September 21, 2012

Solution to iOS 6 map woes

A number of problems have been reported with the new non-Google maps on iOS 6. These include lack of integrated public transit directions, no Street View equivalent, and lots of issues with the maps themselves.

Problem with iOS 6 Maps.
Routing issue with iOS6 Maps.
Source: The Amazing iOS 6 Maps

Mike Dobson wrote a very interesting analysis of the mapping-related problems at Apple. He writes:

Perhaps the most egregious error is that Apple’s team relied on quality control by algorithm and not a process partially vetted by informed human analysis.

I think Apple should pay users to fix problems with their maps. Here’s why:

  1. Maps are a big deal. I’ve become completely reliant on the Maps app and the high-quality directions it provides (provided?), especially when I’m in a new city. For example, I can’t imagine navigating San Francisco public transit without Google Maps.

    The Maps app is actually the one feature that would keep me from switching back to a dumb phone. Everything else I could live without. I don’t think I’m alone here.

  2. Apple has lots of cash – around $100 billion cash on hand apparently. Why not use it to incentivize their huge user base of tech-savvy people to spend time fixing map problems?

  3. It’s been done before. Foursquare has superusers, which is the same idea, minus cash incentives. Google pays people who identify security vulnerabilities.

Here’s how it could work:

Apple offers iTunes credit to the first user to identify a map-related problem (e.g. city in the wrong place, mislabeled roads, etc.). Mislabelings with a certain number of identical fixes are fast-tracked, while everything else is reviewed manually over time. This would take care of the most visible problems quickly.

The only thing stopping Apple from doing this right away is that they would need an app or website where users could report problems. However, I suspect they have an internal tool that could be turned into something public pretty quickly.


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