How To Fix iOS 6 Maps [Feature]

How To Fix iOS 6 Maps [Feature]

My, though, aren’t these new maps purty?

A lot has been written over the last day or so about the crappy maps in iOS 6, and the fact that Apple’s new data engine doesn’t live up to its pretty new map tiles and spectacular flyover feature.

I thought exactly the same thing when I first installed a beta of iOS 6 on my iPad a month or two back. But while Apple’s maps are definitely a step back in many ways, it’s not all as bad as it seems. Not quite anyway.

But guess what? If you’re willing to use a couple extra apps until Apple fixes things, you can get everything back that you’re missing.

Street View

This is the big one, in that it has completely disappeared from the maps app. Street View is one of the neatest features out there. I use it to check out a new location before visiting, to find the nearest bike parking at my destination, or to “drive” through a tricky junction to see if it’ll be a safe route on a bike tour.

Apple’s answer is that you can use its 3-D building view, but while that gives a cold overview of the terrain, it doesn’t let you peek at a storefront and check the sign with the opening hours scrawled on it.

What about the web? Sadly, Street View in the browser requires Flash (remember that?) so you’re out of luck.

How To Fix iOS 6 Maps [Feature]

Street View on iOS 6.

The solution: Live Street View. This is an app which has been around for a while, and brings native Strret View back to iOS 6. Tap on the map (it uses Apple’s new tiles for satellite regular and hybrid views) and a small window pops up with Google’s pictures in it. Better yet, it is compass aware, so you can swing your iPhone or iPad around and the view pans accordingly.

The app lets you save places, search and so on, bringing much of the functionality of a full-on map app. An it costs just $1. If that’s too rich for you, you damn cheapskate, there’s an ad-supported free version.

Transit Directions

The other whine I hear is about transit directions, and directions in general. These are probably coming from bloggers based in San Francisco or on the East Coast, as everybody else in the U.S lives in their cars, right?

Anyhow, over in Europe, the directions seem just fine. Perhaps TomTom — which provides the map data — has better European coverage. But unlike directions (which now give turn-by-turn instructions) transit info has been left out of the Maps app altogether. And I argue that this isn’t such a bad thing.

Google’s transit data is spotty. If you live in an area that’s covered, then great. If not, tough. Apple’s solution is to let local data providers tie their apps into Maps. Steven Wang, developer of vTransit, told me that there are maps APIs which let developers integrate with the Maps app.

So, when you tap the transit button in Maps, a list opens up showing you the apps which can handle it. Wang’s vTransit uses Google transit data, so it should — in theory — show you the same routes as you got before. But the opportunity is there for a whole new category of navigation apps.

For instance, you could choose to open a walking or bike-tour map of a city instead of the bus timetable. Or you could pick a city’s own app. It doesn’t beat the convenience of just having the info right there in Maps when you’re in a foreign city, but then again, many foreign cities you visit will have crappy Google transit directions.

Verdict: Wait for the apps to arrive.

The Web

Can you really not live without Google Maps on your iDevice? Then quit moaning and open up Safari. The mobile version of Google’s maps beats Apple’s in many ways. You get Google’s own directions. You get terrain view. You even get a proper search. And better yet, when you tap on a map in a regular Google search, you are taken to Google Maps in the browser, not booted out to the app.

There’s more: You can access all your saved Google Maps places and bookmarks, and clicking on a location in the search results will take you to reviews, phone number and everything else you need. Save the bookmark on your home screen and enjoy it.

Terrain

You may never have used the terrain view in the old maps app. But if you have an outdoorsy friend, or a cyclist buddy, then they will tell you that they use it as much as any other view. Terrain shows a shaded, contoured view of the world, letting you see at a glance where the hills and mountains lie, and whether that road really does follow the river down at water level.

For getting a good view of the land, terrain view is essential. And now it, like Street View, has gone.

Fortunately, Apple’s implementation is actually better. Even outside of cities that have a 3-D view, you can swipe with two fingers and enter 3-D mode, which is essentially an interactive, 3-D terrain view. This drapes the (flat) satellite imagery over a topographical model.

