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Maps Hype

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I am no stranger to MapQuest. I was using MapQuest (on the web) for directions when Google was still operating out of a garage. The notion that only Google can create a map/navigation app is ludicrous. Navigation systems existed before Google, and many navigation systems work without Google’s map data. Most professional drivers (taxi, truck) still use standalone nav units — Garmin, Magellan and Tom-Tom. These units have data stored internally, and do not rely on an internet connection. Smart phone and tablet based solutions don’t work well when you are in the middle of nowhere with no wi-fi or data connection.

I like Google, but I don’t like Google fanboys who feel that only Google can do mapping. Indeed, Google has put a lot of work into their mapping technology. Street view is amazing. Is it necessary to get from point A to point B? No. Some even feel it is a bit creepy. After all, you see plenty of people captured by Street View, which has been a source of criticism and even litigation. Nonetheless, I look forward to Google Maps for iOS, and will definitely install it. It remains to be seen if Google will make a mapping/nav app for iOS. I hope they do, but I can live without the app. Google Maps (the website) works well in Safari, but has no voice-guided navigation.

If you live in China, iOS Maps is actually more detailed and accurate than Google Maps. According to Anthony Drendel’s blog, the Chinese version of iOS Maps utilized data from Auto Navi Holdings. This is the major mapping service in China.

“As someone who lives in China and has to find my way around, the superiority of iOS 6 Maps is clear. In my experience, the new version of Maps zooms in much further, shows more points of interest, clearly labels banks and cellphone shops (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom), and gives the locations of ATMs and public restrooms (my original iPad running iOS 5 with Google-powered Maps doesn’t show either of those things). The killer feature, though, is that iOS 6 Maps shows both English names and Chinese characters for everything, whereas Google-powered Maps only shows the English translation (on iOS devices whose language is English). This is killer. English translations are almost useless in China because—guess what—Chinese people don’t speak English. For those of us who can read (at least some) Chinese, this feature is even more important. We can ask for places by name instead of just pointing at its location on a map. So, yes, I may have been wrong to say that Google doesn’t use AutoNavi’s maps (although, I can’t see how they use the same provider since Google-powered Maps and iOS 6 Maps show such wildly different maps for the same location), and for that I apologize. Nonetheless, looking at Google-powered Maps and iOS 6 Maps side-by-side, I would choose iOS 6 Maps every time.”

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