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.

Siri and Apple Maps Again

twitter maps 2

In light of Apple Maps Indoor Maps gone MIA in Tokyo I got to thinking about Siri and Apple Maps again.

To paraphrase Steve Jobs for the umpteenth time, John Gruber is right, in certain areas. But on the whole I think he is wrong. It’s all right because it’s all right in America doesn’t fly.

Apple is a global organization. If it can’t identify problems, fix and improve Apple Maps in other countries, the organizational problem exists in America too, just not on the surface. Ditto for Siri.

No Indoor Maps for Apple Maps Japan


indoor mapped malls
Apple Map Indoor Map launch list at WWDC
Despite the WWDC announcement that Tokyo would be included in the first round of Indoor Maps for iOS 11, the feature has yet to appear and seems to have been dropped for now. References to Lane Guidance also disappeared from the Apple Japan site with the official release of iOS 11. Apple’s iOS Feature Availability page has a Lane Guidance section. It would be nice if the page had an Indoor Maps section too.

No Tokyo Indoor Maps makes sense. There is no “go to” data provider for indoor maps in Japan as there is for Japanese transit data. For a place like Shinjuku station Apple has to line up data from 6 different transit companies and even more subsidiary companies. And that is just for a single location. Multiply that by multiple stations and you can see the challenge Apple faces collecting and normalizing all that indoor map information from countless sources.

Apple was lucky with Japan transit because Jorudan was a go to agency already supplying Google Maps. It is a single company with quality data and a proven track record of managing multiple data sets from around the country.

Outside of transit Apple Maps Japan still suffers from poor quality data sources and the inability to coordinate multiple data sets. In Japan Apple Maps is still losing the Battle of Roshi Hall. The many corrections submitted for the Ikegami area in south Tokyo have long since been wiped and replaced with incorrect data. The grand hall of Ikegami Honmonji temple is a soba restaurant again.

That does not bode well for delivering quality Indoor Maps in Japan.



The #1 Japanese Transit App

fullsizeoutput_642bIt’s not Apple Maps, it’s not Google Maps or even Yahoo Japan Maps. The #1 Japanese Transit iPhone app is Yahoo Japan’s stand-alone Transit app and Yahoo Japan is going to town with a big fun marketing blitz featuring Doraemon.

After one year of using Apple Maps Japan Transit since the September 2016 debut, I don’t find it very useful. None of the map apps are very useful for public transit. The problem is they all treat public transit like car navigation: here is point a, here is point b, here is a map route. Transit route map overlays might look cool but are not helpful and waste space that could be used for real information. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps force you to dig for more information instead of just showing it.

Yahoo Japan Transit offers you lots of great information that you can either sort for fastest, cheapest, etc., or quickly search for different times (orange left or right). Yahoo Japan has also integrated those stupid two letter train line codes but thankfully only in the initial search result list.

Map apps basically assume I don’t know how to get to my destination. On the other hand stand-alone transit apps like Yahoo Japan Transit assume you that you know how to get to your destination and just want to find the best way of getting there. It simply offers the best transit options in a handy sortable list: transit time, price, number of transfers. You can save routes, put them in a calendar, set time alarms, GPS destination alarms and more.

And to top it off, if you really need to see how to get from the station to the destination, Yahoo Japan Transit offers you a quick pop up map which is all that you ever really need saving you a needless trip to the map app.