How To Fix iOS 6 Maps [Feature]

It’s pretty easy to avoid the mountains, even without terrain view.

Thus, you can see where all the bumps and troughs are in any landscape. And because you can use a pair of fingers to zoom and twist the scene, and to view it from any angle, it is actually way, way better than staring at a shaded map with contour lines.

Result: A big win for Apple. And tired cyclists everywhere.

Improvements

So far, we’ve mostly covered the shortcomings of Apple’s v1.0 version of maps. But there must be something good in there, right?

Oh, yes. Yes, there is. If you want to impress somebody, take out your retina iPad, switch to satellite or hybrid view and then enter the 3-D buildings mode. On the hi-res screen, it is nothing short of spectacular, and amazingly even works well on a 3G connection.

How To Fix iOS 6 Maps [Feature]

This is probably the only time you’ll see the Colosseum without traffic.

You can look at buildings from any angle. You can get close enough to make out objects on balconies, and you can spend hours just touring a foreign city. One virtual trip to Rome is worth the cost of upgrading to iOS 6. What’s that? iOS 6 is free? Wow, that’s an even better deal.

The Future

As I mentioned, this is a 1.0 version of maps, and considering this it’s remarkably good. The problem is that it’s sitting on top of v6.0 of iOS, which is arguably the best OS out there. Add to this the fact that maps are one of mobile computing’s killer apps, and you can see the problem.

How To Fix iOS 6 Maps [Feature]

The Statue of Liberty always seems smaller in real life…

Like the floppy drive, and lately the 30-pin dock connector, Apple has favored the yank-the-band-aid-off-in-one-go approach. And Apple is up against the big daddy of mapping here: Google. Which means that — unlike the iPod app or the mail app, which have no real competition — Apple will be putting a lot of work into making maps better. Meanwhile, there are plenty of options to replace the currently missing features.

Don’t believe me? Then maybe you’ve forgotten how shitty the first few iPhone cameras were.

Related
  • ddevito

    Install Google Maps when or IF Apple approves it.

  • Ed_Kel

    Install Google Maps when or IF Apple approves it.

    ^Google whore

  • Ed_Kel

    About time there’s an article calling Maps what it is – V1.0. Apple has done a remarkable job thus far and has a long road ahead of them. But best believe that they will once again show the industry how it is done, when it’s finished.

  • whammes

    A fix is a fix, this is a workaround. Only Apple can ‘fix’ these problems, until then we can ‘workaround’ them. Misleading titles are misleading, but the list is helpful for those unaware of options.

  • Jdsonice

    Hum! I have no idea what the fuss is about. I used the maps on my iPhone4 yesterday to get from my home to United Center in Chicago. I compared it to Google maps and there was no difference. So far everything is working for me.

    I am sure that not all maps are complete. For crying out loud this version 1 of the app. Give it time.

  • gettysburg11s

    wow, that was a bad camera. anyways, I agree. Apple Maps actually works great for me, but its a 1.0 product. If you don’t like it, you have three options: Use a different app, like Mapquest, Open Safari and use mobile Google maps, which seems to work great, or buy an Android phone.

    Oh wait, you can also wait until Google Maps for iOS is approved and use that.

  • Eric12

    As a GISP, I find many of the problems with the new maps app to be elementary. I know this is their first go round, but I’m frankly appalled by this release as a finished product. At first glance, the problem lies with their datasets, which appear fragmented and in disagreement (if place marker vectors aren’t aligning with raster imagery, it’s likely due to differences in scaling, map datum, projections, etc. or it may be just plain bad data). Other location problems (like getting the wrong city location) appear to be basic geo-coding errors (though how they got there is beyond me).

    Additionally, just because you can use 3D data doesn’t mean you always should. Much of that odd warping we’re seeing with terrain are artifacts of improperly aligned elevation data, often due to scaling errors, poor edge overlap, or just mismatched data. A classic example is the massive, cliff-like dip seen near bridges and overpasses along roadways. The return value from a lower-resolution DEM is at the ground level, while the roadway is lying above it. At a smaller scale, this isn’t really noticeable, but when you try and drape higher resolution orthoimagery over it and zoom in, it looks really bad.

