Apple Maps Nearby Fails in Japan: Comparing the Competition 

Now that my review of Nearby in Japan is out of the way, let’s search a few Japanese categories and see how well each of the “big three” (Apple Maps, Google Maps, Yahoo Japan Maps) perform. The cherry trees are blooming in Tokyo this week so a virtual bento-picnic-hanami outing is a timely theme.

OK let’s go hanami
Searching for cherry trees in bloom might sound impossible but Yahoo Japan Maps has us covered. Their version of nearby has a category for seasonal events such as Hanami, fall leaves and such. Touch the pink cherry blossom icon and viola, not only do we have the nearest places to go hanami, but the map icons also indicate how far along the cherry blossoms are. Easy and fun.

hanami large
L-R Yahoo Japan’s version of nearby gives us a pink icon sakura category which offers places with cherry blossom status icons and an info card with weather forecast and crowded times.
As you might expect Apple Maps and Google Maps can’t help us search for hanami. Google Maps gives us a list of places with hanami in the name and Apple Maps offers to take us to a place called Hanami in Niigata prefecture, a drive across Japan.

hanami 2
L-R Google Maps, Apple Maps search results for hanami. Apple Maps offers to take us to the other side of the Japan which is not very nearby.
Hanami results:
Yahoo Japan Maps = O
Google Maps = X
Apple Maps = X

Bento
Next we need to find bento for the outing. Convenience stores all offer packaged, indifferent bento but I want to find a place that has fresh bento made on site.

yahoo japan bento
Yahoo Japan Maps offers a very nice selection of real bento places, with menus. Easy the best list of the three map services.

bento apple
Apple Maps Nearby only offers  a convenience category and a list of convenience stores. Apple’s dated cartoony iOS 6 style map cartography looks bad and needs a refresh.

bento google
Google does not offer a bento category but search offers a decent list of bento chain stores. Google’s map cartography is simple, clean and much easier to read than Apple’s.
Bento results:
Yahoo Japan Maps = O
Google Maps = ∆
Apple Maps= X

Izakaya
On the way back from cherry viewing it would be nice to have another drink or two. Here’s what Yahoo Japan Maps, Google Maps and Apple Maps offer us.

izakaya yahoo japan
Yahoo Japan has a Izakaya/Bar category of course. The Yahoo Japan map view offers a neat feature of greyed out place icons indicating they are not open yet.

izakaya google
Google Maps has a Izakaya nearby category too and their map cartography really is the best of the lot. The Google nearby search lets you set proximity and time of day as well.

izakaya apple
Nearby does not have a Izakaya category but search does offer a decent list of  izakaya places. The grey colored “not open yet” text in list view is impossible to read.
Izakaya results:
Yahoo Japan Maps = O
Google Maps = O
Apple Maps = ∆

Sentō
Finally, after a day of debauchery there is nothing like a nice soak at a sentō (public bath).

sento yahoo japan
Yahoo Japan Maps does not have a Sentō category, search offers a serviceable list but the Yahoo Japan Map UI here is difficult to use.

sento google
Google Maps search result is beautifully translated to the map view. Google also uses the native Japanese ♨️ icon to denote a real hot spring. Well done.

sento apple
Apple Maps Nearby offers a category but the search results are massage places, not sentō.
Sentō results:
Yahoo Japan Maps = ∆
Google Maps = O
Apple Maps= X

Final results (Hanami, Bento, Izakaya, Sentō):
Yahoo Japan Maps = O
Google Maps = ∆
Apple Maps= X

Summary
Google Maps is the overall standard and only falls short on specialty searches such as cherry blossom viewing. Yahoo Japan Maps is the content king of Japan and delivers smart,  unique, niche map solutions that Apple and Google cannot match. Their only weakness is the UI and slightly slower backend system.

Apple Maps Nearby content is utterly incompetent, as my review made clear. If this is the best the Apple map team can do, they should not add Transit in Japan. They simply cannot deliver reliable, or even useable Japanese content.

Rating System
O (maru) = good
∆ (sankaku) = fair
X (peke) = NG/failure

 

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