Apple switching from Google Maps to its own “creation” is a pretty interesting move. By “creation” I of course mean a mashup of TomTom data and OpenStreetMap data among other sources with their own vector maps and 3D imaging. The 3D thing is a cool effect, but that’s all it is, an effect. I can’t think of many, if any practical uses for it.
The maps from a visual standpoint are quite nice. They look great and are quite readable. At least as good, if not better than Google Maps. The quality of the data however is pretty terrible. The maps are sometimes incomplete and things aren’t placed correctly.
In my opinion the worst offense is the lack of public transit data. For larger cities like New York, San Francisco, London that is a high-profile gap. Given the size of the population in those cities (and how much of the press operates out of those), it just makes the problem that much worse. Given that data is pretty accessible (NY’s MTA even has a website dedicated to it), I can’t see how they let that one slip. Simply showing stations and what trains are there would have been a huge improvement.
The upside to all this is maps is really a web-based service. That means Apple can iterate on it 24×7 without having to release a ton of updates. That means the maps in theory will improve in quality over time without most people even realizing.
That said, cartography is really difficult stuff.