Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

New Apple Maps, Including Look Around and Guides, Are Now Available in Canada

Earlier today, Apple announced that the full new Maps experience was rolling out to Canadian users. That’s right — not just users in Toronto and Vancouver, but across the entire country.

I have been keeping my eye on Justin O’Beirne’s catalogue of changes all evening. The cartography is undeniably better: it is more precise, just as clear, and has subtler distinctions in cities and parks. The 3D models of buildings look very good, and Look Around is terrific; I am glad that Google no longer has a monopoly on street-level imagery. It is nowhere near as comprehensive as Google’s efforts, but there is imagery for a wider range of places than I imagined.

There are also Guides: collections of locations and landmarks from resources like AllTrails, Complex, the Los Angeles Times, and Time Out. Sadly, there are currently none for Calgary, but there are already two for Banff. I hope Sprudge puts together a coffee guide for our little city; we have some terrific shops and roasters here that deserve more attention.

My first impressions of its data are more mixed and, because I cannot load old Maps at the same time, it is tough to make comparisons. I will say that I panned around a few blocks near me and found a few businesses that had pins far away from where they should have been, one business that changed its name last year and had not been updated, and a listing for a bar that closed its doors thirteen years ago, all within a couple of minutes. This is all in a city of over a million people. That’s not to say that I have never found errors with Google Maps, but I find them more rarely and, in a similarly quick glance of the same area, did not notice anything wrong.

Upon unveiling its new Maps effort in a story with TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino, Apple said that two of its goals were to improve “ground truth” and to be able to make changes faster. I hope that is the case. I don’t know how to assess the accuracy of place data beyond the most obvious flaws, and I don’t know how to evaluate that over time. I just need to be able to trust my maps provider. I have found Apple’s existing Maps client to provide good driving directions and generally accurate addresses for businesses; however, I have found business hours in particular to be inaccurate, even before this year’s restrictions.

There are so many reasons to use Apple’s Maps app. It is nicer to look at with better cartography. It is integrated throughout the system and doesn’t have ads. Its implementation of street-level imagery blows Google’s out of the water, and you don’t have to fight with user-submitted panoramas. Apple’s challenges remain with places and businesses which, unfortunately for them, form the backbone of many users’ digital mapping needs. I hope this initiative is what helps get them closer to Google’s high benchmark.