Category Archives: Apple Maps & Siri

Microsoft Buys Nokia – What will become of Navteq/Here?


Microsoft bought Nokia today for $7.2 billion dollars. Nokia, you will recall, bought Navteq in 2007 for $8.1 billion in what was hailed at the time as pivotal move by Nokia into location based services.

But as Horace Dediu pointed out,  by late 2012 Navteq had been losing about $1 billion a year for Nokia and the purchase effectively had cost Nokia’s stock holders $11 billion in total since it had been acquired.  He notes that Google is rumored to be spending a similar $1 billion a year to maintain their Maps data. Tomtom, now worth about $1.5 billion in total, appears to have done little better with their $4 billion TeleAtlas purchase.

Neither company has kept up with Google in the pace of map development and certainly not in the pace of mapping updates. If you have ever had to suggest a map change to either TeleAtlas or Navteq and anticipate the map update, you know that you can get very, very old waiting. Both Google and OpenstreetMap have the ability to get updates through their systems in weeks not months or years. Neither Navteq nor TeleAtlas seem to.

Owning a mapping company has not provided much if any value to the purchasers. And it would appear that the expense of running them has constrained their ability to compete with Google.

Will that continue to be the case going forward? Can Microsoft/Nokia and TomTom extract enough value to continue their expensive and not very successful efforts to maintain the maps? It would seem that the world is not a big enough place to support 3 mapping companies even when the maps are used to support the other sales efforts of their owners. As reader Marc points out, this leaves Here as part of Nokia’s network infrastructure business and a likely drag at that. Hardly a long term match and likely to be spun off and perhaps more appealing to Apple or Samsung. What value could it possibly bring?

And where does that leave Apple? Buying a TeleAtlas a mapping company is one thing, maintaining it is quite another.

Update: Here is Microsoft’s “strategic rationale” vis a vis Here/Navteq:
Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.12.16 AM

Google Maps for iPhone & Android Include “Enhanced Navigation”


I noticed the fact that the new mobile Maps apps for Droid and iPhone included “Enhanced navigation” out of the corner of my eye but it became apparent this morning as I started playing with the new iPhone App exactly what it meant. On the Lat-Long Blog Google noted:

Enhanced navigation: In addition to current traffic conditions, we’ve added two new features to help you navigate around traffic. You can now see reports of problems on the road that you can tap to see incident details. While on the road, Google Maps will also alert you if a better route becomes available and reroute you to your destination faster. This feature is available only on Android and is coming soon to iOS.

These road reports include construction information (obviously sourced from DOT etc) as well as incident reports. It is not at all clear where that information is coming from. It is interesting to me that Google is including this real time information prior to their full absorption of Waze. It is obvious that Google would have done real time data with or without the Waze acquisition. Perhaps not as well, perhaps not as thoroughly but done it none the less.

What will be interesting with Waze is whether Google is capable of sustaining their strong community. That has not been a strength of Google. It will also be interesting to see how Apple responds to this feature or if they are able to.

Here is a screen shot of the area around Philadelphia.

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Google Maps 1.1 for iPhone Not Well Received


reviews-onlyEarly last month, Google released a 1.1 upgrade to their iPhone mapping product that was faster, integrated Google contacts and included more countries. Apparently though the upgrade has not gone over well with users as the bad reviews seem to be flowing into the App store at a significant clip.

Since its release 5 weeks ago there have been 1,179 reviews of which a great many were negative. The initial release was greeted with instant savior status and 10′s of thousands of positive reviews. Complaints about the new version included high levels of data usage, increased difficulty of use, screen dimming issues, directions failures and usability problems.

There is more than a little irony in this. I suppose that there is some possibility of a review smear campaign, although that seems unlikely, it does point out how hard mapping is. Even when you are Google.

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Siri: When did you start working?


Siri

Last night I was driving to Baltimore for an upcoming LocalU seminar. I heard the ding of a received text while listening to a podcast and I was curious. I asked Siri to read it to me. She did. She asked if I wanted to reply, I said yes. She sent my response flawlessly.

A while later I was heading down the highway and glanced at my email and wanted to send off a quick response to one ( I know, I know…it’s dangerous. Do not try this yourselves). I dictated, she understood me and inserted my response correctly into the email.

At 9:30, just outside of Williamsport and dog tired, I pulled over to the side of the highway and asked her to recommend a few nearby hotels as I couldn’t see any signs off  of the exit. She asked me which of the several choices I wanted and if I wanted to call one or get driving directions. I indicated that I wanted driving directions and  she guided me to the next exit and through a maze of service roads to a decent night’s sleep.

