iOS 10: Reading the Apple Maps Cartography Tea Leaves

スクリーンショット 2016-07-02 11.28.58
The Japanese public transit image on Apple’s iOS 10 preview page.
The iOS 10 preview image for Apple Maps Japanese public transit is fascinating. It’s a coming attraction movie trailer. Movie trailers, as you know, always use background music that has nothing to do with the actual movie and have scenes that are never in the final film. With that in mind, let’s look at some details.

The image shows the Shinjuku station footprint in transit view with surrounding above ground station structures, department stores in this case, in light semi-transparent purple, and the basement structures in pink. The JR and subway lines are marked in different colors as you might expect but the high contrast solid dark purple platform footprints are something entirely new and a welcome change. The current iOS 9 transit view shows platform footprints in typical, cartoony Apple Maps cartography style: light pink on light pink outlines on light beige background that is super low contrast and very hard to see.

Transit Lines
Compared with the current iOS 9 cartography, the iOS 10 style transit lines look thinner and a little harder to see. Bold is always better and Apple Maps would be better off not following the Google Maps transit style in which train and subway lines are too thin to stand out against the background.

The JR train line has a new style that is instantly recognizable. It actually looks like a real, black and white dashed train line seen in maps of yore, in Google, or in any other digital map out there. FINALLY.

Local Signage – Circles Out, Squares In?
The preview image shows a lot more local signage. The old style blue generic train station icon is replaced by the official JR logo, but something doesn’t look right. The current iOS 10 beta maps cartography goes all in with round icons, and Apple has been busy over the past few month swapping out Japanese square icon signage with round versions. This looks like a movie trailer scene that will be missing in the final release.

iOS 10 icons
iOS 10 map cartography is all about round signage.
Other Stuff
There are lots of important details left to the imagination that will make or break the Japanese public transit service. What will passageways, exits, board instructions and directions all look like? Shinjuku and Tokyo are the largest and most complex stations in the world. It’s such a huge challenge that even Google Maps doesn’t get it right. It will be fascinating to see what Japanese public transit experience Apple delivers in iOS 10 Maps.