iOS 10 Maps and the Japanese Label Problem 

That sinking feeling. Here it is mid July already, two, maybe three months until the release of iOS 10. That’s very little time to fix things, if it can be done at all. It reminds me of the iOS 6 beta cycle. I assumed all the Japanese map problems in the WWDC beta would be fixed by the final release. They never were and the rest is history.

I have covered the Apple Maps Japanese label problem in recent posts, here and here. In iOS 9 it isn’t highly visible as the user has to drill down and open the info card before they can see the label. In iOS 10 on a iPad, the info card immediately pops up when a place icon is selected. This is a problem for Japanese public transit service, due to arrive with iOS 10: Apple Maps often mislabels Japanese train stations. Let’s take a look at Shinjuku Station.

Shinjuku Station
iOS 10 beta 2 map view of Shinjuku Station with the info card.
The Japanese label listed for Shinjuku Station above, underlined in red,  is “Romen-Densha-Eki” which literally translates as “surface electric train station”. The actual meaning is “Street Car Station”. Shinjuku Station has street cars? Of course not. This error is probably due to machine translation that has not been checked by a human being who understands Japanese.

Shinagawa Station
iOS 10 map view of Shinagawa Station with info card.
Shinagawa Station is labeled as a “Tetsudo-Eki”, which does translate as “railroad station”. However this usage is old fashioned and nowadays refers to non-electric diesel trains. This might be appropriate for a non-electrified areas like Hokkaido, but not the best choice for a major Tokyo station where all the trains are electrified.

Yukiga Otsuka Station
iOS 10 beta 2 map view of Yuki-ga-otsuka Station info card
The label for Yuki-ga-otsuka station reads as “Unso”. This literally means “shipping” or “transport”, as in ship cargo or truck cargo. This is a passenger train station so it looks like another machine translation that needs fixing by a human being.

These kind of label errors will not instill user confidence in Japanese public transit if they are not corrected before the rollout this fall. To be fair though, Google Maps doesn’t always get Japanese station lables exactly right every time either.