MATTEO DALL'OMBRA

 HOME

Apple Killed Traditional Navigation Systems And Not Google

June 12th, 2012

One of the highlight of yesterday’s Apple event was the new mapping system inside iOS 6. They ditched Google Maps for a fully customized and proprietary system. Many people said that they played a bad move towards Google but in reality the only people that will be hurt are the navigation system manufacturers. And here’s why.

Let’s start by analyzing how Apple implemented turn-by-turn navigation. You access a UI similar to what you had before with Google, but this time when you set a route Siri will take over shouting directions in real time.

image

This is nothing new. Every traditional GPS system has always had a voice guiding you into the dark. In a way we can say that Apple played some catching up with their competitors, but as always happen they didn’t stop there but instead they placed the bar higher for other to compete. Yes because the real strength of the new map system is the integration with Siri. Thanks to the empowered personal assistant, you can do everything without touching a single button (except for holding the home button at the beginning). Today as I left the office I wanted to try the new system, so I called Siri and I just said: “take me home”. Boom. Nothing more than that and in few seconds the iPhone designed the route and Siri started giving me vocal instruction to reach my destination.

The system is very efficient during the journey too. First of all it’s able to recalculate a new route very quickly. When I missed (on purpose) some of Siri instruction the system was able to give me new instructions before I got the next crossway (a matter of few meters), pretty impressive.

The UI during the navigation is very clear and very simple to follow visually.

image

There are then other two bonuses that will help you to never get lost. If you exit the map app while Siri is guiding you, you’ll still get both voice and text directions on top of the screen. This means that the passenger can freely use the device to check something else while maintaining a tight contact over the instructions.

image

In addition, even if you lock the screen, you’ll still get a live navigation on the lock screen itself. An efficient way to quickly check the direction while saving on battery. This can be a really nice feature when walking for example.

image

Before this feature I would have had to check for a direction, close the map app and lock the screen. Then, if I wanted to check my progress I’d have to wake up the iPhone, reopen Maps, waiting for it to relocate me and so on. No more.

Of course there are downsides to this system. The biggest is that you always need an internet connection to make it works. I can see it as a problem if you don’t have a flat internet tariff on your device or if you travel abroad and you can’t easily get a WiFi connection. Still it’s an impressive solution and traditional GPS manufacturers should be worried about it.

To use one of that system you always need to input a lot of data every time while with Siri you just ask the system to do everything for you. That’s because the new version of Siri combined with the new Map already knows a lot of commercial places around the world. You don’t need the address to get to your destination you just need the name or you can just make it work asking for a category (like: “take me to the nearest Indian Restaurant”).

The new Siri really is a super update and alone it’s worth the update to iOS 6. I’m sure that during these months of development before the official release we are going to see many other new iteration that are going to make Siri the central hub of your device.

Science-fiction has really entered the real world “big time”.