Apple Maps one year later: The good, the bad, and the future

Apple Maps one year later: The good, the bad, and the future

A look back at Apple Maps as they launched with iOS 6, and a look at where they are now as we approach iOS 7

Some love it, some tolerate it, some ridicule it, and some have all but abandoned it. When Apple made the decision to cut their Google-ties and go it alone with their own mapping service, it was a gutsy move. Google Maps makes people feel safe; it's been around for so long and offered so freely it's become the de-facto map service for many, many people.

Apple Maps, launched with iOS 6, was also free, had a gorgeous interface, gimmicky features like Fly Over, but for many people it simply failed at getting them from point A to point B, or getting locations or points of interests anywhere nearly right. Since then Apple has edited, apologized, reorganized, and poured considerable energy into making Maps better. So how are they doing?

iMore iOS 6 Maps poll - September 2012

Apple Maps launched to something of a fiasco. The issues were well documented, to the point CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology, acknowledging that Maps wasn't up to scratch, and that they would keep working at it until it was the same quality product you come to expect from Apple.

Reputation matters. On release it was bad so like bing maps even though it's usable NOW, the perception has been set.
n8ter#AC, iMore forums member

Cook even suggested downloading alternative apps from the App Store. The CEO of Apple, recommending someone elses product. That was unprecedented, and demonstration of both the enormity of the problem, and Apple's recognition of it.

Beside some of the common bugs, It's seen as a departure of quality for Apple
Ventus221, iMore forums member

Perhaps, because we're so used to a quality product from Apple, the disappointment with Maps escalated further than it might have otherwise. Perhaps because Maps are such an important service today, and the consequences to getting them wrong so potentially dire, that any problems when it comes to location need to be taken seriously. Apple doesn't make a habit of releasing software as error-filled as Maps was, but they also had almost no experience in mapping to draw upon, certainly not the years TomTom, Nokia, and Google have put in.

Those experiences are not unique to Apple Maps... It happens on Gamin Nuvis... TomToms... and has happened to me with Google Maps & Navigon too
kch50428, iMore forums moderator

That said, all navigation services have problems. It's incredibly hard to ingest, aggregate, cleanse, and sanitize that much information, and keep it updated. Anyone who uses GPS/sat-nav routinely will come across occasional problems, be it with TomTom, Nokia HERE, Google Maps, Garmin/Navigon, Co-Pilot, Waze, etc. It's the overall quantity of errors, the egregiousness of them, and the time it takes to fix them that matters.

iMore Maps app poll - December 2012

iMore Maps app poll - July 2013

It's also apparent that location played a big part in the quality of Apple's initial Maps release. Downtown San Francisco had far better data than rural Australia. Apple hasn't been standing still over the past year, but people's trust in Apple Maps still seems to vary widely depending on where they are.

I myself have no issues and it works every time I use it. There are always going to be exceptions but from launch until now it is a totally different app that deserves it's chance
Jaguarr40, iMore forums ambassador

Mapping the world on launch day, even mapping the world a year post-launch is non-trivial, but it's the promise Apple made by launching their own, home-grown mapping service, and for many people in may parts of this world, it's still a promise they're waiting on Apple to fulfill. For others, it really has gotten better.

Yes, they used to be wrong but just the other day I used my iPad to get to a destination and I left my phone(Nexus 4) on charge and it had no issues taking me there. NOTE: I do NOT live in the US, I live in a country called New Zealand.
Chetan Takyar, iMore Forums member

With iOS 7, Apple seems to have redesigned everything, and while they haven't shown off the iOS 7 Maps app on the iPhone or iPad yet, they have shown off an iOS 7-looking maps and navigation system for iOS in the Car feature. Gone, as expected, is all the rich design and road sign-style interface elements, which to some were the best thing about Apple Maps. How the new system feels in actual use, and more seriously, how it works on phones, on tablets, and in cars remains to be seen.

More interestingly, with OS X Mavericks, Apple will be bringing Maps to the Mac, including features like pushing maps from the Mac to your iPhone or iPad so you can look things up at home and at work, and then take them with you on the road. Data quality not withstanding, will that grant Apple Maps a another chance to win us over?

Mavericks Preview: Maps Points of Interest zoom

Both iOS 7 Maps and OS X Mavericks Maps will ship this fall. iOS in the Car ships with several auto-makers in 2014.

