Apple’s App Store seems to have a million apps vying for our attention with competition pushing prices down. Even Apple’s own apps are getting some serious competition, and iPhone users are the big winners. So, what about maps?
The Ugly Side Of Maps
Remember Apple Maps from just six months ago (prior to iOS 6)? Apple made the app, Google supplied the data. Wonderful, right? Except neither Apple nor Google were happy.
Google wanted more data from privacy hound Apple. Apple wanted more features in maps (turn-by-turn directions, for example).
There’s also that issue of Apple wanting to control their own destiny and technology. Apple has been burned by partners in the past (Adobe, IBM, Motorola, et al).
Relying on Google for maps just wasn’t in the cards and Apple decided to roll their own maps. With iOS 6, Google’s maps data was out, and Apple’s almost-home-grown data was in.
In some respects, Apple Maps is great. It’s fast and caches quickly. There’s turn-by-turn directions, and traffic, and a 3D flyover that’s typical Apple eye candy.
The problem was the data. It didn’t take long for users to find plenty of flaws and Apple was so embarrassed that a few executives found their way to the exit without relying on Apple Maps.
Google may have been miffed at being kicked out of Apple’s huge customer base, but the company is back in a big way with Google Maps app. It’s fast, detailed, features turn-by-turn, satellite view, traffic and transit. And it’s free.
Google Maps vs. Apple Maps
Map Data: Google Maps just doesn’t make as many mistakes as Apple Maps (which is easier to read). Winner: Google.
Map Details: Apple Maps doesn’t have the detail found in Google Maps. Both are good, but being able to see buildings, even in outline form, on a map is a plus. Winner: Google.
Speed: The more I use Google Maps the more I don’t think there’s much difference in maps loading speed. Both are using vector-based maps, so use less bandwidth. Winner: A Tie.
Caching: This may be subjective because I have no way to know exactly what is being cached. Apple Maps provides more data from a previously used map than Google. Winner: Apple.
Syncing: Apple Maps does not. Google Maps does. Winner: Google.
Transit: Apple Maps does not. Google Maps does. Winner: Google.
Turn-by-Turn Directions: It was missing in Maps for iOS 5, but in iOS 6 both Apple and Google implemented turn-by-turn directions. Apple’s version is much easier to use, and better on the eyes and ears. Winner: Apple.
Traffic: I’ve been bouncing back and forth between the two. Google seems to display more traffic congestion areas than Apple. But sometimes it’s wrong (in Brooklyn and Manhattan), displaying more congestion that exists, while Apple Maps displays less. Winner: Google.
Interface: Google is simple and elegant but also non-standard for iOS devices. Apple Maps is simply easier to use, and both are better than the iOS 5 app. Winner: Apple.
Street View: Apple Maps does not. Google Maps does. Winner: Google.
iOS Integration: Google Maps does not. Apple Maps does. Winner: Apple.
Eye Candy: Apple’s 3D Flyover functionality is wonderful. It doesn’t really do much, but it can give you a good view of where buildings are in relation to where you are. Winner: Apple.
Privacy: This is easy. Apple respects your privacy more because personal data is less important to Apple’s business model. For Google, data is very important. You’re the product and Google wants as much information from you as possible. Winner: Apple.
Winner: If all categories carry equal weight, it’s a tie. But some categories are worth more than others. Traffic and data, for example, both strong suits for Google. Apple excels in eye candy and ease-of-use. By a nose, Google is the winner.