    These types of problem are often the result of cobbling different datasets together in poorly matched mosaics to try and get a real world representation where otherwise there might not be available data (sometimes an unavoidable situation). This is more excusable for visual imagery, but sometimes it looks really bad for 3D data, and this is before you even get into potential software problems with 3D rendering…

    Early on, I’m sure similar problems and limitations plagued Google Maps, and some are simply unavoidable limitations of the data, however Google also engaged in a massive, global undertaking to try and correct these problems and expand/update their database. If Apple is going to realistically compete with Google on this front, then they should have devoted similar resources and tackled some of the basics before allowing a public release. Instead of having what would otherwise have been an excellent app, Apple chose the hasty route. Because of poor implementation, which cripples functionality, this release only serves to confuse customers and damage the Apple brand.

    If articles aren’t raving about your product, and instead are suggesting alternatives or workarounds (like using google maps in the browser), you’ve probably just done something seriously wrong, Apple…

  • Jack Modelia

    The thing about Maps is that Apple has provided a polished interface with an increasingly robust back end dataset (from Google) over the past five years, and now that back end is not good enough. Yes, this is version 1.0 of the new Apple Maps, but we have been used to version 6.0 of the old Maps.

    To borrow your analogy of the first cameras in iPhones, it is as if the new iPhone 5 came with a 12MP camera with sapphire covers and an awesome, beautiful, magical design, but it takes pictures worse digital cameras of 10 years ago.

    I guess if you are new to smartphones or are coming from RIM or old Window Mobile type devices, Apple’s new Maps are wonderful. For those of us who have been on iOS for years, the new Maps are terrible.

  • SouthernDCist

    I will admit that Apple’s Maps product is, indeed, a quality v1.0. Here’s my concern – when looking at next steps, in terms of driving nav and traffic congestion mapping, Apple needs to not look to Google, but to Waze instead. This community-sourced App has provided me with quality route selection, accident data, police locations, and traffic jams in the DC area time and time again. I hope Apple places those features earlier in their development cycle.

  • hanhothi

    Let’s hope Google release a replacement app soon. And sorry Charlie, I don’t think these maps are pretty, they suck! Apple “just works” seems to be losing it these days. Why release the app when it is clearly not ready. I am staying with iOS 5.1.1 for now.

  • wchoreo

    @Charlie Sorrel 1) If you’re willing to use a couple extra apps until Apple fixes things is exactly what a fanboy would say. Maybe iPhone 11 will be more like it.
    2) Street view: I gotta pay for something that should be on the map already, but won’t ever be because that little ditty belongs to Google.
    30 The other whine I hear is about transit directions, and directions in general. These are probably coming from bloggers based in San Francisco or on the East Coast, as everybody else in the U.S lives in their cars, right? I’m not a blogger and I’ve been to too many cities where public transportation is the norm, so don’t be ignorant and condescending!
    4)You are an arrogant-thinks-he-knows-it-all trying to make up for a company’s lack of creativity and respect for their consumers. iOS 6 is a beta test with Siri, Passbook and Maps as it’s poster kids. They should be ashamed and you too. Charlie you live in the same distorted reality field Apple lives in.iPhone 5 is just a catch up and there is nothing outstanding about it that has not been done years before and they are now implementing. Apple does some things real good because they only do about 10 of them while everybody else is running circles around them. It doesn’t matter how well they sell the company as it stands sucks and it seems that all the really creative people are working with Google or Microsoft. Time will tell how long they keep standing while trying to keep up with real innovation. Good day!

  • Len Williams

    I find it quite interesting that when Apple releases a product with glitches, so many people immediately jump on the “Apple is going downhill, doomed, losing its grip, nothing without Steve, on the way out, etc.” bandwagon. Google wouldn’t license turn-by-turn directions to Apple, which is why Apple was forced to make its own maps. In a few months you’ll see fixes for Maps rolling out and everything will be fine. In the meantime, Maps works fine for most situations, and if it doesn’t work for you, Mapquest has an inexpensive app that will fill the bill.

About the author

Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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