Its nice, it works where I live too. I still use Google Maps, old habits die hard, but when I get Mavericks, the incentive to use Apple Maps more will be there.
dc9super80, iMore Forums member

Personally, I'm a Google Maps user, and for very specific reasons. But, I do appreciate that Apple is working hard to refine a product that is still only 12 months old, and is competing against much older, more refined products. Whether or not Apple can overcome initial bad impressions and get people to try them again, and again if needs me, and again until they prove themselves a great product for everyone, in all places, is the question.

What do you guys think? Now, one year later, how is Apple Maps working for you? There's also a discussion brewing in the iMore forums, so be sure to drop over there too and join in!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Reader comments

Apple Maps one year later: The good, the bad, and the future


I live in south América the maps here are useless, i would like Apple take Care about us too

Sent from the iMore App

Judging from your polls, it sounds like I echo many people when I say that I had problems with Apple Maps early on, switched to Google and have never looked back. Waze is also a powerful alternative for driving directions.

The only problem, in my mind, is that Apple doesn't yet allow an option to change the map app default.

I submitted a correction in the Maps app the day iOS 6 came out. It had a large university with the wrong name and address. I re-submit my correction every couple of months. The error is still not fixed. Apple can claim they're working hard to improve their map data, but the evidence doesn't back up that claim.

Sent from the iMore App

Same here. As a small test, in the first week of release I reported a problem with a pub in London. The location was 50 metres away from where it should have been, and on the wrong side of the road!

I've reported this in maps about 5 times, and it has never been updated.

Same here.. When iOS 6 came out I reported three wrong locations in Aarhus, Denmark. No changes.. :(

I deleted Google Maps yesterday after seeing ads in a search for the first time.
I want maps not m-ads.

Apple Maps works just fine for me, the advantage of Google Maps was in public transport. But there's other apps for that.

sadly expect Apple to follow suit. Hell I would not put it past them that they already have the hooks in place just not implemented yet. Why I believe this is Apple has its entire ad network as well and I expect they will try to push it more.

I really doubt Apple will ever have ads as intrusive as Google's (which get in the way of search results).

Also, what map hooks have they got in place? I haven't heard or seen anything of the sort.
EDIT: Oh you're an Android fan, so I guess you don't really know of any hooks and just made that up.

When - and if, and BIG if - Apple Maps gets ads I'll reconsider. I also have NAVIGON (but Apple maps beat that for ease of use) so there's no shortage of options.

Streetview for me is the deal breaker. Where I live both maps are comparable, but having streetview is a HUGE difference when learning to go from point A to point B as I usually do, instead of following instructions while driving. If I absolutely need that, I use Sygic anyway.

Cannot speak for others, but here is my comment.

I am one of those in the minority who has had no problem with Apple maps. Keeping the bells and whistles of what each mapping app offers aside. My primary use is to get voice guided turn-by-turn directions and Apple maps work just fine for me now, and before that I was using Waze.

I am sure there are reasons, which I dont know, what took Google so long to release voice guided turn-by-turn directions on the iPhone?

I'm with you. Being the default, access the ought Siri, and only once bringing me to the wrong place (well, just past the right place and down a little dirt road - which google maps also did) - there is no comparison.

I like Waze as well, and wish apple would take one awesome, IMO, feature crime Waze…

The ability to force the direction audio to the iPhone's speaker when connected via USB or Bluetooth to a car.

Sent from the iMore App

I agree with the group.
Waze and iMaps.

I use very little google anything.
bing for search.
I won't support google any longer, their heads are too far up the guberments butt.

I still have trust issues. I'll use Apple Maps for getting home. It's easy to trust Apple Maps in this situation because I already have a general idea of how to get home. I just like the audible reminders so I don't miss an exit. And Siri makes it dead simple to do without even looking at the screen.
OTOH, if I'm heading somewhere new I find myself plugging the address into Google Maps because I trust Google to get me there.

I have never once had any problem with Apple Maps in terms of data or routing where I live. It works fine and it is my default maps app. I only use Google Maps for two things: streetview, and routing incorporating traffic problems. Otherwise, Apple Maps is great for me where I live.

Did Apple Maps have issues at launch? Yes.

Has Apple gotten better on Maps? Yes.

Is there still work to do? Yes.

