Goodbye Google Latitude – hello Google+ Locations.. kinda

About a month ago, in its series of retiring good products, Google decided to axe Google Latitude.

Actually, Google Latitude was just short of perfect – the setup process was very confusing for a new user – you had to allow Google to access your location, THEN define if that particular device could update your location, THEN add or confirm friends that wanted to share your location with you. Sharing should be a one-way permission – that is, you shouldn’t have to accept my invitation to share my location with you. I’ve said before (though not here) that location sharing should be modeled after Google+ circles.

And here we are. Actually, when I first read that Latitude was going away (from 2-3 articles), none of the articles mentioned that it was only the frontend and the Latitude API – the location history dashboard with all the data was going to stay. Neither did those particular articles mention that location sharing would still exist, but through Google+ Locations. I only found that out when I read directly from the source, Google – but I’m quite surprised that I managed to go through a few articles without finding out.

Of course, I jumped to try to use the new service right away. I shared my location with a few friends, and had them share their locations with me. and then I discovered.. just about every feature from Latitude was missing, and the implementation was pretty broken in general.

1) The map doesn’t render on devices where Google+ is installed as a user app, instead of a system app. This affected everyone  (including myself) with a custom ROM. And a month later, even after Latitude was taken away, it still wasn’t fixed. Fortunately, there was a Titanium Backup update which fixed the “convert to system app” option failing on a few apps (coincidentally, Google+ was one of them, at least for me.)

2) The pins don’t show up as a Layer in the Maps app. This was useful for, you know, seeing your friends on a map, using the flagship Maps product. You used to also be able to navigate to their location. You have to go into Google+, then Locations, to see the map with friends on it.

3) This map uses an old render of Google Maps, and it looks awful, AND is less-featured.

4) No reported location accuracy. I encourage my friends to keep WiFi and WiFi location services on, to get good location accuracy. But sometimes it’s inaccurate, and I just get confused when the pin goes to a certain point on the map.

5) No reported location age. There’s nothing like my friend being out of town, but his location still shows as nearby, because it’s a 1-(or more)-day-old location.

6) No desktop viewer. Nuff said. You can actually see the location of an individual, by going to their Google+ page. That’s an awful implementation, though. You need to be able to see them on a map! Even worse, the map renders when you mouse over, too – but it looks fucking awful. Also, if the person defined a cover photo, it occupies the space of their cover photo, and even loses scale!

7) No iOS support. How the hell do you replace a product when you haven’t even offered iOS support yet?

8) No way to request a refresh from another user with automatic updating on. One cool part about Latitude was that the refresh button would actually attempt to get a new location from all of my friends with auto-update on.

9) No way to navigate to a friend. This doesn’t affect me that much, but too many people are crying about it.

Edit: I finally got yesterday (August 14)’s update, which looks like it resolved #1, #3, #4, and #5. I’m almost not angry at Google!

Edit2: posting this draft really late..

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