Apple Maps

Why Apple Maps lead me to a meltdown in Central London

There are rumors that iOS 8 will be addressing a lot of lingering concerns over the reliability and usefulness of Apple's Maps. I very much hope so. Because I bring to you this Monday a tale of woe. A tale of using Apple Maps navigation, Central London and lots and lots of swearing. This is the tale of how using Apple Maps to navigate through the British capital – right through the middle – lead me to a meltdown.

The background; I haven't been driving much in the past 12 months, and this was the very first time I'd used Apple Maps navigation since the iOS 7 update.

First let me just say, this isn't yet another rant about sketchy directions and actually ending up somewhere in Birmingham. Far from it. The actual directions were faultless, but the way those directions were delivered caused me to have a mild breakdown outside Buckingham Palace.

I just don't think black text on a white background is that hot for navigating with

I have two major criticisms.

The first is the appearance. Yes, the new look Maps fits beautifully within the overall look and feel of iOS 7. But I just don't think black text on a white background is that hot for navigating with. In a car, where the sun – sometimes, in the UK – shines in through the window at odd angles leaving the display filled with nothing but glare. And because of point number 2, you really do need to look at the display.

That's because the voice directions for Central London give nothing but local street names. Local street names are not what's displayed on road signs. Neither are they – usually – what is displayed on the actual road markings in front of you on occasion at roundabouts and junctions. I use my navigation my listening out for instructions, like "turn right onto A406 in 500 yards." Then I look at the road signs and the lane markings. In a city like London that's about the only way I can actually get around without pain, misery, swearing and getting lost.

These may sound like petty criticisms to some, but in a previous life I drove the length and breadth of the UK on a weekly basis. I wouldn't be able to do that comfortably using Apple Maps.

So, what would I like to see done about it for iOS 8? Well, there wasn't really anything wrong with the iOS 6 navigation interface, so I'd love for the white to disappear and a bit of color and contrast to come back. And make the distance to and time of arrival more obvious. Not tiny at the top of the display.

Please, please, please make it so the verbal instructions match real life road signs.

And please, please, please make it so the verbal instructions match real life road signs. Because you should always be watching the road in front, not looking at your sat nav screen to try and work out which street you're turning on to. This might be more of an issue here in the UK, but it's still an issue in my car.

So that's my take, and any future trips into the unknown will be using another mapping or sat-nav service. And that's a shame, because Apple has done some really good work with Apple Maps. I just can't use it as it is.

But how about you guys? Any regular Apple Maps navigation users think I'm crazy, or have you experienced similar frustrating trips. Sound off in the comments below!

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Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Reader comments

Why Apple Maps lead me to a meltdown in Central London


Apple Maps has been fine for me in areas of rural NC & NE Iowa, SC & SE Minnesota, and rural SW Wisconsin... performs every bit as well as my now defunct Garmin Nuvi765T that the last map update FUBARed.

In Scandinavia or in Europe in general, Apple Maps is utterly useless. It is, in fact, a recurring topic of local jokes and general Apple-targeted ridicule by fans of other products and even by media at large. Funny that Apple cannot fix this. I guess they should just buy the mapping data from Nokia like everyone else is now doing. That would solve the problem for good. Apple, alone, despite their endless resources, is just not up to the mapping challenge.

I habitually rely on a colleague's inexpenaive Windows Phone for navigation when we travel together. It should not be like this.

Insert here the mandatory blurb about "not at Steve Job's Apple..." Yes, Cook dropped the ball big time.

I'm a Stockholmer and Apple Maps data are absolutely as good as their competition. When Apple Maps debuted, I'd use an Android along side just to be safe. Never once needed it. I thought I'd miss Street View, but Apple Maps 3D Flyovers images are up to date and make you familiar with your destinations prior to arrival better than Street View. Nokia Here Drive takes 3rd place, but who cares, WP has even smaller market share here than in the US.

That said, the only improvement I'd request of Apple Maps is in better contrasting graphics, as mentioned by Richard. If ever it's a problem I just switch to hybrid or satellite view.

