Yahoo Maps Gets Design Refresher

Following the Yahoo logo update three weeks ago, Yahoo Maps today landed in tow and got itself a design and usability update.

tumblr_inline_mtoww8PDq31qhxx5sThe Yahoo Search Company blog reports a couple of “key new features and content options” that enhances results for local searches on Yahoo Maps, but only in the United States, it seems. With the new updates, the system now shows you different routes to a destination depending on whether you plan to walk or take the public transport. “The public transportation view lets you see different options so you can pick which one looks best to you. All connections and transfers are clearly presented in a thoughtful manner.” – says Anand Chandrasekaran, Senior Director, Product Management on the company blog.

Along with the new route updates, Yahoo has also updated satellite imagery. ” We’ve recently refreshed satellite imagery for over 14 million square kilometers of land – significantly reducing  cloud cover, improving edge matching and image sampling and creating coast to coast views” – promises the web company.

There’s no denying Google’s monopoly in online mapping and street routing, but a little competition in every field does nothing but good for the average consumer. If you appreciate Yahoo’s gusto, check out their maps offering on

Best Travel Apps

Here is a list of vacation apps that allow you make the best use of your smart phone from boarding the flight, to finding your way around town. These apps will help you on almost every leg of your journey. This comes after you plan your trip of course.

Know your phone costs

If you plan to make a fair number of calls, it is best to purchase a local sim from the airport. A data plan should ideally be avoided if you can locate free or cheap WiFi spots with the Free Wi-Fi Finder.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for free

Another option is to rent from for a flat rate of $15 per day. Do check with your carrier for international roaming plans and compare rates.


Book your flight

Use  Matrix Airfare Search to find the best flight deal.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for free

Find your best seat on the flight using Seat-Guru.

Note: Available for Apple for free


Know your flight

In case of flight delays, use FlightTrack Pro to provide you with quick updates.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for $9.99

If you are in the US, you can check what the carrier legally owes you for any inconvenience using FlyersRights.

Note: Available for Apple for $0.99


Know the airport

Use GateGuru to identify eateries, services, and stores near your terminal and how travelers rate them. It also provides airport maps and airport security wait times.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for free

If you are unavoidably late and miss your connecting flight, use Next Flight to list of all available flights up till the next two days. If there really are no suitable options, it allows you to look for cabs, hotels and car rentals.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for $2.99

To keep up with changing rules on baggage and identification, use My TSA to check what items you can carry and more.

Note: Available for Apple for free


Know your time killers

If you have an extremely long layover, use Priority Pass to find and check prices of airport lounges.

Note: Available for Apple, Android, Blackberry for free

The first thing I normally do when I have some time to kill is open Kindle.

Note: Available for Apple, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone for free

You can also use the Pocket app to save articles, videos, or web pages to read offline at your leisure.

Note: Available for Apple, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone for free

If reading is not your thing, then the next fascinating thing is to play games, there are plenty of games to choose from the Techie-Buzz archives (Techie-Buzz:Top 8 Pub Game iPhone Apps).

Know your itinerary

Instead of having multiple print outs, use TripIt to organize all your trip reservations like you would in your own pocket diary.

Note: Available for Apple, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone  for free

Know your weather

Plan for any weather contingency using the reliable Weather Channel.

Note: Available for Apple, Android, BlackBerry,Windows Phone for free

Know your budget

The most stressful thing about trips is keeping track of where your money has gone. Keep track of bills and your current cash reserve using Virtual Wallet.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for free


Know your transport

The best way to explore a city is by foot or using public transportation. The MetrO app has details on public transportation systems in more than 400 cities across the world.

Note: Available for Apple, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone  for free

If you are on a road trip in the US, use RoadNinja to find stops for the local attractions in addition to food, medicine, gas, and lodging along the way.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for free


Know your city

Plan your local sightseeing tours with Viator that sells tours in many major destinations around the world.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for free

In addition to the much loved Google Maps, use Yelp to get the local’s recommendation for the best places to be at, no matter what time it is.

Note: Both available for Apple, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Palm  for free

The local newspapers often have details on activities and discounts available for the day. Use City Papers to find where the local’s are heading. It has access to 3,000 English-language ­newspapers worldwide.

Note: Available for Apple for $0.99

Get the details of the sights and sounds in the city using Wikihood that pulls details from Wikipedia entries.

Note: Available for Apple  for free

If you are in a city where you do not speak the language, use Google Translate for easier communication.

Note: Available for Apple, Android for free

Apple Kicks Out Maps Executive, Richard Williamson

Richard Williamson, the Apple executive behind Apple Maps, was reportedly kicked out of the company two weeks ago according to The Wall Street Journal. When Williamson was with Apple, he primarily focused on Siri and Maps, two of the bigger flaws within iOS. His boss and senior vice president of iOS, Scott Forstall, got the boot in October. Williamson’s official title at Apple was Vice President of iOS Platform services.

Bloomberg has reported that Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, was reportedly the one who let Williamson go. Cue is currently overseeing Apple Maps and is working to make it better.

Williamson and Forstall were both likely kicked out of Apple because of Apple’s rocky launch of Apple Maps with iOS 6. iOS 6 Maps has suffered from many flaws such misplaced location errors and is lacking both bike and public transportation maps. Apple has yet to comment on Williamson’s departure nor have they made his departure public like they did with Forstall’s.

