We’ve known for several months this was coming: the operating system that runs the most recent iPhones and iPads (known as ios6) has been updated with a new maps application. Gone are Google Maps and public transit directions, replaced with a map app by Apple that kicks public transit to the curb, so to speak.
What happens in ios6 when you ask for directions using transit in Apple’s maps? You’re referred to a list of apps in the Apple store that may or may not have anything to do with transit directions in the part of the world where you live.
Sigh. Welcome to the “biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone!”
The photo above is Apple headquarters in Cupertino and its voluminous parking lots. Perhaps it’s not a stretch to suggest that transit directions are gone from the native map app in iPhones because a:) it takes a lot of time, effort and money to collect all the data from transit agencies and crunch it into useable software, as Google did, and; b) it doesn’t look like too worker/programming bees are taking transit to work at Apple HQ.
Nonetheless, there are some ways to remedy the situation for iPhone and iPad users who want the new software and still want easy-to-get transit directions. To wit:
•Metro’s smart phone app — available for both iPhone and Adroid phones — has a trip planner that offers transit directions. I know that some people don’t like it. My own experience is that it works pretty well at times and not as well at others. That’s the same experience I had with Google’s transit directions.
In addition, Metro’s app allows users to find their current location on a map and then tells then the arrival times for buses and trains in the immediate area — a very useful tool when planning what time you need to be at a bus or train stop.
•You can also run Google Maps on your iPhone’s or iPad’s browser and bookmark Google Maps on your homescreen. Google Maps still offers transit directions this way — here’s what it looks like on my iPhone:
•Most large transit agencies these days have apps or mobile sites that either provide directions or schedules — or both. For example, if you’re in the Bay Area, the 511 site has an easy to use mobile site for transit directions.
Will Apple build transit directions into its apps eventually? Hard to say. The company is notoriously tight-lipped about future products and I’m sure Apple is well aware that only five or so percent of Americans take transit to work. Perhaps Apple also knows that many of the people who use transit do so because it provides them the time to doodle around on their smartphones.
As someone who has owned a lot of Apple products over the years, I’m quite pleased to see the company getting taken to the woodshed over the inadequacy of its new maps. Over the weekend, Joe Nocera in the New York Times put a whoopee cushion on Apple’s seat over the maps issue. And here’s a great Tumblr feed showing some of the mapping system’s more ridiculous gaffes.
Need further proof? Here’s the map I got when I searched for Union Station. If you tap on the red pin, you get Yelp reviews for Union Station. If you tap on the bus icon, you get Union Station’s address and phone number — no links to Metro, Metrolink and Amtrak or other bus carriers that use the station. It’s only partially useful for those driving and I guess that’s Apple’s point.