apple maps vs google maps

One of the most disconcerting thing about being a tech customer these days is that the Apple-Google rivalry can be expected to create more grief for people who like both, as each punishes its customers for liking the products of the other.  It is already very laborious, for example, to sync the (Apple) MacBook's standard Calendar and Address Book with (Google) Android's — a big problem for me as both a Mac and Android user.  Now we're going to see Apple smartphones that don't want us to use Google Maps.

Yes, Apple thinks it's going to improve on the most transformative automated mapping tool of all time.  By all evidence they've decided that a cool, slick look is so important that it doesn't matter whether the map gives you the information you need.  Gizmodo has an excellent comparison, including this graphic:

Apple vs google


That's a slice of Lower Manhattan: Google on the left, Apple on the right.  Yes, the Apple map is pleasing on the eye, but do you turn to mapping software for serene imagery or to see the layout of your city and how to do things in it?  

While everyone can pick nits with Google Maps, Google has done an amazing job at massing large amounts of useful information in compact and legible ways.  Their maps are aesthetically cluttered, but the clutter is accurate:  Lower Manhattan is a cluttered place and we love it that way!  A great city is full of opportunites and we want to know about all of them.  I like feeling a little overwhelmed by a Google Map, especially as compared to the illusory cool — also known as lack of content — that Apple is trying to convey.

The official reason for a transit blog to complain, of course, is that Google has done a lot of work on integrating transit data into its maps, while Apple, to judge from its beta, thinks of this as a detail that can be added later.  It will be interesting to see whether people really give up Google Maps for a slicker but more impoverished tool.  If not, this could start driving transit users toward Google's Android, where the variety of third-party hardware designs already mean a tool much better suited to your hand, and your taste.

Christina Bonnington in Wired takes down Apple Maps here.

H/t: Daryl de la Cruz

24 Responses to apple maps vs google maps

  1. david vartanoff June 17, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Almost as customer friendly as NYC and PRR deliberately using different 3rd rail systems.

  2. Mike Williams June 17, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Even if there is a separate Google Maps, I doubt that (as with the default browser issue) Apple will allow users to specify that as the default mapping app so that links clicked in Contacts and web pages are referred to Google Maps.
    In a car I use a specialised GPS device for navigation, one excellent reason being I don’t have cellular access most places I travel. Once in a city I’m typically using my iPhone for pedestrian and public transport coverage.
    When I was in Amsterdam last week I was gratified to find that the city’s not-so-easy-to-find-or-use public transport website could be discarded in favour of using the current iPhone Maps which gave me all the tram services in a much more user-friendly fashion.
    For users in parts of the world which are not knit together by a large homogeneous car-oriented culture where cross-border data roaming is not an issue(ie the US), then Apple’s decision is a poor one.

  3. Joseph Singer June 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I imagine that this among other things may make people who are on iOS 5.1 to not upgrade to iOS 6 when it is released unless Apple does a major modification to maps since Apple’s appears to leave much out in the name of simplicity.

  4. Tristan June 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Not only do google maps have rich content, but they give it in ways that improve clarity:

  5. kjmci June 17, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    So nobody’s going to point out that this is still a beta product months away from release?
    Apple’s choice to move away from Google for their in-built mapping solution is a strategic one, but there is nothing stopping Google from creating Google and making it available on the App Store – in fact, they have confirmed their plans to do so.
    Wait until iOS 6 is in public release before rallying for the pitchforks and torches.

  6. Miles Bader June 17, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    You can read the current criticisms as helpful input to Apple: “You’d better fix these big problems before release.”
    Doing mapping right (and Google maps has set the bar very high) is a huge task, one which has taken Google many years to accomplish, and it’s not looking so likely that Apple has the resources to do it before the ios6 release.

  7. David Marcus June 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    My thoughts exactly, Jarrett. It’s going to be a challenge for Apple to catch up to Google Maps. Dropping transit is an ominous start.

  8. Mike Williams June 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    Apple has done away with Swanston Street in Melbourne:

  9. Mike Williams June 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    If Apple’s map is the system default then every address link clicked will take you to it rather than the Google App.
    I guess you would have to jailbreak the phone to change the default, as is the case with changing the default browser from Safari.

