With the announcement of iOS6, Apple has dropped Google Maps as default mapping application. Apple has chosen to strike out on their own and created an new map service, Maps. Which is great right? Everything that Apple does is well-polished and flawlessly executed. The new Map application has the potential to be a great solution that matches or bests what is currently available from default Google Maps. But all the features that iPhone/iPad users are used to will be included with Maps
Apple isn’t going to natively offer transit, walking and biking directions. Instead there will be turn-by-turn driving directions. Out of the box (or off the cloud or whatever it would be) iPhone and iPad users wont have the same integrated transport options that they currently do as with Google Maps. For users choosing to integrate public transit in their travels, there will be no multimodal routing engine, no transit schedule info and no real time travel updates for public transit. Kevin Webb has discuseed this here. Instead users will be able to download separate transit, biking or walking directions apps that, when transit info is expected, will be linked to from Maps.
Not so bad right? If you live in a city, you can download the app that your local transit agency or a developer produced. And when you travel, just download apps for the city. Maps will just point you there when you’re looking to board the bus or take the take.
But what if that transit agency didn’t produce an app? Or what if it didn’t make for developers to tap into their data? Or what if the available apps just suck? Or what if you don’t know what transit providers are in your area or a foreign?
There are hundreds of agencies that dont have the manpower or expertise to create apps. There are dozens of transit agencies that provide their travel data only to Google Maps, but don’t open it so other developers can access it. There are millions of iOS users who will lose direct clear access to information about public transportation.
This spat between Apple and Google highlights the issues with closed or selective platforms and restrictive data policies. Small shifts in the ecosystem can cause major ripples. We see the issues illuminated – incomplete open data and a loss of universality of transit direction availability built-in.