BY | October 7, 2012

Apple seems to have made a mistake by launching Apple Maps way too early. To be true there is no real competition for Google Maps in the market and it will take years for Apple to improve its Maps to Google Maps level

By Shafey Danish

Apple introduced Google Maps in iOS in 2007 with the launch of the first iPhone. Since then, maps has become one of the key feature of the platform. Also, a driver of many related apps and location based services. Yelp, the restaurant ratings site, for example depends on the location data provided by maps. In future maps are also set to provide targeted advertisements to users based on location. Since 2007 , Google has gone from being a collaborator to a competitor and it has kept crucial services, like turn by turn navigation on Android, making iOS lag behind its competitor. Put all of this together and it is easy to see why Apple wanted control of this crucial piece of software.

But it could have done a much better job than it did.

It had been working on making a map application of its own since 2009, if its company purchases are any indication. And yet, in 2012, with a year still to go on its contract with Google, it released a maps app that is so inferior to Google’s offering that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook himself directed users to maps applications or rivals, including Google and Nokia.

How bad are Apple maps compared to Google? Here is a short comparison.

Apple maps shows many places in the wrong place. Google maps is rarely wrong.

Google maps is more fully populated, while Apple’s maps sometimes looked like bombed out area, with missing houses businesses, and roads.

Apple’s maps do not have traffic data, Google does.

Both have turn by turn direction, but Google is more accurate.

Apple has flyover mode, but Google has streetview, and the latter is vastly more useful.

Google’s services are more fleshed out, with instructions on how to avoid toll taxes, and so on.

Tech website Gizmodo which did a side by side comparison of the two, had this to say:

“Google Maps app is faster at fetching locations, and has a more efficient UI design for calling upon directions. Apple’s turn-by-turn navigation system seems to kick into action quicker than Google’s static driving directions do.”

But as far as anything outside the US is concerned, Google wins hands down, Gizmodo points out that Apple maps won’t even recognize Heathrow airport, giving you a US location instead, and it does not know well known places, like the Spanish restaurant El Bulli, which is now permanently closed. Apple maps did not know that it existed, while Google Maps app gave the location along with a note saying that it is permanently closed.

The difference between the two, as Forbes  writer Dave Einstein points out, is in big data. Google has tons and tons of data, which it has been collecting for years. Apple is just starting. As it gets more data, it will begin to fill up, but by then Google would have moved to a different level altogether. Clearly Apple has its task cut out.


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  • Appledystopia

    One correction — iOS 6 Maps does have real time traffic info. I also think the importance of iOS Maps is overstated. I own an iPhone and an iPad and rarely use either Apple or Google’s map apps. I mainly use the built-in navigation in my car, which uses NAVTEQ data. Most professional drivers use standalone units — Garmin, Tom-Tom, Magellan… I used MapQuest on my iPhone a few times while walking in SF, because it has had spoken, turn-by-turn directions for some time. MapQuest is great, and was around before Google even existed. The MapQuest app for iOS is free. That said, yes, Google has the best set of map data.

    I have been using iOS 6 Maps to see how really “bad” it is. In the SF Bay Area, it is actually quite good. Google is probably better overall. But the notion that only Google can do maps and nav is ludicrous. There are many people who get from point A to point B without Google’s help.

    I wrote a few articles on what I call “Maps hype” on my site. While there are problems with iOS 6 Maps, there’s a lot of hype and bias. Even Consumer Reports evaluated Apple’s new Maps app as “competent”, along with favorable reviews from NBC News and the San Jose Mercury News… Yes, you can nit-pick Maps and find small problems with the data. The app itself is remarkable. It is surprising how many people denouncing this app have not used it! It needs work, but the blogosphere has taken a dump on Apple, just like with “antennagate”.

  • Micah

    You fail to address a very important issue.

    The Google map app for iPhone didn’t have all the features you mention. Avoiding tolls? – Not there, Traffic data? – Not there… etc.

    I stopped using the Google map app a long time ago because, frankly, it wasn’t much help, and it was completely useless in areas with no (or a weak) cell connection.

    When I needed to use it, I would go to the website in safari, because it has more features than the maps app did.

