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A Walk With iOS 6 Maps: Apple's Horribly Revamped App Does New York


What can Apple's problem child tell us about the world's most valuable company?

Just for fun, I decided to stand on the other side of the street and ask for directions to Herald Square. Turns out public transit is Greek to iOS 6, unless you're in Greece, in which case it's Dutch. Or something. It did, however, direct me to the revamped iTrans NYC, which was once my favorite app, but has since become a grotesquely reassembled monster now that it can't use Google Maps. iTrans NYC had me run some wide receiver routes in the park before I got on a train, which was odd but nicely invigorating.

The rest of the morning was a laundry list of lesser but similar quibbles. I got around okay (because I am a New York ninja), but the phone, while doing basic things well, didn't even do things that it used to do fine. The weaknesses of the new app are manifold, but three stood out to me in particular.

1. The satellite positioning is significantly weaker than it was. Or at least it seems that way; the little blue "this is you!" dot was a good block or two away from where I was standing most of the time, and the amount of time the phone spent wagging that little dot all over the city while it figured out my position was significantly increased. This has all sorts of consequences, like the fact that the app regularly mandates bizarre maneuvers for relatively simple navigation.

2. The lack of integration with public transit is simply not okay. Subway stations and bus stops are marked with the same care and frequency as restaurants and nail salons. iOS 6 Maps simply doesn't prioritize well, meaning that crucial, infrastructure-based things like subways don't show up the way they did in the previous version of the software. When they do, they're not given enough information; clicking on a subway station is easy enough, but Maps can't even tell you what trains run through the station. The app's inability to give public transit based directions, a byproduct of this flaw, is similarly unacceptable, especially since the old version could do that easily.

3. Speaking of prioritizing: iOS 6 Maps doesn't understand context at all. If I'm in New York City and I search for "148 Stuyvesant Ave.," I'm probably talking about the one in Brooklyn just off the J train. I'm probably not talking about the Stuyvesant Avenue in Merrick, NY, or Newark, NJ, but both of those came up before the one in Bed-Stuy when I searched. And don't bother searching for restaurants called "Spain" and "Martinique," because the iPhone will whisk you away to foreign parts rather than realize that you might be referring to the tapas bar two blocks away.
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