Jun
14

Transit directions out in Apple’s native Maps app

By

Walk Score has started a petition drive to protest the exclusion of transit directions in iOS 6.

When Apple unveiled the latest upgrades to its mobile operating system earlier this week, the Internet was all a-buzz with praise for its new Maps app. Instead of continuing to rely on its competitor Google for maps and directions, Apple decided to build an in-house mapping solution. Along the way, though, it dropped transit directions, and urban advocates are not at all happy with the change.

For tech watchers, Apple’s Map app is supposedly the “gem of iOS 6,” as David Pogue of The Times said. It will be visually stunning with complete driving directions. Transit, though, is out, and as a recent Gizmodo posts notes, it appears as though even station location markers have been dropped. “When building Maps, we looked around and realized the best transit apps for metros, for hiking, for biking, are coming from our developers,” Apple’s Scott Forstall said. “And so instead of trying to develop those ourselves, we are going to integrate and feature and promote your apps for transit right within the Maps app in iOS 6.”

It’s unclear right now exactly what Apple plans to do, but unless the company will allow app makers to craft plug-ins for its Map app, the solution won’t be as elegant as Google’s. Currently, iOS users can switch among transit, walking and driving directions with the tap of an icon, but under Apple’s future, iPhone and iPad users — and there are a ton of those, especially in urban areas — will have to add yet another transit application to their mix. Convenience suffers.

“This is a big step backwards for pedestrians and transit users, because it forces those people to first know they have to acquire a third party application, then find and install the best one, and finally perhaps pay for this support,” David Herron wote this week. “By contrast today’s iOS users have excellent pedestrian and public transit support in the Google Maps application.”

Transportation Nation too had a take on this issue:

That move seems out of step with the Apple ethos. Long ago when the company was rebuilding its brand as the hip cool computer for the next generation it heavily courted teens and college students, banking on winning over lifetime customers while they were young and still forming consumption habits. Considering how young people are driving less and taking transit more, launching the new Maps without this feature is a rare moment when Apple’s magic touch is slipping from the pulse of the cool kids. Some millennials even cited a preference for transit over driving so that they have more time to use smartphones.

To me, though, this decision transcends what the “cool kids” are doing. It’s about sacrificing something that encourages mass transit use and places it on equal footing with driving. I currently own a Droid phone and iPad. I appreciate how Google Maps features transit directions that do not require me to open a few different apps to find the best route. Apple will have to convince us that their new Maps can properly integrate a transit component or else this is step backwards for one of the nation’s largest smartphone developers.



16 Responses to “Transit directions out in Apple’s native Maps app”

  1. Alex C says:

    The ole Apple Reality Distortion Field. Take out features, proclaim you’ve innovated. While admittedly beta, the initial screenshots of Apple Maps suggest it’s rather…useless.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Well, why take a comfy train when you can use a clunky bus? (Though, in all fairness to Apple fanboys, they don’t pretend to save everyone else money in the process of achieving lower quality.)

  2. owine says:

    In the new app the transit option is actually still there, but Apple does not have the functionality built in. They will be allowing third party apps to integrate as “routing apps” for transit so you will select your origin and destination and which routing app you wish to use and Maps will pass the parameters along to the routing app to create the route.

    Happy to provide some screenshots if you’d like.

    • And the routing app will display the route in Apple’s Maps app? Are we going to have to wait for third-party developers to build out this functionality?

      Anyway, send screenshots. I’d love to see them.

  3. MaximusNYC says:

    I assume that Google will offer its Maps app to users via the App Store (hopefully for free), and that it will continue to have all of the same functionality.

    And of course, no one is forcing iPhone users to upgrade to iOS6. But most of them will, lemming-like. I always put off upgrades as long as possible.

  4. Michael says:

    This whole story has been overblown. I know as someone who has worked in the Mac industry for many years, and understands how Apple works.

    1) iOS 6 is not actually out yet, it’s coming out this fall. This was just the first preview of it. No one should make any assumptions about what the final version will be. You shouldn’t even believe what Apple tells you, because they will lie to your face.

    2) Apple has a long history of throwing out perfectly good technology and starting over from scratch on the promise that they can do better. That fearlessness is one of the things that makes Apple unique. However, most people misunderstand the process. When you start over, it’s impossible to have every single feature you used to. It will take time to slowly add back everything people expect. The part that confuses most people is Apple will never admit this. They will insist that such feature is not important, or no one needs it right up until the point that they add it. This is all smoke & mirrors.

    I would fully expect Apple to add transit to their maps. I think it might actually happen before iOS 6 is released, although it might not (which would be a shame, for sure). I also fully expect Apple to continue to insist transit is not important, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to punt to third-party apps, right up until the moment they add it.

    You could argue their priorities are wrong, that they should have done transit first & added driving directions later. While that would sound great to me, that’s not the world we live in. Most people drive. Apple is in California, the freeway capital of the world.

    Apple is not an activist organization, it’s just a company trying to serve it’s customers. Like it or not, most of them drive.

    • pea-jay says:

      Plus it’s not like the Google Transit function is perfect either. I’ve had it toss out some pretty odd transit suggestions. I’m familiar enough with the quirkiness to work around them.

      • Miles Bader says:

        Nonetheless, Google transit is pretty darn good in many places, and not having equivalent functionality will make the mapping app significantly less useful for many people.

        Apple does have a big market outside of car-locked U.S. ‘burbs, after all…

        [For those reasons, I'm assuming Apple will try to at least get transit support working in major transit-friendly locations by the time this OS release actually starts getting used in those markets.]

      • Andrew says:

        I stopped using Google Transit in New York (except as an occasional novelty) when I realized that it doesn’t incorporate planned service changes. The MTA’s Trip Planner does.

        • TP says:

          I rarely use it in New York. But traveling anywhere else? Invaluable. It’s great to be able to easily find transit directions in cities where I’m not even sure what’s available. It’s really changed the way I travel. I usually don’t even look into local transit in advance anymore, and 99% of the time I don’t have any problems tapping it out on my phone on the fly.

          Lots of transit operators in the US still have terrible websites where it’s difficult for non-regular riders to figure out how to get around. Google’s really changed that.

  5. Jowy Romano says:

    And here I was hoping they would add an option for bike routes with the new in-house app.

  6. Tower18 says:

    Don’t count on Google Maps proper being available in the App Store. Apple will continue to reject app submissions of a Google-built mapping tool.

  7. Frank B says:

    Thank you for posting this. I WILL NOT be buying iOS 6.

    Apple really seems to be fixing things that aren’t broken lately; first they took out a separate mic/headphone port on the Macbooks; which music lovers hate. Then they released OS X Lion; which organized individuals hate. Then they eliminated DVD drives, which music/video lovers hate more.

    Now they’ve eliminated Transit directions, which transit lovers hate.

    Apple is quickly becoming Microsoft.

  8. Mike Jach says:

    Here’s a petition to Apple to try to persuade Apple to include mass transit navigation…
    http://signon.org/sign/dont-ta.....ansit.fb10

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] months ago, when the tech giant unveiled the contours of its new operating system, we learned that transit directions had been eliminated from Apple’s native Maps app. Although I wasn’t a fan of it, some developers argued [...]

  2. [...] searching was inaccurate; directions were wrong; and the lack of transit had many advocates wringing their hands. Google Maps returns transit to the mapping app with a smooth interface to [...]

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