  10. dejv June 18, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    Both mentioned map vendors are on their route to being insignificant in some locations if they continue to lay easter eggs everywhere and neglect to map other areas.
    When I googled for OSM’s comparison tool of various maps (at least OSM, Google, MS/Bing and Apple), I got this story. My own area is covered much better but still, when relying on google, you would avoid such a cul-de-sac hell. Oh wait…
    And when transit comes to play, it’s always nice to have a look at e.g. ÖPNV-Karte to see how the transit network actually looks like on geographical map, especially in not-exactly geometrical cities.

  11. Mikko June 18, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    Are the Apple maps actually trying to be minimalist and sleek or do they just not have the data yet?

  12. Tom West June 18, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    There are many transit agencies make the GTFS feeds publicly available, and also many who only klet Google access them. Apple could use the publicly available feeds to produce transit directions. (That might encourage they others to open up their feeds…)

  13. Geck June 18, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Do we all want to be beholden to Google for all our maps? From what I understand, part of the reason Apple is going into maps is because Google held back from Apple some of the features it made available to its own Android platform (e.g., turn by turn directions). Competition can only push maps to be better. I am pleased Apple will be taking on mapping and if it takes a while for Apple to get fully up to speed, as did Google, there are plenty of third-parties to fill in the gaps on transit and bicycling routes.

  14. Ben Smith June 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Maybe it is because I grew up with MapArt maps (if you aren’t familiar with them, I highly recommend you check them out), but I like how Google differentiates between major and minor streets with colour coding. In fact, if Apple made a deal with MapArt to use their map layouts and information for their app, I would quickly jump ship from Android to iOS.

  15. Mike Williams June 18, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    @Geck: Turn-by-turn directions are quite clearly given on the current Maps application and have been there as long as I can remember.
    It’s not a matter of wanting to be beholden to Google for all maps but Apple are acting prematurely, and because they’ll almost certainly lock the default map handler on the system to their own, it will make a lot of other apps less effective. I suppose it may have the effect of driving revenue to Google since those apps may now have to explicitly code Google map handling rather than talking to the the iOS platform layer.

  16. ian June 19, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    It’s pretty clear the style of the maps is very beta, yes (ie the coloring, styles etc). That will most definitely change by the time launch date rolls around.
    A lot of the reason that the maps are so much simpler is that Apple is creating a map not only for their Maps app, but also to be a component for iOS developers to use in their apps. The overwhelming trend these days is towards less cluttered maps (at least at the close zoom scale) so that when developers add overlays, pins, etc, they’re easier to read. See Bing or MapBox maps to see what I mean. Apple’s map is meant to be extensible — try to put something on a google map and it gets lost without using super-bright colored pins.
    I’m on the fence about Apple’s new maps but they are giving Google a run for its money. Tools like TileMill & MapBox have greatly lowered the barrier to entry for creating your own maps, so I suspect we’ll see a lot of people doing that in the future as well.
    As far as transit directions go, I think it’d be incredibly hard for Apple to do this on their own, and the 3rd party solution does at least put indirect pressure on transit agencies via developers and the public to release their data, which in the long run, is a Very Good Thing. In a perfect world that’d be a better motivator than a giant company with lots of money coming to get them.

  17. Alon Levy June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    The real test is whether those of us who keep using PCs (i.e. nearly everyone) or BlackBerries (sadly, not so many) will ever have a reason to use Apple Maps.

  18. Jarrett at June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Alon.  For the record, I ditched my BlackBerry because Google refused to supply a Mail app for its latest OS and RIM's attempt to create a web-based one was a disaster.  It was clearly the work of frustrated video game designers, as it required me to chase buttons that fled from me across the screen.  I considered buying an iPhone to punish Google for forcing me to drop RIM, but Android is just better for me.  I think.

  19. Julian June 21, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    @Jarrett, nobody wanted to write apps for RIM because the company made it so difficult to do so. Additionally, as they haven’t built a good product in years, there was never going to be big money in RIM apps as their market share continued to decline dramatically.
    I’d be very surprised if they survive another 5 years without a big merger or takeover.

