Apple flipped the switch for Apple Maps Japan ‘improved maps’ with Look Around for Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, and new map details nationwide. Initial navigation tests indicate turn by turn incorporates the new date for better directions. Siri also seems to have gained improved guidance with finer details: turn left, walk over the bridge, etc. Taken altogether, improved maps, improved Siri guidance, the new higher quality Japanese Siri voices and other Siri improvements will make iOS 14 a nice upgrade.
Tokyo area parks like Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi are packed with new Apple Maps 2.0 details. A quick examination reveals Look Around is pretty much limited to roadside views. Major pedestrian data collection efforts are still ongoing across Japan through October and will be very important in rounding out both the feature set and improving navigation in later updates.
The Tokyo Olympics Update
The Apple Maps team worked to get this major update ready in time for the, now postponed, Tokyo Olympics. It’s great that Apple Maps Japan users can enjoy the benefits of the effort and the fact Japan is the first country outside of the USA to get Look Around, but this update does not include the proprietary ‘New Map’ cartography based on Apple Maps image collection. It is only a ‘Improved Map’ with from the Japanese map data supplier.
Look Around Impressions and Reactions
The Japanese online reaction to Look Around has been largely positive. Main streets are covered well, the vast maze of Tokyo side streets have yet to be mapped and pedestrian maps are missing altogether for public areas like parks, shrines and temples all of which Google Street Maps comprehensively covers. Use Look Around on iPhone for a bit and you soon feel the ‘you can’t go there’ haptic feedback bump. Look Around Tokyo is off to a good start but has a long way to go.
And long standing Apple Maps Japan data problems remain, in particular the poor quality GeoTchnologies supplied data. GeoTechnologies simply don’t have the ability or talent to supply high quality map data. This is where Zenrin would be a huge help, as they field a ground truth human team with no equal. Having Zenrin on board while Apple takes its time mapping Japan, would really truly make Apple Maps Japan the dope choice.
Look Around and a map refresh add up to a big update for Apple Maps Japan but it’s really just a new starting point. What is Apple aiming for in the long run? To equal or better Google Maps Japan and Yahoo Maps Japan? Or just be a better me-too map? Time will tell but the seven year 2012~2019 run suggests the latter. The Apple Maps Japan makeover challenge is just beginning.