In Defense of Apple’s Maps

We got iPhones 5 a few weeks ago now, and I have been very pleased with it. The extra screen space is nice (the keyboard doesn’t cover everything up now!) and the speed is especially welcome.

But my favorite feature, by far, is the new Maps app.

We’ve been living in Kansas City (KS) for a little less than a year at this point. I don’t know my way around terribly well. I had been using Navigon for GPS routing and it was… well, awful. Hard to start (slow, obnoxious address entry), hard to manage (volume was always set to “whisper”, seeing the entire route was painfully slow, and ending navigation was not easy to do), and the spoken directions were too frequent and annoying. I never used it because by the time I knew I wanted it, I was often already driving, and stopping for ten minutes by the side of the road to find the address and enter it was not going to be helpful. Although I did that once or twice.

In contrast, Apple’s new Maps app, in combination with Siri, does exactly what I hoped it would. Easy to find destinations, often just by voice request. Immediate startup of turn-by-turn directions. Clear maps, just enough voice direction, easy overview, resume, and end functions. Whatever problems Siri or Maps have, I don’t feel them here in KCK. I have used turn-by-turn directions more in the last few weeks than I did in the previous two years. Heck, sometimes I do it just for fun.

So, count me a fan.

Lawrence has been Street Viewed!

So, Google, purveyors of “what computers were supposed to do for us,” have this Google Maps feature called Street View. Cars with cameras on top cruise around the country, taking pictures of… well, of everything. Then they load them up online, and when you visit Google Maps, you can see actual pictures of the location you’re looking for.

They started with five cities, broadened that to fifteen, now they are up to something like thirty (Wikipedia says 35). While Kansas City got Street Viewed a little while ago, I was resigned to never getting it in Lawrence, a town of only about 140,000, for goodness sake.

I was wrong.

Looking for directions to my tax attorney today, I discovered that Lawrence had been Street Viewed. Apparently Lawrence was included in the KC update this past February, though I distinctly remember looking for it when I heard it came to KC, but whatever. Take that, Topeka! And it is awesome. Scary, but awesome. If you know where I live, you can go look at my house! (Please don’t be creepy.) The picture is from last summer, judging from the plantings and the rock in the driveway.

The wife, when told of this Intarweb coolness, gave a little bit of a shriek (okay, it was more of a polite murmur) and immediately pointed out what this would do for Real Estate… not that we’re looking mind you. And she was right.

Has your street’s privacy been invaded yet?