Google Maps App for iPhone Goes in the Right Direction
It was one of the biggest tech headlines of the year: in September, Apple dropped its contract with Google, which had always supplied the data for the iPhone’s Maps app. For various strategic reasons, Apple preferred to write a new app, based on a new database of the world that Apple intended to assemble itself.
As everybody knows by now, Apple got lost along the way. It was like a 22-car pileup. Timothy Cook, Apple’s chief executive, made a quick turn, publicly apologizing, firing the executive responsible and vowing to fix Maps. For a company that prides itself on flawless execution, it was quite a detour.
Rumors swirled that Google would create an iPhone app of its own, one that would use its seven-year-old, far more polished database of the world. That was true. Today, Google Maps for the iPhone has arrived. It’s free, fast and fantastic.
Now, there are two parts to a great maps app. There’s the app itself — how it looks, how it works, what the features are. In this regard, few people complain about Apple’s Maps app; it’s beautiful, and its navigation mode for drivers is clear, uncluttered and distraction-free.
But then there’s the hard part: the underlying data. Apple and Google have each constructed staggeringly complex databases of the world and its roads.
The recipe for both companies includes map data from TomTom, satellite photography from a different source, real-time traffic data from others, restaurant and store listings from still more sources, and so on. In the end, Apple says that it incorporated data from at least 24 different sources.
Those sources always include errors, if only because the world constantly changes. Worse, those sources sometimes disagree with one another. It takes years to fix the problems and mesh these data sources together.
So the great thing about Google’s new Maps is the underlying data. Hundreds of Google employees have spent years hand-editing the maps, fixing the thousands of errors that people report every day. And since 2006, Google’s Street View vehicles have trawled 3,000 cities, photographing and confirming the cartographical accuracy of five million miles of roads.
Read more at NY Times