It’s kinda disturbing how unimaginative new phones are.

So far the iPhone5 features that I can recall: bigger screen (though not very big still, probably to reduce pain on developers), one extra row of icons (i’m fishing for points here), panorama mode (seen in Android 4.0), Apple Maps (arguably a step backwards), new expensive proprietary cable (one step forwards and one step backwards), passbook (which is kinda iffy at the moment), uncertain 4G.

It seems like we’ve gone back to a cycle of only needing to change your phone when your contract plan expires. There just doesn’t seem to be so much of a difference other than bigger screens and batteries. It’s kinda sad. For awhile, new phones with amazing features were appearing every few months. You needed a new phone to do stuff that seemed really cool and critical.

Well I’m happy to get a phone with NFC, WiFi-Direct, USB OTG, faster GPS. It seemed a step up. But all these aren’t widely accepted yet. I don’t have 4G/LTE/whatever rubbish they wanna call it to fool customers. And I hear the S3 with 4G is coming out in weeks. But at the prices the telcos are charging, versus the actual coverage, plus the reduction in bandwith cap, I’ll pass until the technology and network matures. I can sufficiently wait for WiFi to do heavy duty loading.

On top of that, my Nexus does not have mobile data and needs to depend on my hotspot, making the 1gb or 2gb limit even more unappealing.

More Apple vs Google Maps update:

Someone analysed some Ontario, Canada town name data, and concluded that Apple Maps is severely lacking in geolocation data.

Someone else expanded on the work, and concluded that Apple Maps data is not that far off Google Maps data. And observes that Google Maps preferentially displays alternate results even if they do not have a perfect match. That is a really nice observation. If that’s true, that means that Apple did buy most of the generally available mapping data, and presumably correctly put in place systems to return this data to the app user. BUT, they have not accounted for usage patterns, user behaviour, etc. It could mean that GMaps smartly offers up results even when it doesn’t have any, or it guesses what the user is looking for, or it ‘knows’ what you’re looking for.

This actually possibly changes the game quite a bit. Ugly maps, bad labelling aside, this can be appropriately described as a search problem. And that is where Apple is in big trouble. Imagine what happens when you use Maps.

1. You want to go somewhere or you want to find a place
2. You key in your mental description of this place (I mean, we hardly ever search complete addresses, and even then we type it in messily)
3. The search systems attempts to guess what you are looking for and return the appropriate geo coordinate.
4. You hopefully find your place.

We, surprisingly, from years of using Internet search engines, have learned to refine our keyword searches, and then select the best search result from the result page. As humans, we grumble if it takes more than a few seconds to return answers, we grumble if we don’t see any answers, and we are hopelessly confusing to a computer. I could go on about this but it is largely a search engine behaviour case. And if Apple has to build up their search engine skills in order to serve up maps properly, well they can try, they can do it, there are plenty of search engines around, but maybe it just wasn’t what they signed up for. And Google’s mountain of data dramatically helps their algorithms (less iOS device location data now).

I can’t wait for more fun stuff to appear. Yipee. Rivalry.


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