iPhone maps system is horrible


iPhone dropped the ball. I know that I’m singing the same tune as everyone else who owns an iPhone, but the new maps system is horrible.

First of all, it is really stupid. Anyone who spends more than 5 minutes in Japan quickly learns that all street signs, all train signs, and all signs that are at all useful for navigation in Japan have romaji on them (English alphabet). This is because kanji is very difficult especially when it comes to names. Kanji can have multiple readings, so if you are lost and looking at signs, even the locals can have trouble understanding whether they are in Otsuki or Daitsuki, two possible readings for 大月. Ben is good at Japanese, but his kanji is still pretty rudimentary, it is a constant frustration for Ben and I that although we typed the search in romaji, the street names and block names are all in kanji.

I am actually baffled by how utterly useless the iPhone is now for navigation in Japan.

Here are the recent changes:

(1) The iPhone now only registers my current location about 1/3rd of the time, including places with full service, and a clear view of the sky.

(2) Romaji versions of Japanese addresses (i.e. the way you would write the address on a letter to Japan from the United States) are no longer valid when searching on the iPhone.

(3) Searching for addresses in Japanese only works for major landmarks (you can no longer search for Ben and my house on the iPhone).

(4) Most train stations no longer register as valid locations on the phone.

(5) Driving directions are now gobbledygook. First of all, the directions are in miles. Miles are useless here, it would be better if they gave me directions based on the length of a unicorn horn, at least it would make me smile. (I changed my map settings to km, but my directions still show up in miles). Often the directions say “take exit” without giving the exit name (in Japan it is not unheard of to half a dozen exits within a km of each other). Often the kanji is just plain wrong. And now, often, the directions get you to wrong places.

(6) Walking directions now never work…ever. I wish you could at least pull up a map and watch it move as you walk around, but it can’t track you (it never really could).

(7) Directions often direct you to wrong places.

8) The stupidest part of the new system is it no longer allows you to get directions using public transportation. You can get anywhere worth going by train in Japan, and the entire country is built around their marvelous train system. I am so dumbfounded by this, I can’t think of a single person in Japan that would find this useful now that it no longer allows directions by train.

I hope they fix the maps system soon. If anyone knows a good app for navigating in Japan, please let me know.

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Katie, get someone to show you how to use the iPhone and how to change the settings. You can change miles to kilometres with one tap.

I use Maps constantly. Okinawan cities are very complicated with few direction signs and no indication of what Chome you are in. Maps copes with this brilliantly.

Also, since the upgrade, it loads MUCH faster than the Google version ever did because it uses 80% LESS data. Also, I can now use my non-cellular iPad for navigation. It works beautifully.

The fuss about Maps was largely (but not entirely) due to Google based hysteria.

Read on:

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Not having train directions is annoying, as is not having train station exit numbers on the map. It doesn't give you directions, but the Mapion app is way more detailed and accurate than Maps.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Learn Japanese.

Buy an Android.
0 ( +5 / -5 )

I never had problems with the mapping system on andorid, fully english, turn by turn (in english), GPS no problems, even the maps are in romanji. The google map app is far better to anything apple has or even google maps for iphone.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Well a combination of Hyperdia, Yahoo Japan Transit and GMAP webapps never failed me: (pass results through a transliteration service like Bing, Google or iSpeech)

For iPhone users there is also a Hyperdia By Voice app, though I didn't have an iPhone when I was in Japan last, so I'm not sure if it accepts only Japanese or also English and Chinese audio inputs as the website does for text inputs:

From the site seems English is at least supported

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Apple is moving away from the ethic of always delivering the best user experience to the ethic of maximising corporate advantage and profits. This is just one example.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

First of all, Google maps is really stupid

Personally I think it is fantastic. Never had a problem with it and I use it all the time due to my work. It's an absolutely great app.

And of course Japanese is hard ... if you don't study enough. Any language is hard if you don't study enough. Talking about all the different ways to pronounce one kanji is just falling back on the old dogma. Whenever I hear that, I feel that the person is just making excuses not to study. If Ben's kanji is rudimentary, of course he needs to study more ...

