letting Siri drive, Beta 1

On Saturday I went outlet shopping with my girlfriend. Since this was a new destination for both of us, we looked to our iOS devices for directions.

Still sitting at home, I found the LL Bean anchor store on both with 4S with iOS 5 Google Maps and my AT&T iPad 3 with iOS 6 Beta 1 Apple Maps, powered by Garmin I believe. There were differences every step of the way. First, the Google routes, all of them, had me drive through a bunch of non-major highways to get to the first major highway. The Apple maps told me to drive to the highway closer to our start, which was of course more distance, but less steps. I started the route on the iPad and we were on our way (I am not driving btw).

First off, Siri is a little weird to hear out of an iPad, especially since I didn’t talk to her first. Since her directions weren’t in reply to anything and were often repeated it felt much more robotic than Siri usually does. I didn’t feel like I was talking to Siri, it felt more like the disembodied Samantha voice was just screen reading to me. She still sounded better than most GPS. She’d say very human things like “turn right onto this exit and at the end of the road turn left onto…”.

The drive was quite pleasant. We didn’t miss any turns period, our fault or hers, so I can’t comment on how that’s handled. What she did screw up was the arrival. Coming from our direction, the outlet mall was on the left side of the highway, but there was a protected left turn lane there for us. Google new about this, but Apple Maps wanted us to make a mid-road U-Turn. Yes, a drive across two or three lanes U-Turn. Neither service knew of the “roads” once we got off the highway.

Going home was a little worse. We decided to go to a Cracker Barrel on the way back. We kinda knew where it was so we decided to let Siri take us there. Two pins showed up when I searched, both were wrong. I had to go to the website to look up the actual address, which when pasted in brought up an accurate pin drop. That’s fine while I’m sitting here saying “hey this satellite picture points to nothing” but imagine if I spoke “Take me to Cracker Barrel”, she replied “the one in Clinton, NJ?”, I said yes, and she took us down that random dirt road she picked.

Overall, as of Beta 1, I’d say she’s great at driving directions, but seemed to be 0/2 as far as having perfect directions to the actual destination. From Cracker Barrel, we had her take us to the Bridgewater NJ Mall. Her directions this time were a lot better. She actually got us onto Mall property all by herself. Of course, this was a destination we didn’t need directions to. She also had no trouble getting us to a ShopRite. 2/4. Not Bad.

Note: This was all with Beta 1.

Thoughts and Conclusions:
First, a hat tip to AT&T for working 100% of the time in Pennsylvania. They really do have better middle-of-nowhere performance than Verizon does (note: Sample space limited to the northeast).

Now onto maps.
I find it disappointing that the turn by turn maps are “drawn”, no option to use satellite imagery, and no 3D terrains. Don’t give me that “well you’re only looking at it while driving” BS because you’re not supposed to do that either. Your screen should be off and she should be able to talk you through it. If the screen is on, it’s probably a passenger navigator, who would appreciate a much more graphically impressive experience.

I miss the ability to step through the route on map. You can only view the whole directions in list view or just tap “Start” and she won’t update until you move. I like having visual indicators for my turn offs (am I going up, down, cloverleaf, jug handle, etc) that you get when you zoom in using satellite view. Without being able to step through the route, you have to find these points yourself and it kinda sucks.

As I mentioned earlier, the routes are great, I prefer them over Google’s, but the destinations aren’t there yet. She’s not at the point where you can say “Newark Airport” and she’ll know you mean Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark NJ yet. Sometimes I get “Newark Airport Limo”, sometimes “Newark Dock”, all sorts of crap. Google gives me the damn airport.