Open Letter To Whoever Designed the Turn-By-Turn Feature for Windows Phone

Dear Whoever Designed the Turn-By-Turn Feature for Windows Phone,

First of all, to the entire Windows Phone team: Good job with Mango.  I'm highly impressed with several of the features.  There is just one feature that really grinds my gears.

The Maps application.

You got that one wrong.  Not wrong as in "oops, wrong turn.  I'll just take the next right." but wrong as "oops, wrong turn.  Dang, this turnpike is 15 miles long with no exits, adding 30 minute to my commute... wrong".  That particular example is real life, as I experienced it a couple days ago on a trip to Philly.  Back to that in a minute.

Where do we being?  How about at the beginning of the experience and work our way through the end of the commute?

Imagine you're a user, and you've decided you wanted to take a drive from Chesapeake, VA to Philly, PA.  You pull out your trusty Windows Phone and go to the maps application.  All the folks are raving about this great turn-by-turn feature, and having been a Droid user in the past, you decided to give it a go.

Selecting an address is easy.  Type it into the search box, and tap "Directions".  You're provided a map, and your next turn in very large type.  So far so good.  You get into your car, put the GPS in the cup holder and start driving.

First thing you're going to notice is that the map doesn't automatically orient itself so you can make logical sense of where you're going.  Most (read: all) GPS software do this.  Even if you're heading west, the map will orient itself so "west" is facing up.  With Windows Phone, you have "tap" the map for this feature to turn on.  It also enables tracking of your position (also not on by default).

Next scenario, you're coming up to a very important turn.  Most (read: all) GPS systems will warn you 1-2 miles before the turn.  They'll say something like, "In 1.25 miles, make right turn".  Makes sense right?  Not for Windows Phone.  You'll hear a very distinction "beep" or "boop" or whatever.  That's the sound saying you've should have turned 5 seconds ago.

Since you heard a noise, you pick up the phone to see what happened.  It says make "10 miles, make right turn".  What it doesn't tell you is that those were the instructions 10 miles ago!  Windows Phone doesn't see the need to provide you up-to-date directional information.  Want up-to-date directional information?  TAP the screen and it'll refresh.

"You've gone a different route" is what you'll hear next.  Since you carelessly missed that right turn you should have known about, Windows Phone will gladly recalculate for you, right?  NOPE!  Again, you have to TAP the screen in order to get new directions.

While we're on the subject of tapping, Windows Phone will update everything on a tap except one thing: total mileage left and time.  Want to know approximately how much time is left in your commute based on current conditions?  You have to leave the navigation portion of the app and start it again.  Same thing for mileage.  Why can't we update that as we go, or at least when I tap the screen!?

I know many of you will defend this application, saying that's its perfectly acceptable.


It is sold as a "turn-by-turn" navigation feature, and while technically it lives up to that name, it fails to recognize the experience associated with it.  The most common use of turn-by-turn is in vehicles moving between 25+ mph.  You should be able to drop the device in a cup holder and not have to pick it up until you're at your destination.

The Maps app for Windows Phone encourages drivers to take their eyes off the road, increasing the chances of them getting into a serious accident.

And I really didn't want to use the "G" word in this post, but look... Google did it.  Google did it 3 years ago.  Google is continuing to make the experience better.  Couldn't you all have just "looked" at the Google Navigation app?  I'm sure you could have designed something similar that was more "metro".

Don't give me the excuse of "there are other apps available on the marketplace".  If the phone is marketed to have a feature, it needs to be the best it can be.  I shouldn't have to drop $40 on another application to replace the functionality the phone was marketed to provide in the first place.

I understand this is "version 2", and you all won't get it right until version 3.  So please, take all my comments, grab a Droid/iPhone/Garmin/TomTom and come back with a kick butt new navigation app.  I believe in you.

Rock on,

Kevin "it took me 45 minutes longer to get to Philly because of my Windows Phone" Griffin

PS: For everyone else, leave your thoughts in the comments.

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