Views, or layers, are a deeply useful feature of digital maps. With views you can easily get entirely different information of the same area. Some are useful like traffic and transit and some are gimmicky such as Flyover or Satellite.
The three big free map services in Japan, Apple, Google and Yahoo Japan all offer different kinds of views. Apple offerings are completely useless. Instead of Transit or Traffic, you only get Flyover and Satellite because Apple hasn’t gotten high quality local data suppliers lined up yet.
The main Google offerings are Transit, Traffic, Satellite and Topographic views. The first two are essential for Japanese metropolitan navigation, the last two not.
Yahoo Japan Maps with its entire focus exclusively on the Japanese market has several unique and useful map views unmatched by Apple or Google:
- Current Weather & Precipitation Forecast Incredibly handy, there are countless times when I used an umbrella at one location, got on a train, checked the precipitation forecast for the next destination and packed away the umbrella for the rest of day.
- Local Area Crowds Another unexpectedly handy map view: how crowded is my destination. If you have ever want to find peace and quiet on Tokyo weekend, this is for you.
- Store Crowds This little jewel debuted recently in the info card window. It shows a graph of peak crowd times on a daily basis for the store. The perfect shopping companion to help you avoid store crowds.
These kinds of view services would be great additions for Apple Maps and Google Maps.