Wednesday, June 13, 2012

App: Google Maps for Mobile


We also chose to look at the navigation technology provided by Google in their default maps application, which is installed by default on most Android phones, and is also available for iOS.  Google Maps is a mapping and way finding application which includes turn by turn multistep directions. Particularly, we were interested in the directions that this application could provide for transit riders, and how these might be improved upon by extension in a new application. The Google Maps API is easily accessible by third-party applications. The success of their application is undoubtedly due to the nearly-comprehensive data which Google has collected about transportation systems worldwide, making it difficult to create a competing product for companies without similar resources.


While this application provides the ability to chain trips, and to combine segments of different modes, it does not allow for complex timings to be used. Rather, it is dependent on the user to input the desired time of departure, time of desired arrival, or current time, and provides instructions which include considerable waits.  Running a sample trip using their transit data, one can determine when they need to leave in order to incorporate the walking portion of their trip, and one can schedule this trip for later in the day. But there is no internal device for reminding the user to leave at a certain time in order to catch their bus.  It also does not appear that the trip information is updated based on real-time data provided by the agency, though this information is readily available.  One might also imagine it useful to have their trip information updated automatically based on missed buses, delays, etc.

Overall, the interface is simple and intuitive and it is no wonder that third party applications attempting to directly mimic its functionality have had a hard time competing. Apple has already received an enormous amount of criticism for the app they are attempting to develop to replace Google Maps in iOS 6, as it does not currently contain any transit information. And while the visual impacts of the new 3D mapping technology being added to Google Maps are certainly stunning, the key to this application lies in its basic functionality.

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