Unique issues in Japan for Apple iOS6 maps

Inconsistencies and funny goofs with Apple's new iOS6 maps feature have been widely reported. But in Japan, a country-specific set of technical issues contribute to the feature's lack of reliability there. The biggest problem, according to a NYT article by Hiroko Tabuchi, is that "much of its data appears to be drawn from OpenStreetMap Japan, a Wikipedia-like service that contains a lot of incorrect and outdated information," and Japan "uses a system of longitude and latitude that differs slightly from the global standard." Apple may have mixed up conflicting data sources that use both systems. (NYTimes.com)


  1. ‘Japan “uses a system of longitude and latitude that differs slightly from the global standard.”‘


    Can someone explain please? Is this like the British National Grid which isn’t quite North-South? That’s easy enough to convert.

    Or is this something else?

    1.  Erm. The British National Grid is the electricity distribution network. It isnt aligned in any direction. Britain uses the standard Long & Lat

    2. Back before satellites could make measurements beyond the line-of-sight, there were a lot of local coordinate systems. We still have those in the US, with a coordinate system for each state. When technology got better, we merged the systems in to a big unified one:

      But, now most people use the WGS-84 system that GPS uses. I find it hard to believe that OSM Japan would use something else, but it seems somewhere along the way someone was sloppy with what system they were using. If the bad areas can be identified, it’s a fairly straightforward fix.

      1.  Actually, most places still have a local grid (or more than one) as a set of corrections to WGS84. Basically, the global grid assumes the earth is a flattened ellipsoid, but that is locally only approximately true. And “approximately” may mean anything from centimeters up to many meters deviation. Not good if you’re trying to, say, build a bridge, or dig a tunnel, or make sure your new house will stand within the plot of land you bought. So local maps use locally correct grids.

        But that’s not the big issue with maps in Japan. Never mind getting walking directions inside train stations – entire stations, with shopping centers, government offices and all, are missing. Airports mislabeled or misplaced. The list is very long and far beyond funny or inconvenient. And don’t blame Open Street Map – it may not be high quality here in Japan but they’ve at least managed to map out the train stations and major buildings for several years now.

  2. I’m astonished to read that OpenStreetMap Japan has incorrect and outdated information. I use OSM regularly in Europe and it has the best and most detailed information I can find. Even better than Google Maps (forest ways, urban info like post offices or pharmacies…).

    1. Well… I’m not surprised at that, because OSM is very Euro-centric and is the most accurate there (because it has the most users there). Google is far, far better than OSM in most of the US, even (or especially) in big cities where theoretically a lot more OSM enthusiasts might exist. Google is, of course, a US-based company, so it makes sense their US maps are better than their other maps. 

      Google does lack the trails and such that OSM has through parks and the like, but the trails etc. data OSM has for most of the US is spotty and inaccurate enough that it doesn’t make a big difference.

      I don’t have any specific knowledge of Japan’s map ecosystem but I guess I feel safe in assuming that OSM there is similar to how it is in the US, and very possibly much worse.

  3. There are several different datums in use, which account for the fact that the earth is not a perfect sphere. In the US, we use the WGS84 datum. Not everyone does. Nautical charts include annotations as to which datum is used on that chart. Differences between datums can be in the range of nautical miles.

  4. This sort of thing is a “gotcha” for merging differently-sourced geodata, and it – like most #mapgate fails – is the kind of thing that gets caught in beta.  “‘ey, Bob, these roads don’t line up right”. 

    No personal experience of the groundtruth of OSM in Japan (and no examples given in the article, I note — it’s possible that Apple made as bad a hash of importing OSM data as they did TomTom data!), but it’s a wiki, so it’s better today than it was yesterday and maybe we can get some more Japanese mappers into the game.

    J-boingers, how do IOS and OSM compare for you?

  5. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Apple ALWAYS treats Japan as second class when it comes to their product development. 

    From the iPhone’s laughable (but at least now somewhat useable) IME (for inputting Asian texts) to SIRI being half a year too late (still usable) … and now this. Japan often doesn’t have signage for smaller streets, which made Google’s map app is an absolute godsend. Not upgrading for the time being. 

  6. I’m not upgrading either—the iOS5 Maps application still seems to be the best.
    Out of curiosity, though, I looked for the Mapion application in the linked NYT article and couldn’t find it on the Mac App store (I found an app by Mapion, but it was map-only, no navigation); I think the article must be referring to the web version, which is actually very good but not really a replacement.

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