Yesterday I decided to give Mapillary a second try (I’ve tested it once before just after launch and it was pretty much unusable). And since I was planning to go over Translapina, I thought: what a great way to see how the app handles various issues one might encounter on mountain road, such as tight curves, changing light and poor GPS cover while discovering a new road (for both me and Mapillary). Southern Romania is pretty well covered in imagery, at least on the main roads, but once you go in the mountains, the coverage drops significantly.
The road in itself was nothing to write home about. I know some of my colleagues are crazy about it, so I’ll probably get some angry looks at work, but the scenery is just not comparable with the Transfăgărășan. There are bends and valleys and mountains in clouds, but the vegetation reminds me more of the desert than the mountain. Plus, as a driver, you always have to look out for rocks and trees falling from the side of the road, as the construction quality is not the best and the earth in the area is very friable as well.
The app was not impressive either. It has come a very long way from the previous version I’ve tested, but it’s still very slow even when it works, which is not always. The app crashed often, especially when the map was on, or simpli freezed for no apparent reason and no warning to the user. I had to pull over, close the app and reopen it. Also, some images are blurred, probably because the app did not wait for the camera to focus. When taking the pics in “distance mode”, no pictures should be taken when the car is stopped. However, the app sometimes failed and continued to take 1 or 2 pictures after the app was completely stopped.
The settings are not uniform (some need to be disabled, but there is no checkbox next to them, instead one simply clicks on them, other need to be enabled) and the different picture modes are insufficiently expained – I had to deduce what each of them does based on many different settings.
Also, a very important problem of the app is that it takes up the screen from nagivation apps. If it is to be used on unknown roads, it should have a “background mode” where it takes pictures while the user is in another app, or, at the very least, allow the map to be configurable in size and position.
Now, I know that some of the issues I mention can be caused by the phone I had, a OnePlus One. It’s not the newest phome you can buy, but if Mappilary developers expect their app to be used only on flagships, they might be in for a nasty surprise.
I will continue to test the Mapillary app for the next few days, but my feeling is it’s not yet ready for prime time.