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This article was published on September 24, 2012

Baidu and Google Japan introduce updated map services, following discontent with iOS 6 maps

Baidu and Google Japan introduce updated map services, following discontent with iOS 6 maps
Jon Russell
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Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

Baidu and Google Japan are among the first to jump on the issues surrounding the mapping experience on iOS 6 after the duo both released updates to their respective services in China and Japan, putting the heat on Apple in two countries where the new system has been particularly poorly received.

Baidu, which itself rivals Google across a number of services, has made a major update to its maps service for iOS and Android with version 4.0, which has hit the app stores for both mobile platforms.

The Chinese search giant has brought in a raft of changes, as Tech In Asia explains, which include discount vouchers for selected retailers and restaurants, and an upgraded voice navigation system.

Two Google-like services have also been introduced: indoor navigation for shopping malls, and real-time traffic and public transport information.

The public transport navigation is still in its early stages, and is being tested in one city, but the firm has made the voice navigation feature — formerly an optional add-on — a pre-loaded part of the service.

There is also a cool Layar-style augmented reality option to help locate retailers using a mobile device’s camera.

In Japan, Google announced [translation] that it has added bus routes to its Google maps Web service. Japanese users already have access to driving, walking and public transport directions, but Google confirmed that the new feature means that “when you search for the best public transport options to a place, we’ll also suggest bus lines to your list of options”.

Google, somewhat cheekily, recommends the Web app for iPhone and iPad users, since the changes are already live in the Android app. Indeed, using the ‘my location’ feature, Japanese users can now also get easy walking directions for buses, which is one area that mobile maps are much used for in the country.

David Marx, communications manger for Google Maps APAC, explained to TNW how the changes benefit locals and tourists alike:

One of the nice examples of this new feature is that you can now go to Kyoto on the bullet train, open up Google Maps on your phone at the station, put Kyoto Station as your location, put the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) as your destination, and have Google Maps tell you the right bus line to take.

For tourists weary of the sheer numbers of buses in Kyoto or not confident enough to attempt to transfer subway lines, they can quickly see there’s a direct route on Bus 205 that will take them right up to Kinkaku-ji.

Users across most of the world have voiced dissatisfaction with the new maps, which have considerably less details, but the changes have been particularly bizarre in China. There, as we reported, the satellite and hybrid views are limited to covering China only while Apple and partner TomTom have taken a unique approach to the Diaoyu Islands.

Initially the islands, which are the subject of a dispute between Japan and China, were left out all together, however that was changed and instead, bizarrely, the maps were included twice. That issue is all the more critical given that Japan’s recent move to buy them has resulted in significant discontent in China, with Japanese firms — including Panasonic — bearing the brunt of, at times violent, protests.

The issues have been less controversial in Japan, but the user experience has suffered considerably, particularly in Tokyo where maps are relied upon to get around.

Following the release of iOS, a number of Japanese iPhone and iPad owners took to Twitter to voice their disappointment with the state of the new maps. Some went as far as to claim that they will hold off on updating their devices until the situation is improved – which presumably means the launch of a Google Maps iOS app.

A solution may be on the horizon for those with jailbroken devics after iOS hacker Ryan Petrich demonstrated an early video of his efforts to port the Google Maps service to iOS 6. While he admits it is initially “buggy”, Petrich anticipates that a release will be forthcoming for devices that have manually overridden Apple’s settings soon.

We’d recommend holding out for the Google Maps iOS app however, though there’s no word on when it might finally arrive.

We’ll leave you with the cute video that Google Japan put together for the release of the new features:

Images via Flickr / calsidyrose, Tech In Asia and Google Japan

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