  20. Alon Levy June 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    I don’t know – I think Gmail works fine in the BB browser.
    The buttons that flee across the screen are a problem with popup things, yeah. I get them when I read NYTimes articles with enough zoom to be able to make out the letters. Sigh.

  21. Michael June 23, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    I think it’s particularly interesting that you used lower Manhattan as an example, because it’s an area where Google maps breaks down quite badly in terms of how often it displays street names. In my experience, many streets are simply unlabeled.
    (I’ve always wondered if there’s just a constant involved here that perhaps is well-tuned for suburban environments but unusable for urban ones.)

  22. John_in_NH June 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    The ability to display place names or road names varies a bit and it is density related. You have to zoom wayyy in for a dense urban grid to show all the names and even then move around a bit for the right name to pop up.
    To those that say Apple will improve, have you been over to Bing maps recently? I mean really they are just now getting some place markers in, how many years later? They have no information on bicycling, nor transit info and they have been around for awhile now.
    Apple may improve but there is one critical element that I am not sure they will get a handle on. User interactions. Anybody can make edits and update listings and add new roads or paths, mark bike lanes etc when working with Google Maps. Those edits then come to people like me (Google Regional Moderators) who are volunteers who make edits, and approve changes simply because we like mapping, and like to be involved in our community and like to make sure people have as much information as possible. You only get to Moderator status from a nomination from another moderator, sometimes mistakes occur but it is not as often as one might think. True Google has whole teams of paid map employees that help clarify issues and finish approval for major features, but the basic legwork is done by residents of that country, of that town.
    For example a number of years ago it was nearly impossible to actually find information about many African towns and cities, they simply were not mapped. Once Map Maker (the google browser program to edit the map base layer) was introduced, local users started adding roads, and businesses, and squares etc, in a matter of months you can get turn-by-turn directions to a town or city of your choice thanks to on the ground hard work. This was not done by paid employees, but by residents.
    Will Apple do something similar? Will they open their maps up to people adding data, or will they keep it closed because people might take advantage.
    I don’t know but competition is good, keeps Google on their toes if anything. Bing maps certainly has not.
    I am not a paid Google employee (unless you count the free t-shirts) If this work was just for Google, I would not do it, but it is for the community, for visitors, and residents alike. (and Google can use the updated data to sell their services or provide information, that is ok by me)
    Anybody can be a Regional Moderator, sign in to Map Maker and start making changes in your community, you won’t get far at first but stick to it, the tool is fairly easy and the review process is reasonably fast.

  23. hat June 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    To all the people saying that we should withhold judgement because the Apple maps are in beta, you’re right. But, there’s a big but! Actually, there are two “buts”: The first is that Apple is only months away from release, which, frankly, doesn’t seem like enough time to bring their maps up to par with Google maps. The second is that they explicitly said that they expect third parties to handle transit directions, which is going to be a complete disaster.
    Suppose I want to take transit from downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica pier: Google handles this easily, even if I need to transfer between LADOT (the City of LA transit agency), LACMTA (the LA County transit agency) and Big Blue Bus (the City of Santa Monica transit agency). Do you *really* think that any of those agencies are going to create a whole-LA transit app for the iPhone? I don’t, because all of them currently offer web-based trip planners, and each one picks only routes from that agency’s network.
    I’m a huge Apple fan, but Google is the only mapping solution that currently handles inter-agency transfers in any sensible way, and Apple have, again, *explicitly* stated that they have no intention of providing that capability natively in iOS 6. You can verify this for yourself by watching the keynote video from the WWDC on Apple’s website.
    Finally, there’s really no good excuse for the omission. Google’s transit feed format is open for anyone to use, and most transit agencies publish their feed on the web for anyone to download. Frankly, it seems like Apple decided to go with in-house maps relatively late the release cycle and they had to drop some features to make sure it shipped on time.

  24. google support August 22, 2018 at 9:20 am #

    Definitely, the google map is way better than the apple map and that is why the google map is now available in the ios. Now the google maps can be operated on not only the iPhone 5 or 6 but also on updated and new models also. IOS is now having the support of the google map apart from its own map service.