Wednesday, December 14, 2011

oMaps, Google Map edits and Google Map Update

Back from my break, had a great time in New Zealand and Australia although my brain still isn't quite in gear again.  Today I've three topics to discuss:

Off 3G Mobile Map use:  While I was away, my iPhone 4 was invaluable for navigating around.  Of course download fees on 3G outside of the UK for me are a daylight robbery so I limited myself to picking up data via WiFi hotspots.  There are two techniques I used:
  • Google Maps:  Navigate to the place you are going whilst on WiFi, so long as you have cached all the data you need, when you're moving in city the blue locator works and you can navigate around as normal.  However, if you only stay on one zoom level whilst on WiFi you can't zoom in when you're on the ground - only the zoom levels you've cached are available.  
  • OMaps:  The OMaps App on iPhone works with OSM data and allows you to define an area and cache all the tiles at all levels prior to getting there.  Its a bit fiddly, the tiles don't download quickly and you have to get the balance right between getting a big enough map and defining an area that's large with an unreasonable download time.  Once you're through these hoops its very useful.
Google on the Ball:  After my recent critique of Google/Bing/OSM maps with respect to the UK Houses of Parliament and Clapham Junction train station Google updated their symbolisation (discussed in more detail below) in both areas.  I suspect the changes to Clapham Junction were part of a broader update but the changes to the symbolisation of the Houses of Parliament look like they are a reaction to my comments and work much better.  That sort of reaction is impressive.

I just checked Bing Maps, no change to their map.   

Google Maps Update:  In the UK, Sweden, Germany and Finland Google have just added a major update to their map.  They point out in the post that map data has improved in terms of 
  • Water bodies 
  • Parks
After a quick glance at the UK map I also note some other changes I think they've made:

View Larger Map

  • More detailed train lines and a change in symbolisation to dashed lines (see above)

View Larger Map

  • Parkland, common land, university campuses, cemeteries are marked by different colored polygons (see above)

More data on a map obviously adds to its value but if the symbolisation is not well thought out you can get problems with visual clutter.  I'll be discussing this update in terms of map usability in a later post.

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