By Sergie*, Guest Writer We knows how vitally important your phone’s navigation app is. Some of us, myself included, can still get lost...
By Sergie*, Guest Writer
We knows how vitally important your phone’s navigation app is. Some of us, myself included, can still get lost with an app in their pocket. That’s why it’s extremely important for us to find the right map app. It’s equally important for companies making those apps to keep up with the changing tide.
There are two main aspects of these map apps that determine whether they sink or swim. First you have to be able to find what you’re looking for. Seems simple enough. Until you add in the second part, which is that users have to be able to look for anything they can imagine. This makes the task at hand infinitely closer to impossible.
Once the map makers master the art of topography, they have to make it shiny and easy to use. Google’s little orange man that you can place on the map and get a first person view of the area with has revolutionized the industry. Other map companies are scrambling to keep up, without infringing on copyright materials.
Another great feature that these maps have is the 3D and layered technology. With them, you can set your destination point and your icon can travel along the route in near real-time 3D. Later when you’re driving the streets, you’ll recognize the landmarks from the app. It’s revolutionary and not at all easy.
It’s no wonder there aren’t more names in this game. Google vehicles roam the roads taking ariel views and mapping out cities. That in conjunction with the airplanes and other personal vehicles makes the data collection process time consuming and costly.
Once that’s completed, map companies have to add traffic patterns, local news, and restaurants to the mix. That’s why it’s easy to see how garage based start-up companies may not stand a chance in this environment.
To be able to offer these maps and direction apps, companies have to have direct communications with the GPS satellites. This entails either launching their own or piggybacking off government positioning satellites. Another large investment not for the faint of heart. Often times, smaller companies opt for providing internal data packets for the bigger apps. It’s easier to offer a Yelp! style app inside a GoogleMaps, than to reinvent the wheel.
Language barriers also cause some trepidation for many app makers. Although there are many different languages and words for certain searchable terms, app makers have to think ahead about what locations these searches are coming from.
Even in Spain where Spanish is the national language, in the tourist heavy cities English words are searched more than their native language counterparts. This encompasses having data stored in both languages, making them interchangeable, and a bit of mind reading.
Operating systems are another important component for map apps. While Google is still king among navigation, Apple has been trying to get their foot in the door. With the iOS 6 release last September, it seems that they failed miserably. The user interface wasn’t up to par and local data wasn’t close to being accurate. The failure was so complete that Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive submitted a letter of apology to their customers.
He went so far as to suggest that iPhone customers use other companies’ maps until they could repair the issues. There are rumors that the new map may be out soon, but nothing concrete has been offered. This is a true gamble by Apple who possibly alienated many of its customers with the hasty release of inferior product. That’s a lot of eggs in the iPhone loyalty basket.