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

First of all, the directions are in miles. Miles are useless here

If you don't know how to set your phone from miles to km's I think we know where the problem lies.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Solve your problem by switching to Galaxy3 or Nexus 4 :D

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I still use Google maps ..... She has the interwebs, what is the issue?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bertie that article was painful to read... I had to stop when he started comparing apple to Jesus; can you get much more nutcase than that?

If you havent noticed, this was written by an iPhone user, and in fact every single iPhone/iPad user i know here in Japan will tell you the same thing; they dont like the new maps. A friend of mine spent 20 minutes looking for my place recently because the address he put in led him to a spot about 500m from my house. Have a search for Takeshiba station on the Yurikamome line and tell me how you plan to get there. Search for Shibuya station... wait where?

They dropped the ball, there is no denying it. Of course it will get better over time, but its a massive head start they have to catch up on.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I totally agree, the actual train routes are not on the map, granted not a problem for tiny Naha but definitely super annoying in any large city since most people orient here on convenient stores and train lines / exists.

As I said once before basically a problem with using half baked US based maps provider such as Tom Tom...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't know what all the kafuffle is about. I've only used Apple's map app here in Japan, but every time I've used it, it's worked just fine. In fact, for walking directions I far prefer it to Google maps. I use a dedicated train app anyway as it gives me many more optional routes and schedules than Google does. I also have a Japanese navigation in my car (never use the voice function - I hate machines that talk www). Mind you I can read kanji.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )


You should have carried on reading. I think you missed the point.

The only thing I can imagine is that the iOS6 Map application works differently in different places.

Anyone who has to find their way around Japan has come up against the frustrating problem of no addresses.

Only the really big streets have names, or numbers. And there is no numbering along the sides of a street. The larger area (ku) is divided into smaller plots (chome) and these subdivided into banchi. The numbers are not necessarily consecutive. 6 chome is not necessarily next door to 5 or 7 chome. It's a mess.

Well, it's worse in Okinawa because it's not written anywhere. Often the best way to find out what chome you are in is to ask someone.

So, I use the Maps app to find my way around.

In Okinawa, it works perfectly. I don't understand miles and haven't used miles since I was a kid, so I adjusted the setting so it gives directions in kilometres and metres. Siri works fine. The directions are spot on.

Since rail lines were mentioned, I guess this might be part of the difference.

There are no trains in Okinawa, the Japanese government in its infinite wisdom (sarcasm) deemed them unnecessary.

If the problem lies in the fact that it doesn't work well in the part of Japan you happen to be in, why not use one of the alternatives, there are several Map apps, cheap or very free. And in fact, if you go to the Google Map site on Safari, you can install the free app there. If you liked it as it was, this is the nearest as far as I know.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Katie, get someone to show you how to use the iPhone and how to change the settings. You can change miles to kilometres with one tap.

She did mention that she changed the settings and still it shows up in miles.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

By the way, Tom Tom is not a US-based company, it is from the Netherlands.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


She did mention that she changed the settings and still it shows up in miles.

She did, didn't she!

I haven't a clue what she actually did. As I explained, changing the preferences from miles to kilometres and metres really isn't difficult.

Go to Settings and scroll down to Maps, then, where it says, "Distances," tap on "in Kilometers."

If you scroll down a little more, there is another setting, "Map Labels." You can set "Always English" on or off. I have it set to off, so I get both.

One of my students bought an iPad. I asked her how she was doing with it, and she told me that she couldn't figure out how to use it. I told her to let her son show her - he's eight and it took him less than five minutes to do just about anything on it AND he doesn't read English well.

Happily she took my advice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Apple fanboys, drop the act. Google Map is far superior.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I am really pissed about losing google maps and you tube on my iPad, you tube freezes now when I go through safari. just thoughtless by apple

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Word. Bring back Google Maps!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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