apple has abandoned Google Maps

Discussion in 'iOS 6' started by Soulstorm, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. Soulstorm macrumors 68000


    Feb 1, 2005
    I will not try to praise or accuse Apple Maps in any way. It seems that Apple has made some pretty serious move when moving from Google Maps to its own implementation.

    Many have problems with this, and they may be right. Rather than trying to analyse the problems, I will try to present another point of view, that comes straight from a developer (me) that has involved very much with Geocoding and Maps Services in different platforms.

    I work for a multinational company that has created a widespread platform that uses Google Maps. Our primary need of Google maps was to be able to identify an address based on a coordinate on the map and vise-versa. That is called Reverse-Geocoding and Geocoding respectively.

    This is a very important feature for our application. For iOS, Google's geocoding services are NOT free. As free users, we can view maps and make requests to their servers no more than 2000 times per IP. You may feel that the limit is pretty high and can serve many users without problems, but there is a catch: In some countries, certain mobile companies use shared servers for their clients, and that means that many users have the same IP, and if they use at the same time Geocoding Services, the limit is easily reached!

    In Android, there are not any problems such as this, because the native frameworks that are used for geocoding services are provided by google, and as such, they have no limitations. In short, while in Android developers are free to use the geocoding services to make great applications using Google's framework, in iOS, developers must pay a significant amount of money to Google in order to ensure the uptime of their applications, or find another company, or use other sub-par map features!

    I believe that Apple's move has something to do with it. In iOS 6, the SDK provides a new geocoder, different than the one the pre-iOS 6 SDK used. That means that now, companies don't have to pay Google in order to have unlimited geocoding services to their application.

    This is a VERY big step forward, and I think that in the longterm (when all problems with Apple maps are ironed out) this move will be a relief for developers (and users) worldwide.

    Just wanted to share this with you, because I haven't been able to find any source that mentions that, and I believe that is worth knowing.
  2. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    That sounds like a definite part of the equation. I needed coordinates for a job I did and had to type in an address to a third party site and then enter those into a website. I have no clue why when I put the address in two lines earlier, but since the service used Google Maps, this is likely why.
  3. penguy macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2007
    That was very helpful. Thanks for posting, though I doubt it will do much to make people less angry.

    My concern is that it will take some time to address the types of issues that have been brought forward. Since you are involved, perhaps you could clarify how certain things occur. For instance, in Apple maps, I have looked up businesses, found them, reviewed the address and confirmed it to be correct only to find the icon located close, but what looks to be on the street at the back side of the building...think of a structure that is built from one street across the entire property to the other street, essentially having two fronts.

    I can't believe the gps data wouldn't be more precise given the proper address.
  4. Pattycerts macrumors 6502

    Jul 4, 2007
    I honestly think the biggest reason is turn-by-turn navigation. Google has it on their Android phones, but refuses to bring it to iOS. There biggest selling point when Android was released over the iPhone was 'free turn by turn navigation.' Apple probably asked Google if they were going to add it to the iOS Maps app, Google asid no, so they said to themselves 'OK we'll just have to make our own.'

    Could be right, could be wrong, but that's my feeling on it
  5. joesegh macrumors 6502

    Jun 17, 2009
    New Jersey, USA
    That's an interesting insight, thanks for posting.

    I have no fundamental issue with the move away from Google Maps. I think Apple has overall done a good job of creating a foundation for a very sound mapping application for years to come. The application itself is very quick and clean.

    However, what I do have issue with right now are the widespread accuracy issues, some of the graphic design of the actual mapping tiles and labeling (and the skeuomorphic fake road signs for turn-by-turn...yuck), etc. It's frustrating because people often use maps and navigation to go places they've never been. How are we supposed to know that something is wrong?

    I think Apple could create a PR slam dunk by openly acknowledging the issues (sort-of done), and creating a public way for people to see the status of map changes based on the large quantity of user data that is undoubtedly now flowing in. I've been submitting any accuracy issues that I come up with, but again, those are the things that I know about. I don't know what I don't know, which is a bit frightening.

    The real test for me personally is this weekend, when I'm taking an 8 hour road trip to Canada. Fingers crossed.
  6. cyks macrumors 68020


    Jul 24, 2002
    Westchester County, NY
    Nobody is saying that Apple's Maps weren't needed or that they didn't have many, justifiable reasons for them. The problem still is how they forced the change upon us and, for many, have significantly hampered our iPhone experience.

    There are far too many problems with the maps for them be forced out on a worldwide level. Addresses are misplaced (or missing completely), there is only a minimal amount of POI, and the foot paths and mass transit that we were used to are completely gone forever.

    Thanks to the upgrade and Apple Map Kit, many 3rd party apps that I've been using for years are equally crippled or useless now.

    Many on this site are quick to comment that the maps work great for them, which is great for them, but the maps are completely off where I live. I've put in the report to Apple, but the damage is already done. I know I can't fully trust their maps when I'm in unfamiliar territory.

    Had Apple offered the Maps as an option, been honest and told us they were a work in progress and that they needed help, many (including myself) would have done whatever they could in order to get the maps up to speed... but that bridge is long gone. I'm not about to waste hours of my time trying to fix maps- only to bring them to the level I was happy with a few weeks ago.
  7. Soulstorm thread starter macrumors 68000


    Feb 1, 2005
    My intention is not to make people less or more angry but rather to shed some light into a decision involving a giant industry that not many people are accustomed to (Mapping industry)

    I wish I knew Apple's policy for updates, but I don't. The only thing I can come up with is that Apple's triangulation of maps can use improvement. If you are really interested, you can read the technical note below.

    For example, lets say that a road has an address, and a number, than spans from 2 to 100. Without much knowledge of Apple's internals but with knowledge of how other companies do it, when you search for an address like "MyAddress 15", the address is located in the database, and the lowest and highest number. But the intermediate numbers are being calculated based on complex mathematical triangulations. That's why in different implementations of Maps (Google, OpenStreet, Bing, Apple) the same address is almost always pinpointed in a slightly different location, depending on the implementation.

    The fact that we are accustomed to Google maps, doesn't mean that it's the most accurate! Of course, that doesn't mean that Apple is accurate either.

    I'm not trying to defend anyone here. However, I wish I could somehow explain that making a new Maps implementation involves a LOT of trial and error. It's one of those things that almost certainly they will not work until your inbox is full of bug reports. Don't forget that Google Maps had much much much more time before it was presented into a mobile device, and it was in beta for much time. And before it did, there was no 3D view, no actual pictures, no in-road walking simulation, and the results were rarely accurate.

    ** Technical Info for those who are really interested **

    Why are there differences between the accuracy of maps implementations?

    It always has something to do with the mapping of a 3D space to 2D screen. The earth is round, but what we see in the Maps implementation of all companies is totally flat. Because of this, there will surely be some discrepancies between the actual distances in meters and the Maps' distances. That surely affects the precision of each mapping implementation. So, each company that makes maps must come up with a neat mathematical way to triangulate each time how the coordinates are being mapped into the actual 3D space, and how it can be translated into 2D projection in the screen.

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