Japanese Cartography Comparison

Justin O’Beirne has published part two of his epic essay comparing Google Maps and Apple Maps: “Content — The  Map as a Whole”. It’s a great read and deep analysis.

I think there is a much simpler and subjective comparison test: is the map easy to read, does it convey the most important information at a glance? What is the map ‘Glance Quotient’?

Glance Quotient
Here are three comparison iPhone 6S screen shot views of Shinjuku Station (left to right) in Apple Maps, Google Maps and Yahoo Japan Maps (Best viewed on a desktop browser, WordPress resizes the 50% image to 25% on mobile browsers).

three shinjukus 10 D
Approximately 10%
There isn’t any meaningful detail in Apple or Google maps at 10%, but you can make out the red Shinjuku station outline and yellow/orange major roads in Yahoo Japan Maps.

three shinjukus 25 C
Approximately 25%
The basic information in Yahoo Japan Maps is surprisingly clear even at 25%, Google Maps much less so, Apple Maps not at all.

three shinjukus 100
Approximately 50%
At 50% the large bold text station labels in Yahoo Japan Maps are coming into focus. Google Maps Japanese text is clean but still too small for my eyes to make out. Google’s use of the similar colors for the map background and Shinjuku station is just wrong. Apple Maps does offer a little more contrast between the background and Shinjuku station, but the low contrast colored text is illegible, and the technicolor measles icon overlay Apple uses is pure distraction that offers zero information.

I have always said that Yahoo Japan Maps has the best cartography of the big three Japanese digital maps. To be fair though Yahoo Japan Maps does have it easy, they only have to focus map resources on Japan and use Bing maps for the rest of the world. Apple and Google have to map the whole world.

(The full size screen shots used in the above comparisons are included below)

Shinjuku Apple
Apple Maps view of Shinjuku Station 750 x 1333 pixels.

Shinjuku Google
Google Maps view of Shinjuku Station 750 x 1333 pixels

Shinjuku Yahoo Japan
Yahoo Japan Maps view of Shinjuku Station 750 x 1333 pixels