Apple Drops Transit from Maps App, Drawing Ire

Monday, June 18, 2012


Early adopting gadget lovers tend to love transit, but for once, they're feeling left behind by Apple.

The tech giant rolled out a slew of new products and features last Monday including a new operating system, iOS6, for iPhones and iPads. As part of that upgrade, a new Maps feature is being hailed as the centerpiece. New York Times technology critic David Pogue called Maps "the gem of iOS6."

There's a new voice activated Siri-centered driving directions feature, and walking directions remain. But when Apple revamped the mapping application from the ground up it left  transit directions on the side of the road.

That has sparked cries from transit advocates and a petition campaign by WalkScore, the website that rates neighborhoods on how friendly they are to life without a car. WalkScore is calling for a social media campaign to  pressure Apple to restore transit directions.

"We believe that having transit directions on your phone helps public transit work better for everyone, so we’re asking you to join us in requesting this feature from Apple," the WalkScore website reads.

Tech bloggers took note as well. TheNextWeb praised the upgrade, but still focused a post on the missing transit routing, lamenting how inconvenient it will be to ride to San Francisco without timetables integrated into a smartphone app: "This could mean that Apple will leave this functionality to third-party apps, but if that’s the case, we’re not sure when that will happen."

Subway and bus mapping became collateral damage in the fierce business competition between Apple and Google. Until this version of Apple's operating system, its products relied on licensing agreements with Google and other map providers. Now, as part of a broader effort to shed Google apps from iPhones and iPads, the Apple Maps app has been rebuilt, and it seems, transit directions weren't the top priority to include in this beta launch.

That move seems out of step with the Apple ethos. Long ago when the company was rebuilding its brand as the hip, cool computer for the next generation it heavily courted teens and college students, banking on winning over lifetime customers while they were young and still forming consumption habits. Considering how young people are driving less and taking transit more, launching the new Maps without this feature is a rare moment when Apple's magic touch is slipping from the pulse of the cool kids. Some millennials even told The Takeaway their preference for transit over driving is so that they have more time to use smartphones!.

Apple didn't return calls for comment, so we don't know when or if transit will be added to Maps. The best we have to go on is speculation in from Apple watchers based on hints in the product announcement: PC World says transit directions may have to be third-party apps, not integrated into the Maps app itself. Gizmodo called that solution a "cop out." Apple Insider points out that release notes for iOS6 say third party apps "can now register as a routing app" if they offer turn-by-turn directions, and that will permit those easier more integrated access to Maps. It’s not clear what that means except iPhone users will have to download a program — like Google Maps — to get transit directions, the feature won’t come standard.

Then again, when Google maps launched it didn't have transit mapping either. Google only added them in February of last year, and upgraded to real time directions a few months later.

So when will transit directions come back to Apple products, it's cliché but true: we'll have to wait and see.


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Comments [5]

Ean from Toronto, ON

The end of the article is incorrect. I've used Google Transit directions in Toronto for AT LEAST the past two years. I don't think they use the same data provider as MapQuest.

Jun. 18 2012 01:21 PM

In the Netherlands this function never worked at all, and i find it a greater improvement that they allow third party apps to add this information to the app than to try and add it all themselves, as only the major countries benefit from that.

Jun. 18 2012 11:23 AM
Robert from nyc

I hate to see how false and misleading this is. You will have transit info in iOS 6 and it won't be in a separate app. Apple built an API in the maps app that allows developers to create layers over the map and interactions with the map for transit systems and other mapping needs. You will have transit info but you will have to download it into the map for the first time. As a plus this will all work offline.

Jun. 18 2012 09:01 AM
Snoop from Brooklyn

Lame, lame, lame. After being thoroughly underwhelmed by Siri, I see no reason to update to the next OS if it includes such a big step back in the most important app I use. Written on my iPhone 4s.

Jun. 18 2012 07:16 AM

i travelled around a few major cities in japan as a tourist and found transit very useful! the Japanese iPhone users are going to hate this. that said, i found myself using for transit features the old iOS inbuilt app did not have..

Jun. 18 2012 05:09 AM

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