    I have not experienced the mapping problems with the Apple maps app. I find flyover mode infinitely more helpful than street view.

    I would like to know how the Apple maps app downloads it map data. Every time I used the Google app (and drove through a cell ‘dead zone’), the map data would simply ‘die’. I was left with the GPS updated dot, cruising through a gray graph-paper world. Even driving the same route using the new Mac app, I haven’t had this problem. I really want to test this on my next trip to Montana (a SERIOUS test due to the lack of decent cell-coverage).

    I must say I agree with ‘Appledystopia’. I remember when the iPhone4s was released, and the Apple haters were complaining that Siri was just voice recognition software and that was ‘nothing new’. Anyone who uses Siri frequently, understands that it is ever so much more than that.

    I’ve also always been irked by Googlemaps’ tendency to make confusing routing decisions. I’ve often found myself directed off a major freeway onto some back road with a 20mph speed limit, only to be re-directed to the original freeway 10 miles later for no reason. It will be fun to explore more and see if the new Apple map app makes the same mistakes or not.

    Even if all the bugs aren’t worked out yet (not that I have experienced any), I think it will not take long at all until the new map app is at least as full-featured and complete as old Google app. After all, anyone who has used Googlemaps to try to navigate around New Hampshire can tell you just how much more work Googlemaps needs to do to be accurate there.

    In short, all map applications (included dedicated GPS devices) have their problems, and probably always will. We can only hope that all of them improve as time goes on.

    If you want a better ‘user experience’, grab some up-to-date road maps and a good passenger-navigator.

  • Appledystopia

    I just typed Heathrow in Apple’s iOS 6 Maps app on my iPad, and it found it — the Airport in England… I have to say, whenever I read allegations of this or that not being found in iOS 6 Maps, whenever I try, I find it without issue…

    It could be that it was corrected recently. However, I checked up on a bunch of these issues immediately after upgrading my iPad to iOS 6, and found the majority of them to be false. The aesthetic issues, such as bridges that appear to be “melting” are true. The “315 e 15 st ny” ad campaign from Motorola is interesting, because that address does not exist. Apple’s Maps handles it by suspecting this is an error and suggesting an address that exists. Google Maps handles it by assuming a nearby park, with no adress, is the user’s destination. I think they both fail on this test. It should inform the user that the address does not exist and present alternatives. That’s what my car’s navigation system does…

    I also find that the 3D views of major cities are stunning, and I prefer them to StreetView. StreetView is amazing, but bird’s eye view from 200 feet above (or so) seems more useful to me. I used StreetView in LA about two years ago, and it was not accurate. It showed a hotel I was staying at (Radisson) as a vacant lot.

    I also should mention, I actually went to Apple’s support forums to read up on all these people complaining about Maps. The threads were bare — maybe 50 or so posts. The funny thing is that the majority of people complaining were new accounts on Apple’s support forums. Fishy… Either they are not Apple users, or they own Apple products and Maps is the first problem they have encountered, needing support. But there aren’t specifics. Just lots of non-specific “this is bad” kind of stuff. One user even posted that Apple’s new Maps app ruined his business… A week after it launched?

    The more I look, the more I find people are being a bit disingenuous with their criticism of Apple’s Maps. Sure, it is not perfect, but it is not nearly as bad as many claim… Many who haven’t even used it, but are merely acting as fanboys.

  • Vic

    Bull I’m a truck driver I need google. For finding the wright address that Tom Tom can’t find to have a stable map so I can see if my truck will fit can I park there over night what the name on the building says if I do t have a company name I can look at the over view to see or see what type of cars pick ups or cars let’s me know what type of business other big rigs let me know where the docks are street view lets me know if there is a gate a guard or if its open low trees or wires street size where the cars park on the street during work hours so I’m not woken or trapped by cars when I wake up I want my maps back Steve jobs wood not have pulled this fix it and put the other YouTube back the knew one is to restrictive I don’t want there segestions and the App Store sucks to the make me look app by app the old set up was Easy to use and let me look faster apples starting to look real corpret like Microsoft pleas get back cool !!!