Forgot an iOS trick: You can set the home button to triple-click into "Invert Colors" in Settings>General>Accessibility. Works quite well for the Standard Maps view for better contrast.

I have the 765T with quarterly updates and it's still fantastic. Apple maps only has one purpose in my opinion: occasional accurate traffic info. Otherwise it's total cow dung.

And if Apple expects people like me to update to an OS that will consume more RAM and slow down your device, they're delusional. With my iPhone 5, iOS 7.x is the last one I will use. I'll JB my iPhone so I can prevent it from ever receiving those push IOS updates when connected to wifi.

I've had the same problem quite a few times. There will be a road that will have three(!) different names (state road, MLK blvd, and city street name) and, inevitably, it will pick the one that's NOT largely printed on a sign. I can think of 4 roads for which it does this off the top of my head.

I agree with you Richard - I can't understand the mis-match between the road numbers displayed on the screen and the spoken road names! I'm also in the UK and just like you, recently gave up by turning off the verbal element as it was useless to the point of being dangerous....

I'm not sure what it was like in iOS6 as I've only recently got my first iPhone, but I hope it was as good as my Windows phone is. A return to that level of simplicity and dependability is necessary, rather than optional.

It's the same problem in much of the US. You'll get a street name ("Jefferson Davis Highway") when the street signs just provide a route number ("Rt. 1"). It's nuts.

You say you'd like the white to disappear and a bit of color and contrast to come back. But what is more high-contrast than black & white? What colors would make it easier to read the screen when there is sun glaring on it? (I don't really use Apple Maps much at all, so I'm not saying I like it as-is; more just generally curious what you think would make them more readable under those conditions.)

Did you try any other map service to see if it did better?

FWIW I've had that street naming problem on every map service and GPS gadget I've ever used.

Apple maps is absolutely useless in Vancouver Canada on multiple levels. Wrong and incorrect data all over the place, the worst is that there are no walking directions at all downtown (if you look closely you will find that they are car directions with a different time attached only), no transit info. Massive flaws and errors all over the city as to where the roads actually are, park boundaries all off by blocks. No bike routes marked. And all the labels are so tiny (in medium grey on a white background no less) that they are unreadable in most situations. Add the lack of street view and .... well, the whole thing is just a joke.

I open it up from time to time and swoop around the buildings which is admittedly neat. But as a map solution it fails on every level, even in the most basic tasks.

^that is my main concern when i switched from android back to iphone 5s. I downloaded google maps as my alernative but haven't tried it outside where I live to ensure that i won't get lost lol.

As long as you are complaining, here's a complaint. The past tense of lead is led. Fix it.

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Yeah... ok... except one little typo doesn't cause me to get lost and extremely frustrated. So there is that. These are valid criticisms backed up by experience.

I agree with the criticism. I just think you should spell words correctly and proofread an article before posting it.

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I love apple but apple maps are really bad. Looks great but terrible compared to google maps

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White streets on pale orange background is totally invisible for me. It must be possible to have stronger colors and biggest contrast. More is better, not less. Google maps are much better because it has better contrast (darker background color).

Maps had worked ok for me the first few times I used it… until this past January when I used it to get to a hotel in a town near Anaheim in southern California. It was 10pm. I had been to the hotel twice before in the previous two January's for a work-related trade show. So I knew (somewhat) where it was located off of a certain exit. It frustrated the hell outta me because it had me turning in odd directions that didn't seem quite right. I finally pulled over, studied the map, got my bearings, and started driving in the right direction. Maps, meanwhile, kept on saying out loud completely different directions. I kept yelling at it to "shut up, you don't know what you're talking about." When I finally got in front of the hotel Maps kept saying that I should make a U-turn and continue driving in the opposite direction. (???)

A few weeks later I put in an address for a restaurant in a different city. The restaurant's address did not distinguish itself as being on South vs North Lantana. Just as "### Lantana". Maps took me to a residential section of the town. That was on North Lantana. I had to drive to the other section of town near the 101 to get to "South" Lantana to get to the restaurant.

So, yes… even here in coastal southern California, Maps still has issues.

