Mr. Apple Maps Japan Real Life Funnies!

Bus route maps,Caption 1: Wow I didn’t realize Apple Maps shows bus routes when you tap a bus stop. This looks convenient!

D626110A-A5D8-4FDA-9CCC-CEAF85B23F0A.jpegCaption 2: Wait a minute Mr. Apple Maps, this # 28 bus route looks really weird.

the number 10bus does not stop here

Caption 3: And the #10 bus doesn’t stop here.

Caption 4: Well showing bus routes is convenient, let’s wait for Mr. Apple Maps to fix it.

Fixing anything Apple Maps is a long wait folks. No joke. While you wait Mr. O’Beirne can do an analysis for you. It won’t change anything but you can impress friends and tech bloggers.


The Google Maps Apple Maps News Cycle and All That

By now the Apple Maps news cycle follows a regular pattern:

  • Justin O’Beirne posts a new analysis that tech writers swoon over.
  • A big USA writer/analyst like Neil Cybart says, “I don’t use Google Maps, Apple Maps works just fine for me.”
  • Last but not least overseas commentators answer, “that might be true in the USA but Apple Maps suck here in XXX.

And so it goes but nothing is changing. Apple may indeed be working on a next generation map solution, or it may be pie in the sky. An intelligent AR approach for indoor mapping for example certainly makes much better sense than anything Google Maps or Apple Maps offer at present.

Anything is possible with the right kind of Steve Jobs like super focus. Unfortunately Apple Maps to date has been the poster child of unfocused product development.

Apple has to overcome the focus jinx for Apple Maps to change and advance beyond being the ‘me 2/me 3’ product it is now.

On Google Maps’s Moat

Another post from Justin O’Beirne, another round of praise from tech sites including John Gruber.

As I said before, isn’t this kind of analysis exactly the work O’Beirne should have done when he lead the Apple Maps cartography effort? Why didn’t he put it into action? I guess tech writers don’t ask those kinds of questions.

You can analyze Apple Maps up, down and all around but the result will always be the same. The Apple Maps start point under O’Beirne was data that Apple bought off the shelf. This has not changed much.

Only when Apple gets into in-house data acquisition in a much bigger way will Apple Maps quality start to close the gap with Google Maps. It’s that simple.

Siri Clueless with Apple Maps Japan Garbage Data

I use Apple Maps in the field occasionally but warily, like a dog that isn’t house broken despite 5 years of training,  Apple Maps sometimes obeys, sometimes it pees on my leg. In a perfect world Siri would also obey but like one bad dog following another, when Apple Maps goes wrong, Siri goes very wrong.

I was in Nagoya recently to attend a friend’s wedding banquet at Castle Plaza Hotel. Nagoya, aka Toyota Town, is a big city that feels like a country town, everybody grew up there and love it. Landmark places like Castle Plaza are institutions (grandpa got married there) that everybody knows. Except Siri.

At Nagoya station I asked Siri in Japanese for “ Castle Plaza near Nagoya station.” Siri showed me some other places called Castle, none of them in Nagoya. Google Maps got Castle Plaza right away, so did Yahoo Japan Map.

The Apple Maps place card shows the place-name in English: “Castle Plaza.” Apple Maps Japan data supplier, in this case, has not followed Japanese place name protocol. Google and Yahoo correctly list the Japanese name as “キャッスルプラザ,” which matches local signage.

Japanese Siri needs Japanese names to find things and it seems to be lurking somewhere out of sight in Apple Maps metadata. A dictation keyword search for “キャッスルプラザ” directly in Apple Maps finds the place, but the same keyword search in Siri does not.

Keyword searches are the trained seals of talking assistants, nothing is more basic: throw it a fish, it honks a horn. Even with an iPhone in Tokyo, keyword search finds the right Nagoya Castle Plaza in Google Maps, Yahoo Japan Maps and Apple Maps, but Siri honks the wrong horn every time.

This means 1 of 5 things:

1) is not taking care of their Japanese metadata
2) Apple Maps is not taking care of their Japanese metadata
3) Siri is not taking care of their Japanese metadata
4) Nobody cares
5) All of the above

Take your pick. This is exactly the dysfunction described in Something Went Wrong in Siri’s and Apple Maps Development: One Last Time. Is Eddie Cue OK with a lousy Siri/Apple Maps experience in Japan? Is Tim Cook?

After 5 years they must have some idea of the problem. The only conclusion is  that they are OK with it, Team Apple priorities are somewhere else.

Something Went Wrong in Siri’s and Apple Maps Development: One Last Time

I thought about John Gruber’s Apple Maps tweet and the various replies. Why is Apple Maps all over the map for so many users around the world? I think it all goes back to Apple Maps very troubled 2012 launch.

Dr. Mike Dobson’s Exploring Local blog pointed out the reasons for the “2012 disaster“:

  • “C-grade” suppliers.
  • Failure to recognize the difficulty integrating information from disparate data sources.
  • General incompetence in rationalizing data sources.

The 2012 Apple Maps launch chart looks like this:

Apple Map Diagram 1

I think that the Apple Maps organization problems pointed out by Dobson still exist today. In Japan the Apple Maps chart looks like this:Apple Map Diagram 2

The story for Japan is that even though Apple Maps added an “A-grade” transit data supplier, the other lower grade data suppliers and poor Apple Maps normalization process drags everything down to the lowest common level. The result is a classic map conundrum: Apple Maps Japan shows you lots of stuff but tells you nothing. A lot is also missing or incorrect.

Based on reader comments I think that Apple Maps charts for America and China might look like this.

Apple Map Diagram 3Apple Map Diagram 4

China seems to be better because there are far fewer suppliers for Apple Maps to juggle. This fits with Dobson’s 2012 observation that when faced with multiple suppliers Apple Maps drops all the balls.

That is still true today. It’s a key area where Apple Maps has made surprisingly little progress. I don’t think Apple Maps can truly move forward in meaningful new directions until this problem is fixed for good, and for all.