Image Source: Yuya Tamai

Tim Cook Apologizes For Maps, Suggests Alternatives Including Google Maps

Apple ditched Google Maps in favor of its own Mapping service in iOS 6, and promised that it will be the most advanced mapping app with 3D buildings and effects. However, once the iPhone 5 and then iOS 6 were released, everyone realized that Apple had made false claims. The new Maps app in iOS 6 is much inferior to its competition especially Google Maps and lacks a lot of detail. Over the last couple of weeks, jokes about the new Maps app in iOS 6 have been flowing right, left and center and Apple has been heavily criticized for providing its users with a service that barely works.

Today, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has written an open letter to its customers accepting that the company “fell short on [its] commitment” to deliver a world class experience with its Maps app. The letter then states that Apple is “extremely sorry for the frustration” the new Maps has caused to its customers, and that the company is doing “everything” they can to make the experience better. The letter also states that as more and more iOS 6 customers will use the Maps, the better the service will get.

Tim Cook even went on to suggest iOS 6 users some other alternatives to Maps including Bing, MapQuest, Waze or Google and Nokia maps. While suggesting other alternative Maps service from Apple is a bold move, the company should not have removed Google Maps from iOS 6 or should have given users a warning who were upgrading from iOS 5 to iOS 6.

Below is the full letter from Tim Cook -:

To our customers,

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook
Apple’s CEO


Google Maps Coordinate Lets Bosses Spy on Subordinates

I am unsure of what Google actually thinks it is doing with all of these tracking tools. I am also very unsure of the people who actually buy into the “it makes jobs easier, man!” argument that tags along with one of these revolutionary products of Google. However, no amount of privacy advocates’ rhetoric and powerful written oratory removes Google’s resolve to make more and more of these privacy-killing tools.

The latest from Google is Google Maps Coordinate. It is a little bit like Latitude, except, it is always on (more or less) and works inside buildings where, usually, Global Positioning System (GPS) cannot detect the device that it is receiving transmission from.

Google claims that for $15 per month per employee, Coordinate will allow for rapid tracking and deployment of groups of people wherever they are needed. Daniel Chu, Google’s Senior Product Manager said:-

“Imagine you are a call centre operator at an electric utility company. A call comes in reporting a downed powerline in one of the northern suburbs of your city, and an entire neighbourhood is without power. You need to quickly dispatch one of your line repairers to the site, which is almost an hour away. To save time and get the power back up quickly, you want to know which line repairers are already in the area and send them the relevant information about the job. That’s where Google Maps Coordinate comes in.”

So, yes, it helps makes things easier, but at what cost? Chu also said that the workers will be able to turn off tracking as and when they require – for example, while they are at lunch or something of that sort. But turning it off at any time kind of beats the point, does it not? Given a choice, I would keep that thing turned off at all times.

Currently Google Maps Coordinate is Android only, with an iOS version planned for the next year.

INRIX to power Google Maps for Real-Time Traffic Information

Google has selected INRIX’s real-time traffic information to help power its navigation and mapping applications. The service integration will be initially available in 8 countries across Europe with plans to roll out into additional markets by the end of the year. INRIX’s real-time traffic information for major motorways will be integrated with Google products and services online and on mobile phones.

INRIX operates the largest crowd-sourced traffic network in the world. In an independent test of traffic information in the world, the University of Maryland has found INRIX real-time traffic information to be accurate with 5 mph of actual traffic speeds over 90 percent of the time.

It is powered by information from 30 million GPS and cellular-based devices as well as from their network of tens of thousands of traffic reporters. These reporters typically provide information about accidents, speed traps, and other events. Apart from the crowd-sourced data, INRIX analyzes traffic and traffic-related data from hundreds of public and private sources including traditional road sensor data and unique local traffic-impacting events. Along with all the traffic information gathering, INRIX uses its analysis techniques and knowledge of the traffic business to analyze road closures, accidents, construction, events, and speed data together.

INRIX already has more than 200 customers and partners including Ford, Nissan, Vodafone, and more, who’ve selected INRIX traffic information and connected driving services to power their solutions in automobiles, online, and on mobile devices. INRIX also provides independent app for all major mobile platforms, including Windows Phone 7 which I wrote about recently.

Interestingly, INRIX Traffic Services leverage statistical analysis techniques which were originally developed by Microsoft Research. With this latest INRIX-Google deal, the baffling statement Microsoft Research powers Google Maps – isn’t too off the mark! :)

Google Map Maker Brings Out the Cartographer in You, Takes another Step towards Crowdsourcing

Google Map Maker has taken a step towards a seemingly social mapping experience where users can edit maps to make them feature rich and add data for their neighborhoods onto maps. The service has been available for three years now, though it was launched in the US only today.

Today we announced Google Map Maker for the United States, enabling users to add their expert local knowledge to the map directly through this free online tool. Users often have the best and most up-to-date knowledge of the places that matter to them, and with Google Map Makernow available for 187 countries and regions around the worldwe’re working to make this information available to you and your customers.

The best thing about this self-mapping is that the process is curated to guarantee relevance and accuracy, and offloads the duty of keeping Maps fresh, to the user himself. At the end of the day, the user is the one who benefits completely from making these updates and changes. The changes will also appear on Google API Premier and Google Earth Pro once accepted. Clearly, all your changes will be seen by the world. This adds to the existing  list of places on Google Maps, increasing the visibility for previously unlisted local businesses automatically.

I am amazed to see how late Google has been in bringing the feature to Google Maps in the US, when the US is clearly one of the countries to get all Google features first. Surprisingly, it has been available in India for a longer time. You can try out mapmaker for Google at this URL.

More info is available here in this video- Google Map Maker.