Hmm… it wasn’t until this morning that I realized with a start that she was 4 for 4. Was it an aberration and the Siri brain farts will start again today? I think she was showing off.

Slowly, ever so slowly, it seems that Siri is getting smarter. When did that happen?

Who is Winning the Apple vs. Google iPhone Driving Directions Battle? Too Close to Call


Yesterday I published the first question of my driving direction survey showing an extremely fragmented market. It is a category led by Google but one that is fragmented and, after a long period of calm, is once again becoming heated.

Apple, with the release of their own mapping product in September, has quickly garnered market share and has created a playbook that others like Samsung could very well follow. After Apple’s disastrous rollout where their mapping product was widely criticized (ah the problems of a market leader), life has settled in. I wanted to see, 6 months in, how Apple Maps was fairing in the competition for iPhone users and how many users were actively using products other than Apple’s.

Using Google survey I created a filter question to ascertain their preferred device/software for driving directions. Five hundred users that indicated iPhone as the answer were asked this follow up question:

  • What mapping or driving directions app do you use most often on your iPhone?

The answer? Its a statistical dead heat with Google Maps for the iPhone showing a lead that is well within the margin of error of the survey.

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What does this mean for Apple and Google?

The survey doesn’t really address whether the users still using Apple Maps are happy or just victioms of inertia. My anecdotal reports would indicate the former, that many are very happy with the product but I don’t have hard data to back that up. Apple, in releasing a product before it was fully ready, opened themselves up to plenty of criticism. More importantly they have yet to learn how to play defense well in an all too combative market that will take any opportunity to go after the market leader.

Apple has a solid market share and more importantly critical real estate. They have a product that is easy to use and very attractive. They seem to be willing to do what it takes to make Apple Maps a long term contender.

Google, a hyper competitive player, will (or should I say has) move into their release often, upgrade features till the other side gets tired strategy. Yesterday, after only two months on the market, they released a fairly significant upgrade to their iPhone Google Maps product.

As Googler Joel Headley noted on Google + yesterday in response to my survey:

It’s great to see a number of players that have great apps. I know it will help focus Google to develop new and exciting things in mapping not thought of by other folks. 

Google, not used to second place in the mapping space, seems willing to invest resources in regular and frequent upgrades to their iPhone app (even while Their Places Product is burning).

Mapquest, an early entrant into the iPhone driving directions market with an excellent product, lost a tremendous opportunity to gain visibility both before the Apple Maps release and in its aftermath. I am not sure how they missed their chance. They too could have been a contender and one has to wonder exactly what they were thinking during the fiasco. The many bit players, like the telco products, will never achieve lift off velocity. Waze, seems to have moved on with Apple’s entry.

It does seem to be a two horse race. Like I said yesterday “driving directions, long a stable and somewhat boring market, is once again in play”. The advent of mobile platforms has injected vitality and change into a market that needed just that.

Note: See yesterday’s post for methodology and issues related to the survey results that might impact the results.

 

Driving Directions Survey- A Fragmented But Important Market


 

Introduction:

When we think of driving directions, we often think that Google’s omnipresent role in the world of Maps indicates that they dominate the market for directions. When Google surpassed Mapquest and Yahoo in desktop mapping in 2009, it seemed that it was game over. But the current reality of driving directions seems to offer up a quite different picture for market share than search and for maps penetration in general. With the disruption of mobile hardware it appears that Google’s lead in this fragmented market can be attacked. While Google is in the lead, with a market share of over 30% (*see note below as to why the survey undercounts Google’s share), their position in the US market is not overwhelming and not unassailable. This has implications for both those looking to break into the mapping world as well as for the SMB that is hoping to be found by their customers.

I have recently completed this survey that attempted to answer two questions:

  • What product or service do you normally use to get driving directions?
  • What mapping or driving directions app do you use most often on your iPhone?

The survey was conducted during the the Feb 22 – March 3 period and used Google Survey. A sample of 5532, weighted to reflect the adult US Internet population were asked the first question. The first question was used to screen for iPhone users, 500 of whom were then asked the follow up question.

Driving directions are an interesting use case; they occur at both ends of the purchase funnel and again independently of any purchase intentions. Consumers might look for driving directions after doing a search for a local business or before traveling. But they are also likely to request driving directions first and enter buying mode later. While driving direction use isn’t likely to be daily or even weekly, the product is a stepping stone to more regular and habitual use of all of a vendors mapping products and more importantly provides the vendors with a critical source of current road data.

