Smartphone mapping apps routinely fail
to follow centuries-old mapmaking dynamic
consistency principles and practices.
BY HANAN SAMET, SARANA NUTANONG, AND BRENDAN C. FRUIN
THE SEPTEMBER 2012 introduction of the Apple iPhone 5
smartphone and accompanying iOS 6 software replaced
a mapping app on Apple’s mobile devices based on
Google’s map data with an app that uses Apple’s map
data. It also changed Apple’s decisions as to what data
is displayed (served to the user) in response to queries,
especially implicit ones through manipulation of the
viewing window. This change led to significant related
changes in the user experience with applications that
use and serve map data and resulted in closer scrutiny
of mapping apps on mobile devices, as
we do here.
Applications on mobile devices
(smartphones and tablets) are not the
traditional ones where the map is used
in a passive manner, as in atlases, including maps that are browsed leisurely. Maps on mobile devices are instead
used in an active manner as a tool to
enable such tasks as navigation and location finding, using pan and zoom. In
this case, accuracy is paramount, and
data quality and lack of quality-assur-ance policies and protocols by Apple
in releasing the iOS 6 mapping app became apparent. This resulted in such errors as misplaced towns; see, for example, Dobson,
35 and Whitney,
and misclassified areas, as in Tumblr,
which persists (see Samet et al.
public uproar was so great it eventually
led to the dismissal of Apple’s leader
of its new mapping app project.
such errors were fixed in subsequent releases of iOS 6 and its successors iOS 7
and iOS 8.
Notwithstanding this resolution, we
have occasionally found the iOS 6, iOS
7, and iOS 8 mapping apps to be lacking
from the perspective of presentation
consistency when deployed on mobile
devices like smartphones due to limited
screen “real estate.” Surprisingly, criticism from such a perspective was rarely
leveled before (see Paolino et al.
Samet et al.
26), as we do here through
examples of how they also plague other
Our definition of presentation consistency is motivated by centuries-old
classical principles and practices used
by cartographers derived from the static
way maps have been browsed, as well as
by the evolving dynamic ways maps are
browsed involving manipulation, and
have much to do with the platform used
to view them (such as an atlas instead of
Dynamic presentation consistency
properties, including pan, zoom, full
zoom out, and wraparound, are a result of the manipulation actions users
take to browse the map and are often
achieved by gesturing (but see also Es-