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kottke.org posts about Artur Grabowski

Mapping apps and how advertising subtly warps user experience

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2018

Artur Grabowski spent much of 2017 comparing three mapping apps (Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze) to see which one was the most accurate and resulted in the fastest route times. After 120 trips, the data showed that Google Maps got him to his destinations most quickly, Apple Maps made the most accurate predictions, and Waze promised the fastest times but often under-delivered.

So that’s some News You Can Use™ (assuming the results are statistically significant), but then Grabowski goes on to discuss why each app might over- or under-promise on route times based on the presence of advertising:

For Apple, Maps is a basic solution for its average user who wants a maps solution out of the box. Apple Maps does not directly drive ad or subscription revenue for Apple so there is less reason for Apple to incentivize iOS users to use Apple Maps over other solutions. However, Apple does care about user experience, and sandbagging trip time estimates so that users arrive at their destination on time results in a great user experience. Hence, I believe that Apple is intentionally conservative with estimated arrival times.

At the other extreme, Waze (Alphabet) makes money through ads when you use their app. What better way to get people to use your navigation app than by over-promising short trip times when no one takes the time to record data and realize that you under-deliver? If an unsuspecting user opens Apple Maps and sees a 34-minute route and compares that to 30-minutes in Waze, the deed is done. Now Waze has a life-long customer who doesn’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked and Waze can throw at them stupidly annoying ads.

If that’s happening with your mapping app, just think of how your search results, Facebook newsfeed, and Instagram feed are manipulated to be more amenable to advertising. Oh, and don’t forget about almost everything you watch and read. Even Black Panther and Get Out had paid product placements. I wonder how many more car chases there are in action movies due to deep pockets at Acura or Mercedes or BMW. (via df)