Were the problems ever as bad as portrayed - especially by the Tech Press ? I believe they were over-hyped and exaggerated to generate blog hits.

People rag on Apple Maps because of "The Anchoring Effect".

I use Google Maps primarily because I am still on my Verizon iPhone 4 so I like the spoken turn-by-turn that Google offers that is not available to me through Apple Maps. When I upgrade to the 5S soon I will definitely be giving Apple their second chance, but for now Google has my vote because of that feature.

Just check out Street View on Google Maps. If that isn't enough right there to use Google Maps then it's your loss. Nothing beats being able to check out the front door of the location you are going to, the surrounding area etc, etc. It's just such a killer feature. I don't like using extra apps on my phone if not needed, if Apple maps had their own version of street view that can match Google's I would use Apple and erase Google Maps. I live in the Boston area and I'm sure Apple maps has all the mapping information logged in so that isn't a problem, just street view. I wouldn't be surprised when IOS 7 is released Apple's version of Street View will be released. Would be nice.

This is true. Tech reporters often go on about how flyover replaces street view, but it really doesn't.

It's a shame Google and Apple are at war with each other. If Eric Schmidt hadn't betrayed Apple, then they'd still be friends and Apple could just use google's street view data on a licence. They'd probably integrate it into their product better than Google does with their own.

I don't think Eric Schmidt probably sees it quite as you do, his view is much different I'm sure. But that is a whole different topic.

Sorry, but Street View has as many problems with accuracy as people are complaining about Apple Maps. I have many times tried to use Street View, only to have it put me in the wrong place, or there was no Street View available, or the images were so outdated that the buildings were different.

I like Apple Maps for driving. I trust it. It reroutes quickly. It's routes aren't dumb. However, for points of interest, I always double check in Google Maps. For example, there is a CVS right next door to me. If I search CVS on Apple Maps, it does not come up. Google finds it no problem. It's a freakin' CVS. I'm not talking about some mom and pop shop. Apple Maps should be able to find every CVS. I'm in a major US city too (DC).

maybe you should search for what it is instead of "CVS" which means nothing to me and probably millions of others. Don't blame a map for not understanding your own personal colloquialisms.

Gazoobee, on any maps app I should be able to search for the name of a business, especially a large national chain, and have it pop up accurately. I suppose you think "Walmart" or "Starbucks" are colloquialisms too?

IMO Apple's maps give better routes within cities. Google Maps always gives me terrible directions when I'm in a city; the shortest distance not accounting for major roads or that driving across a city can take 2 hours instead of going directly to the beltway and going around at 65mph. I also think Apple's maps look nicer and the actual guidance is easier to see for turns. I also enjoy the nicer integration with iOS.

All that said. Google Maps is still vastly superior IMO. The recent 2.0 update has closed the gap a lot on the looks. And Google still rules the POIs because it's Google. In the end without Google Search on Apple's Maps I just don't see how it can ever compare. No amount of POIs is going to make it Google Search, ever.

Apple will soon have ads as well and Google maps hasn't had ads up until very recent update. I think I'll take the small ad on the bottom to get my Street View, no other map app can touch it. Just my Opinion.

I know it's been said before and due to the American slant of most tech reporting it's often ignored a second later, but ... outside of the USA Apple maps are pretty atrocious in terms of the actual data. This is a big issue, but what I find kind of remarkable is that Apple really *doesn't* seem to be doing anything about it. I actually believed them when they said they were working on the data and that eventually everything would be up to snuff but so far all the evidence points to the fact that this is simply talk.

I don't live in Timbuktu, I live just over the border in Canada, in the third largest metropolitan area in Canada, which is also a tech centre, and home to hundreds of thousands of iOS users and the mapping of our city is so bad it's really just a joke. Parks have the wrong boundaries, most businesses aren't marked, transit isn't marked, roads are wrong. The list goes on and on and on.

What really troubles me though is that I, and many of my friends have been reporting errors in the maps pretty much every single day since the maps app first debuted and an informal poll of my friends reveals that *none* of these suggestions and changes have made it to the actual map. I've even added businesses through Yelp (the only businesses that currently show up), hoping to see them later appear on Apple maps and they just don't.

It's really just NOT TRUE that Apple is updating the maps data on a constant or even regular basis, and I find that the most shocking thing of all.

Why Apple, Why?
It's like being kicked in the backside by a good friend.