Another issue that I wish they'd fix (not just with Apple's Maps, but also Google Maps and MapQuest) is the ability on your iPad or iPhone to manually alter your route. In MapQuest on the computer you can (with a mouse) physically move/tweak the route to different detailed and specific streets. This is something you cannot do on the iPad or iPhone because you cannot make those fine adjustments. You're only presented with a very limited number of alternate route suggested by the map program. If I want to stay on the 118 to get to the 210 instead of flipping onto the 5 I should be able to program that on the map.

"Well, there wasn't really anything wrong with the iOS 6...interface, so I'd love for the white to disappear and a bit of color and contrast to come back."
"But I just don't think black text on a white background is that hot..."

Thank you. Removing the parts about navigation, this is actually one of my major complaints with the whole of iOS 7. Especially when you consider 83% of the operating system is now white... There's nothing wrong with having some white space, but that is far too much.

There are a couple of issues here, obviously, and yes, the street name issue is serious (but tricky, because I know that here in Los Angeles, some roads will have different names on different signs!).

But the one that seems easily solved is going back to some version of the IOS6 maps design. I know, I know, we all find skeuomorphism tacky and evil. I get that when it came to the yellow ruled note pad or the stitched leather Find My Friends.

But the Maps were so much easier to quickly grasp when street names were on green signs, matching (at least in spirit) the road signs I'd see. The colors on the maps made it easier for me to quickly glance and get a sense of my bearings.

The new Maps takes a little longer to grasp. Maybe not a lot longer, but when you're driving, another second or two can make a big difference.

As a UK resident, I think it is ludicrous that street signs don't have both the name and the road designation. I've been caught out on that a number times pre sat nav and post.

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I can sympathize with this post because it's quite similar in Germany in many areas, Cologne mostly from my experience.

What's worse, is that if it hasn't changed, Apple Maps is powered by TomTom, Netherlands data. Which means that at least in Europe we shouldn't be experiencing such massive problems with something so simple as street names.

Works great in Atlanta. Much better than Google Maps. Easier to use, better to look at. I've driven to Maryland and back using only Apple Maps and had no issues.

Everyone's experience is different.

Poor data, bad UI for the driving use case (poor contrast, ill-defined and hard to see at a glance traffic indicators)

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I have deleted Google Maps from my iPhone because Maps works perfectly for me in New Hampshire, USA.

I am a former employee of Tele Atlas, now TomTom, and I believe you cannot blame Maps or Google in these instances. You must blame the analysts that ensure that the names they label roads in the database are true and correct. All map providers should have a method to socially correct its data either like a wiki or at least an email. Be patient, as we must remember that these systems started from zero and are doing quite well for 2014.

A friend texted me am address 2 weeks ago the link opened in Apple's by default. The pin that dropped was in a city 100 miles away. I pasted the address into Google maps and it instantly gave me the correct location 7 miles away. Apple's maps are still broken.

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I live in northern Illinois, drive mostly in the Midwest area while traveling and have never had a problem with Apple maps. Maps, I believe, has a less cluttered look than other map apps I've used.

Apple maps are totally useless in Oslo in Norway too. And that's not only direction, very central malls and roads are missing. An according to apple, there is a pizza store in the same building I live in! I don't think I'll be switching from google maps unless apple revolutionized their maps data over night.

As a pedestrian and public transport user in (mainly) Europe I find local street names more useful than A3 or similar and in my experience navigation with Apple maps has been more user friendly than Google maps. That said, I've come across examples where Apple maps suggested longer or more complicated routes from A to B than Google maps and generally was less detailed or plain incorrect compared to Google, even for tourist attractions in major cities like Tokyo (example: Sensoji temple in Asakusa - I reported it in app last December but last time I looked the location was still wrong).

I really can't see the point of this article...anyone with any sense knows Apple maps is a complete joke. The discrepancy where in some parts Apple maps may seem better is likely because Google Maps doesn't have anyone in the hicks who is willing to update their maps through Google Map Editor.

My guess is the Richard only wrote this post simply because he was running low on ideas before his posting deadline, lol.