I’ve been using the Apple maps application almost religiously since it came out. It seems like it’s a bit of a taboo saying that, since it feels as though the general consensus amongst iPhone users right now is that Apple maps leaves a bit to be desired. It’s a shame, because I honestly do think it’s a beautifully designed app. It works quite well in most scenarios. Albeit, I live in a densely populated city – just a hop, skip, and a jump to Cupertino. So, I’m not ruling out the idea that different locales suffer a different user experience. I just think that the maps app has a lot of potential. It’s beautifully designed, in traditional Apple fashion, and it has modern functionality that the original maps app left me desiring. It does turn by turn directions, reroutes automatically, integrates natively with your operating system; these are literally expected features in any reliable GPS application.
I think my reasoning is fairly logical, but society’s reception of the application has been pretty negative as a whole. In my opinion, this is a typical example of humans having trouble coping with change – but that’s neither here nor there. Here’s my interpretation of what happened. People got used to the original maps application, which relied upon the map data that google has accumulated over the years. The application was not without it’s flaws. You had to manually tap through the directions, it was ugly, if you accidentally went the wrong way you had to manually re-route. I always felt pretty nervous using it while I was driving, but what the original maps application lacked in functionality it filled in with convenience. You could type a very vague idea of where you were going into the search field, and it pretty much got it spot on every time. It knew where every Starbucks was, and pointed them all out to you. You could even type something like “Chinese food” into the search field, and it would show you where all the Chinese food available within a ten mile radius. The output of data was tailored to the human experience, and I think that’s what really set people off when the iOS 6 update came out.
Even so, up until recently, I found myself using Apple maps for driving directions all the time. Sure, I had to know exact addresses to get where I wanted to go; but the app makes up in user experience what it lacks in data. That was until I started using Waze.
You’ve probably heard of Waze before, but never used it. I’m not exactly sure what the block was. I suppose I wasn’t ever dissatisfied by the basic functionality of the first-party app, but on the recommendation of a close friend I decided to give Waze a shot.
The experience that Waze provides is playful, and highly usable. Driving is converted into a game, as you earn points based on distance and level up from being a “baby wazer.” It also has a ton of useful crowd-sourcing functions built in. People can inform you of traffic jams, road work, red-light cameras, and many other driving hazards; and Waze reports them to you in real-time. I’m sure you can imagine how useful this can be, but the bottom line is that it gets you there quickly. The data behind the scenes is solid. Your routes are based on your surroundings and crowd-sourced data, and nine times out of ten this amounts to a very enjoyable ride. It’s a GPS application with the sensibilities of the social media generation.
My experience with Waze got me to thinking. I wouldn’t mind this being the default functionality of my integrated GPS application, and I think that Apple has a real opportunity with Waze. Right now, their customers are wounded. Most anyone you ask will say that Apple maps is terrible, and not even give it a second thought. Some people absolutely refuse to upgrade because they’ve become so dependent on the original Google maps design, and they don’t view Apple’s product as a compelling one. Now, imagine if Apple were to acquire Waze. All of a sudden Waze’s community is six times the size it originally was, because everyone with an Apple ID becomes a member. Apple maps once again becomes a trustworthy product in the eyes of consumers, because users of Waze swear by it – and owning an iPhone becomes even more fun.
I personally have no idea whether or not this has crossed Apple’s mind, but it seems like a no brainer to me. I, for one, hope that someone behind closed doors at the Loop has the same epiphany.
Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts in the comment field below, too. ;)