The one area though where Apple had a distinct advantage was in the Watch integration of Apple Maps. It is a brilliant implementation and takes navigation to another level. Its almost like wearing the internet. So when I saw that the new Google Maps upgrade included Apple Watch integration I wanted to test it to see if it had measured up to Apple’s implementation. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
The new Google Maps for iPhone has some well thought out additions like the ability to compare the times for transportation methods and better integration of Streetview.
But I was really curious about the Watch integration. While it mostly worked there were enough design and implementation issues in this first revision that most Watch users will find it crude.
Can’t Get Enough of that Personal Info
When you first launch the Watch app, in classic Google style, it works very hard to give you no option but to add additional information to Google.
Still in Beta?
Google, insistent on extracting more personal information, then forces the Watch user back to the IPhone App. There you are immediately presented with this idiotic warning that the product is in Beta. Given that the product has existed in one form or another since 2011 on the iPhone and longer than that on Android and the desktop, one has to wonder, just when will it be fit for service? Saying the Google Maps App is still in Beta is like saying I am still in Beta but that I will grow up someday. Hah! In your dreams.
Cluttered Watch View
A Watch has very limited real estate and when you are driving that limited real estate can become a liability if you try to jam too much information in to. Google does just that. Apple presents one simplified high level view in a large bold presentation.
Non Persistent Display
On the Apple Watch, a raise of the wrist to the steering wheel both turns on the watch face and by default, presents the next navigation instruction. One of the more annoying attributes of the Google Maps for Watch is the fact that the Maps driving direction panel is not persistent and disappears from the screen afer the watch goes to sleep. A wrist raise to activate the watch display brings up the clock and the user is required to double click the crown to get back to the Map direction. This could be some limitation of the Apple API, I have no idea but it makes the product almost useless in a real world setting.
No Haptic Feedback
When wearing the Apple Watch and approaching an upcoming turn, it gently taps you on the wrist 200′ away from an upcoming turn. It’s like the hand of
God the Internet reaching out and touching you. It is a very personal and very useful implementation of haptic feedback. I have been told that the feedback varies slightly for left and right hand turns, although you can’t prove that by me. Its a great feature and makes driving in a strange town much less stressful. Google, to its loss, has not implemented that feature yet.
The Google Maps Watch implementation needs improvement before it would incentivize anyone to switch. And in its current form, makes navigation less safe rather than more safe.