Survey Results:

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You can see from this survey that usage of driving directions is very fragmented over different hardware and software services. Because I desired to isolate iPhone users and ask them an additional question about their maps usage (more on that in the coming days), Google’s share in the survey from iPhone users is not reflected in the above. It would appear that would add about 6% more users.

The story gets more even more interesting when you look you look at that data by age cohorts. There is a clear preference by those under 45 for Google and Apple mapping products while in the older cohorts there is a significant preference for Mapquest. This implies that usage is strongly habitual and once started it is difficult for a mapping product to change users behaviors.

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Google Map for iOS Ships


Late yesterday, as you probably already  know by now, Google Maps for iOS appeared in the app store. The product includes, turn by turn directions, transit directions, traffic information, street view and the ability to sync your searches and directions with your desktop.

The early (and frequent) reviews are predominantly and overwhelmingly positive. The legitimate criticisms offered include:

  • the inability to do offline navigation,a feature in iOS maps and critical with spotty cell service,
  • no iPad app yet
  • a lack of bicycle routes
  • slowness, choppiness and performance issues (definitely on the iPhone 4 but perhaps others as well)

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In my initial test, compared to iOS Maps, Google Maps is significantly faster at generating maps. Its ability to disambiguate and find locations is superior. And I assume that its database of places is better but I have yet to test that.

It does not however integrate with SIRI which from a car based “workflow” point of view is a huge drawback. Not necessarily Google’s fault but a typical use case for me is to ask SIRI about a location and from there get directions. It is mostly hands off and very easy. Speed of map generation is not as important as the convenience of getting directions in a mostly hands free way that is critical. All in all Google Maps appears to be a great mapping product.

Amazing what Apple had to do to get Google to provide turn by turn on the iPhone. One wonders though, even with the hoopla how many iPhone owners will take the time to download and use this product instead of Apple Maps or whether Apple Maps is “good enough”.

Nokia HERE Maps Sucks (Significantly) More Than Apple Maps


Nokia, with the help of Navteq, is a seasoned mapping company. Arguably they are in the top tier of digital mapping. Their new product, Nokia HERE Maps for the iPhone, should show Apple what good mapping is all about. It doesn’t. In fact basic interface issues prevent the product from being a serious contender in the iPhone navigation market. Apple can now proudly say that there is a mapping product for the iPhone that sucks more than theirs.

Visuals: When I read reviews online about it being blurry, slow, ugly and lacking turn by turn, I couldn’t believe that Nokia would put out an inferior product. Now is the time to strike while Apple is still recovering from their Maps fiasco and come out with a great product. I thought Apple fan boys were just ranting. I particularly could not understand a map that was blurry. But sure enough the maps are totally fuzzy, hard to read and annoying. The ONLY thing clear on the map was the “here” brand name. And as Andrew Shotland pointed out even that can be confusing in the context of a map.

Basic Interface Screw Ups: My first search was for 1 Riverside NY, NY. A search that both Apple Maps and Google Maps understands. Apparently Nokia HERE does not understand common abbreviations like NY for New York. When searching for NY it turned up a foreign airport who knows where. When I searched on SF, CA it turned up Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forcing users to type out every word on an iPhone is a big hurdle from the get go and not understanding common naming short cuts is a deal breaker.

Kludgey Interface: Generally the interface for anything other than basic directions is confusing. Certain tasks like looking up nearby business are totally opaque and often non functional. I searched for nearby Grocery stores and was shown a department store.

Business Listing Quality: As far as I can tell other than certain categories like food, entertainment and shopping these are missing altogether.

Routing: I do not live in a big city so my tests typically reflect testing a product’s familiarity with back roads and short cuts. I figure if the product can get these back country roads correct far away from urban centers then the chance of getting the more important stuff right is far higher. Apple and Google both gave me a choice of routes although Apple gave the better choices and in its current iteration, a better way to select the route. HERE offered no such options and offered no alternative routing. It was their route or the highway so to speak.

Things Nokia HERE Has: It does offer public transportation routes which Apple does not. For me that is not enough to get by the egregious interface issues. They also offer the option to save a map for offline use, although the many warnings and caveats were discouraging. A map can take up to 13 mbytes of storage.

Bottom Line: Don’t waste your time or bandwidth to download the product unless it is for a case study in the decline of Nokia as a force in the mobile world.

Some additional screen shots comparing Apple Maps & HERE Maps output (click to see images at full resolution): Continue reading