Monday, July 22, 2013

Google Maps for Android: From Good to Worse

I recently read In The Plex by Steven Levy.  In his book Levy describes a company with vision, long-term vitality, and technical savvy.  Hearing about the vision and standards of Google inspired me to be a better researcher in my work at Georgia Tech, and, as proud as I am to be a part of FalconView, I'll even go so far as to admit that I've been tempted (and only tempted) to send Google a resume just to see what happens.

I say all of that to preface my negative comments with the point that I hold nothing against Google.  Here in the South if you want to say something negative about someone and still be polite, you have to start off by saying, "bless his heart."  Well, bless their hearts, Google has goofed up Maps for Android in some pretty serious ways.

Goodbye, Easy Navigation

Before the latest update if I needed to navigate any place, I would open the navigation application, I'd press, "Speak Destination," I'd speak, and then I'd be off all within about twenty seconds.  To find a nearby BBQ place I only had to press a couple of buttons, say, "BBQ" and I was practically there.  I loved it.

Maybe I've missed it, but the easy button is now gone.  I have to open the navigation application and press about seven buttons before I can speak my destination. If I turn off the screen on the way to conserve battery life, I have to push a few more buttons to return to the navigation screen.  The application crashed on me three times yesterday on the way across town.  In short, the navigation feature of Google Maps for Android is no longer suited for use while in the car, which pretty much defeats the point.

Goodbye, Latitude

I used Google Reader daily only a few months ago, then Google pulled the plug on the entire application.  (Thanks, Feedly, for the great alternative.) Now they are pulling the plug on Latitude.  It's already completely removed from Google Maps for Android. My family and I used to keep up with one another using this feature, and I liked exploring my location history.  No more.  Reader, Latitude, and probably more to come are being sucked in by Google Plus.  Here's the kicker.  Very few people that I know use Google Plus.  Google beats the world in organizing the world's information and making it useful -- they are absolutely awesome in this regard -- but this strategy of forcing all Google users to engage in Google Plus is ill advised.  Let's face it (bad pun intended), Google doesn't have the masses in social media.  Their strategy to get there is frustrating their biggest fans.

Trust me, I'm one of them.