What’s being ignored, no doubt to the frustration of Apple’s designers, is that the visual design of the new Maps application is amazing. Ask for your current location and just start zooming out slowly. Pay attention to when titles fade out and fade in, and how the typography changes: the way neighborhood names appear in faint grey in close range, then city names appear, then the cities become mixed case or small caps, then eventually state/province names appear—and if you keep zooming out from that, you end up with state abbreviations. At every level, the app keeps the appropriate aesthetics for a traditional print map at that scale. Notice when small streets fade away, and when eventually you just see a national highway system. State or province highways have the proper signage for the state or province. Now, when you’re zoomed into a high detail level, ask for information about a restaurant. Realize that not only is it pulling the review from Yelp, it’s pulling photos from Yelp, using them as a background and doing the Ken Burns effect with them. Find an Apple engineer to slap.
(Via Coyote Tracks)
This is my exact feeling about Maps in iOS 6. Sure, the data is sometimes wrong, and that trumps everything else when you’re trying to get somewhere. But the app itself, the level of detail that went into the actual experience of using the app, is a lot better than the old Google Maps app ever was or could be with Google’s back end.
So while the app feels like a step down now, as it’s making mistakes and while everyone is nitpicking it like mad trying to find errors, in the long run, when those data errors are corrected, this is going to be a far better experience than the old Maps on iOS.
And let’s remember, that old iOS Maps experience was Apple’s, not Google’s. Google provided the data, but Apple designed the look and feel of that app. Those of us who used mobile Google Maps before the first iPhone remember how piss poor it was before Apple came into that equation.
So while lots of people can’t wait for Google to release a new iOS Maps app of their own, I wouldn’t be so sure that anything Google designs will be anywhere near as good as the old iOS 5 Maps was. So you’ll still be stepping down, regardless. Plus, it’s bound to be chock full of ads. Yuck.
In other words, this war isn’t over quite yet. If Apple can fix the data errors faster than Google can come up with a useable user experience, the advantage will still be Apple’s. With all of iOS 6′s other numerous flaws (a small example of which I pointed out this morning), Maps is actually the app I’m worried least about.