« Today | Main | Amazingly good comiXology customer support »

Some features I want in a Maps app

| No Comments

On my iPhone, I use Google Maps frequently, and Apple Maps fairly regularly. I love both apps, but I can't help wishing there were a few things they would do better.

So here's a wishlist for Maps-app features:

  • Navigate to parking near my destination. I doubt that this feature is possible for on-street parking in most places right now, but much of the time when I'm navigating to a city destination, what I really want is the closest parking garage or public parking lot, rather than the destination itself. And trying to find that information in Google Maps or Apple Maps is a big pain. Especially because I want to be able to list all of them in approximate order of closeness to destination, so that if one is full, I can go on to the next without having to re-do the search while driving through crowded city streets at twilight.
  • Navigate to a gas station along my route, then return to my previous route. I vaguely think I've successfully done this in at least one Maps app, but even if it's possible, the interface isn't obvious or intuitive to me.
  • Reliable voice recognition in a noisy environment. This would of course be useful for plenty of other apps as well, but it would be particularly useful for Maps. Much of my use of Maps apps is while driving, and it would be very nice to be able to say (for example) “Hey, Siri, take me to a parking lot near my destination.” I know some voice commands work for navigation; I regularly tell Siri “Take me home,” and that usually works fine. But most of the time when I try to talk to Siri while driving, it ends with me yelling curses at my phone because it gets so much wrong.
  • Better accuracy of navigation. I know Apple Maps got a lot of flak in its early days for being wrong about where things were, but I've run into just as many problems with Google Maps giving me bad directions, most often telling me that there's a way through by car when there isn't. Both apps have gotten more accurate over time, but both still regularly give me bad directions.
  • Easier maps corrections. I know I can give feedback, but by the time I've finally gotten where I'm going, I'm usually in too much of a hurry to try to figure out how to tell the Maps app that it gave me bad directions. Especially when the bad directions led me to re-route so I don't have easy access to what the bad directions were any more.
  • Better UI. I mostly like the Apple Maps UI better than the Google Maps UI; but Apple Maps won't let me easily drag the map around while in directions mode, which can be intensely frustrating. I can't tell, for example, what the next turn after this one is going to be, or how far after the current turn it is, or whether the app is taking me in a weird route that I don't want to follow. And I have a hard time figuring out how to drop a pin to navigate to. Meanwhile, Google Maps's UI for what the next turn is is so non-intuitive that two smart and capable friends of mine have been unable to figure out what it means when they've tried to navigate for me. And the Google Maps lane guidance is cool in theory, but usually the number of lanes that it shows doesn't exist until right before the turn.
  • It would be nice to be able to use a Maps app to find nearby micro points of interest, like mailboxes or publicly-usable bathrooms.
  • Both apps have often been confused about where I am lately, and especially about what direction I'm facing. That's presumably the fault of the iPhone's Location Services system, but where I see it manifest is in Maps apps.
  • Ability to avoid routes with difficult/super-slow left turns; in particular, ability to have the navigation system prefer left turns that have protected-left-turn signals over left turns across uncontrolled traffic.
  • Easy handoff from one Maps app to another.
  • Better Google Maps integration with my Contacts and other Apple apps. Presumably this is Apple's fault; makes sense that Apple would want to integrate their own apps nicely with each other.
  • Better ways to tell a Maps app what my intention is. In particular, when I pick one of multiple suggested routes, and then I deviate from it slightly, most of the time I want to stick as close as possible to the original route I chose, rather than having the app completely reroute me. (This is probably another impossible feature.)
  • Better presentation of multiple routes. It can be really hard to tell what the multiple routes are on the screen where you're picking among them, in at least one of the apps.
  • Better integration of realtime changes in traffic conditions. I don't like the Waze GUI, so I was hoping that Waze data would be incorporated into the Google Maps app; and sometimes it does give me super-cool updates about alternate routes that would now be faster, and for all I know, maybe that info does come from Waze now. But still, a bit more/better info there would be nice. Like maybe it could say by voice “There's an accident up ahead; it would now be faster to get off the freeway and take surface streets.”
  • Speaking of the alternate-route timing indicators in Google Maps: Almost invariably in my experience, switching to a ”1 minute faster” route is a bad idea; that's within the margin of uncertainty about timing, and it almost always ends up taking as long as or longer than the timing estimate of the original route.
  • Which reminds me: it would be really amazing if a Maps app could monitor and take into account the current state of all traffic lights, and could route based on that info. For example, I frequently find myself having to choose between a left-turn lane or going straight, in contexts where which one is faster depends on which light turns green first. This, too, is likely impossible in the current world, but I bet some variation on it will be feasible in the not-too-distant future. (I have no inside knowledge; I'm just guessing.)
  • I fairly frequently want to be able to get directions to where someone else is, or tell someone else “Here's where I am; come get me.” There are ways to do this, especially using Glympse, or using Find Friends and other tools; but I'd like it to be easier and more integrated into Maps apps.

PS: As always, I don't speak for my employer in any of this; I'm posting as an admiring-but-occasionally-frustrated user of Maps apps.

(Wrote this entry the other day, just remembered to post it.)

Post a comment