If Apple inc. is relying on Apple Canada to do the work it can only go wrong. Apple Canada is just a pit of useless lazy sicophant vipers not unlike most Canadian head offices representing their Amercan counterparts. Why Toronto in particular hasn't gone the way of Detroit and Baltimore or other rust belt cities I don't understand other than that Toronto Missisaugua ett al. Suck the life blood from other Canadian cities.

Honest, it's been working fine for me since day 1.

Then again, I am not a google fanboy to spend so much time finding some stupid errors and brag about it all over the 'net.

I think you hit the nail on the head. It's more about touting Google and bashing Apple than the actual performance. Same thing with Bing, just because it's not Google.

So, here in the Bay Area Apple's Maps app has been great since day 1. Now that Tim has made the necessary staff maneuvering and hired the right people, it id getting better and better consistently.

In fact I recently drove 2500 miles through the southwest US and started off using Waze. Waze got me lost completely 2 times, and Apple's maps saved our trip. So I think Apple is not too very far off from getting the thing into good shape.

Google Maps had the exact same issues when it was launched on the iphone originally. Waze is far far from perfect, but I love the social-copspotting-trafficwarning aspect.

Honestly, on the iPad it kills googles Maps in appearance. There is a LARGE amount of the US in 3d fly-over now and gorgeously done.

But, it's suggestions on what's around you could use help. (Public transit options would be nice to see again too!)

Here's the ugly: I've been using Apple Maps since the day it came out, and for fun I counted the times it brought me to the wrong location. Why? Just because so many people were making fun of how bad it was, I had double check the truth (being the Apple fan that I am). Now, granted, I live, work and travel in a mostly rural part of the country, so I don't expect GPS/mapping software to get every landmark correct every time. However, to date, I can say that Apple Maps has been wrong 67% of the times I have used it. My definition of wrong: if the software does not get me within 1/2 mile of a recognized landmark (and let's face it, 1/2 mile is pretty generous).

For more fun, for each time Apple Maps brings me to the wrong location, I re-enter the same data into Google Maps to see if it is any better. To date, Google maps has found the missed Apple Maps locations 90% of the time.

Your...errr, mileage, may vary of course, depending on where you travel. But those are my facts.

Solid post with facts and data to support it. The only suggestion I would make from a data analyst perspective (assuming this was a project, not just to satisfy your needs/anecdotal) is to also capture what Apple got right with Google. You can't assume because Apple got it right Google would, any more than you can assume the inverse.

As it stands now, your data suggests that Apple is right 2/3 the time and Google is right 9/10 of the time. But there is a chance that Google would get some spots wrong that google got correct, which is the only flaw I see.

"and for fun I counted the times" -- I think the fact that I stated outright that this was my own personal observations done just for fun makes it clear this was not a scientific analysis.

From my experience using both apps:

Apple Maps provides better routes and alternative routes. The interface is cleaner and works more fluidly. Plus, it downloads the entire route and continues to show it even if you lose coverage. However, some Points of Interest do not appear. Yelp integration is nice when searching for a business, restaurant, etc.

Google Maps has more Points of Interest but routes are often less efficient. When out of coverage, maps did not load and you were left hoping you remembered the last turn (haven't tried new Google Maps for iOS 6, so that may be fixed).

Both apps have sent me to the wrong location, about the same amount of errors.

Ads on Google Maps are a no-go for me. The screens are small enough as is; I don't want ads cluttering up the screen. Plus, I frankly don't trust Google to just provide data -- Google makes its money from ads, so it is going to push anything that pays Google for ad time.

Both apps need current, accurate data -- but that's a difficult proposition. Rural areas are more difficult than urban areas, not only because less user input is received, but often rural communities simply don't have electronic data or updated records. There's only so much any map app can do when the data is simply wrong or non-existent.

No matter which app you choose, any are better than carrying stacks of paper maps and atlases in your car and trying to fold/unfold a map while driving.

I have a Garmin in my vehicle, so I usually will use that rather than drain my iOS' device battery. I have Apple and Google Maps on iOS 6 for iPad (w/LTE) and iPhone. Apple hasn't let me down yet, maps work fine where I live. I have Google as my backup, just in case. On the iPad, I find Google Maps to be sluggish and poorly drawn. I think the more we use Apple Maps, the better it will get. It will take time. I applaud Apple's guts to release its own mapping solution. It's not easy and roads, businesses and features change constantly. Apple will need years to get it as good as Google...and Google had a huge head start.

Here is an idea: Why do not Apple just buy outdoor and indoor mapping data from Nokia, like everyone seems to be doing now. Problem solved. The app interface they can fix themselves, I am sure.

I loved apple maps for a long time, used it for everything and never failed me. Until one day I used it for navigating to an area I didn't know for a concert, brought me 1.5 miles away from the venue. I downloaded google maps, typed in the address and it brought me the right place. Used google maps ever since, hopefully with iOS 7 and the recently bought navigation company, maps will get better.

I look forward to what iOS7 brings for the maps. I would like to see tech websites do a yearly challenge to monitor the progress of Apple maps. They certainly have the resources to make Apple maps a trustworthy program. As for now, if Siri can't bring me to the nearest emergency room (try it), then it has a problem. I would very much like to be able to hook the voice output to my bluetooth too.

Google maps voice navigation let me down after its recent update, so I tried Apple Maps again after being underwhelmed by the initial release. In the main it has been rock solid. We have done lots of driving in rural parts of the UK, and apart from a glitch where it kept giving my current location as my home address, the app has been excellent.

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I have no issues with Apple Maps and use it often.
Now that Google Maps has ads thats a good reason to delete them from my iPad and iPhone.

Lucky for me, maps work just fine right out of the box on day one. Only got m lost twice in a year, the same average as my Garmin and google maps. I caved and switched almost exclusively to ios maps because of its integration with contacts and so many people I do business with have iPhones so it's easier to share the map with them than to use google. I had to use google maps the other day to send a location to an android fan boy and was totally lost it had changed so much I had to google instructions to figure it out. It's still a damn good app though. If only apple maps would sync bookmarks across devices...........

No one here has really touched on a major point. While Google Maps is better in many regards in terms of raw data and information (and it damn well should be, it's had a head start of years and years) it was Apple that developed the modern mapping App software, and Google that then screwed them over by refusing to allow turn-by-turn navigation on iOS. Apple HAD to launch their own Maps. They may have had the option of being behind on turn-by-turn for another year, but it was more valuable for them to get on with gathering real world data.

Because of Apple, iOS users now have the best of all worlds: Google Maps, Apple maps and 3rd party options. Apple doesn't need the best maps in the world, it's needs the best good-enough maps, so that people use it over the hassle of launching Google Maps separately.

Here's where Apple can still win in the maps game:
• No ads, ever. Google sells to advertisers, Apple sells to users. This is an easy front to win.
• Look and feel. Google are getting better, but Apple are still the best at simple, consumer level interfaces
• Integration. Across iOS and Mac obviously, but across all OS level apps as well, and more importantly, through new dashboard software. Apple have been working with many car manufacturers to get installed in cars and take over the dashboard. Instant data and new revenue source without adverts.
• Layers. Go back and look at the mapping companies Apple originally acquired. If and when it unleashes some of the specific capabilities they were working on, it would have some very rich capabilities.

In recent weeks, Apple has been advertising for new mapping staff almost all over the world. They're going to get much better - probably never quite as good as Google Maps (I can't see Apple ever having a street-view equivalent) but more than good enough. Then factor in no ads and integration and you've got Apple in a stronger position than Google. This is a long term game they're playing, and they're not doing badly at it.

Google/waze and sygic which I use have much more detail in the maps where I live and traffic information that is incomparable to apple. I only use apple in the car running in parallel with waze if I go somewhere unfamiliar because apple has the integration advantage to work during and after a phone call (waze will disappear during the call and after the call the phone requires an unlock which is dangerous).

Does anyone know why apple is not using crowdsourced traffic info - to me a network of thousands of phones in the car sharing their location and speed is an unbeatable traffic data source. Ability to create points of interest like foursquare would solve the lack of pounts of interest.

Since I live in Singapore, a really small and urbanized country, Apple Maps works perfectly for me. It does not have ANY error neither lack of information. :)

Germany: works precisely, maps are / satellite data is more up to date than Google Maps. Navigation better than Navigon. Hey, like this App.

I've sent Apple the correct location of a popular restaurant in my suburban town outside Boston three times now. Still hasn't been fixed. I realize they have bigger errors to correct, but when a customer repeatedly tells you there is something wrong then you gotta wonder....