Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: A year in analysis

Apple is constantly working on maps but, when you look at this incredibly detailed analysis by Justin O'Beirne, Google is racing.

Over the course of a year, Google quietly turned its map inside-out – transforming it from a road map into a place map.A year ago, the roads were the most prominent part of the map – the thing you noticed first. Now, the places are.

And:

In our Comparison last year, we found that Apple generally showed a greater variety of places than Google:But look what happens when we resurvey Google a year later: It's quite a difference – and Google's mix is now much closer to Apple's.

And:

Speaking of Apple... while Google has been making all those changes, what has Apple been up to? After all, Apple announced an "all-new design" for Apple Maps just weeks before Google's Summer redesign.Let's take a look at how Apple looked a year ago, before it released its new design:And now let's see how it looks today:See the difference?I don't either.

Last year, in addition to the major redesign, we also got Maps apps, so everything from ride-sharing to reservation making could live in and enhance maps. We also got steady progress for Apple Maps on the web.

I expect we'll see some of the next-generation of Maps updates at WWDC 2017 but here's hoping Apple can shed its dependence on TomTom data, accelerate the updates, and start closing that gap.

It's not about beating Google at maps either. It's about providing quality maps all Apple's own. Many people simply use whatever's built into the phone or tablet they buy, and for iPhone and iPad, that's Apple Maps. And they deserve as rapid and continuous improvements as possible.

Apple's got a great geo team, we just need to see more from them in real time.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

26 Comments
  • The week that Apple Maps first came out, I got a wedding invitation that stated, "Don't use Google Maps, because it's wrong." I knew where the church was, and sure enough Google was wrong. I tried it in Apple Maps, and it was perfect. Since then I have used Apple Maps only, and have yet to be let down. I travel all over Southern Ontario, and into the US at times.
    I know people find spots that are wrong, but that can be said for Google too. I'll happily stick with Apple Maps.
  • No maps really work for me. Google stopped announcing exit numbers for a while, which meant I couldn't use them on the local highways. Just last week I asked both Google and Apple Maps to take me to a local town hall. Apple showed me the wrong town, Google wanted me to go to the U.S. The floods ended here almost two weeks ago and Google still wants to redirect me around them, but wants to take me through roads blocked by construction for almost a month. I get that mapping is hard and up-to-the-minute mapping almost impossible, so generally I try to just get general ideas and not worry the details much.
  • I really prefer the look of Apple maps. I use maps more to tell me how to get someplace rather than finding places. And I find the "look" when I'm navigating to be much cleaner and easier to read.
  • I'm totally the opposite - I find Google Maps visually a lot easier to view and follow. This is particularly so in London where they have clear classic icons on the map for underground stations and train stations which are often the main landmarks I navigate by. The Apple Maps representation of these is really poor.
  • I think this is an example of why Google Maps is so much better than Apple Maps for countries outside North America. Apple Maps is very much based on roads, which is probably fine in the U.S, where most people drive everywhere, but doesn’t work elsewhere. As you say, in London people’s knowledge of the layout of the city is generally garnered from the tube map (an iconic design that I am unhealthily fond of), and so Google make sure that the stations are prominent. I don’t know for sure, but Apple don’t seem to have the same global knowledge. They have some great transit functionality, with fantastic levels of detail, but the London tube stations are barely shown on the main map unless you specifically select the Transit option. I assume that Apple Maps are coded by guys in Cupertino so this probably seems a reasonable assumption. However I guess that Google have people in each country giving feedback about what locals expect to be on a map, and that makes their maps so much better to use. Apple really need to up their game with maps, especially outside the US. I am sure that they are great for driving, but what about when walking? Especially when in the countryside, which is where Apple Maps is frankly awful. This was understandable when they first started, but is pretty pathetic 5 years later. Why do they show so few (if any) paths? Surely people in the US like to hike as well? Hopefully Apple will up their game in Maps at WWDC. They have made all sorts of amazing peripheral improvements (3D flyovers, transit, reservations etc) but the basic maps are not much better than they were 5 years ago (at least here in the UK). They still prioritise driving and ignore walking, which is pretty poor for a general purpose app.
  • I'll give Apple Maps another go around. The issue I have with it when using just for a little bit was there is a bit too much movement when navigating. It becomes a bit hard to reorientate your sense of direction when this happens too much. Maybe I'm just getting old.
  • My only problem with Apple Maps is that it's the only option when it comes to Car Play...can't open Waze or Google Maps in the place I need them most...my car. Usually Apple Maps works well here in Monterrey (Mexico), but when it doesn't, I've got to pull out my phone holder and stick it to the window to be able to use Waze (which is usually the best of the 3 for me here).
  • Rene, by focusing just on the look of Apple Maps, you are leaving out the huge improvements that Apple continues to roll out. For example, it's just in the past year AM has implemented the hugely beneficial "alternate routes" pop up when accidents occur. Apple Transit is also superior to GM Transit, not in number of regions yet, but in accuracy and user features. (Apple could have turned on every region at once, as Google did, if they simply were satisfied with stock data, but Google was criticized for accuracy, etc., and Apple wanted a very different user experience. Also, it would be good for you with your contacts to do an article on what is around the corner with Apple anticipated to compete its base map this year or early 2018. This will lead to some fantastic developments, such as Sky to ground zoom, again far superior than the GM Streetview which is very dated and clunky to use.
  • Rene, also it would be great in an article to let folks know how huge mapping is in Apple's future. With the debacle of a roll out, Apple has intentionally been low key in building base map and adding features, but they are adding thousands of employees to mapping, e.g., new center in India, and mapping is integral to the future Apple ecosystem, something most don't realize.
  • Two YEARS after moving into my house I still have to tell people not to use Apple Maps. It's just awful. Apple reallly needs to allow Google maps integration into the iOS for one click directions. Apple maps isn't even close (and I'm an Apple fan boy), not by **** far. Stays deleted (thank you Apple for at least allowing it to be deleted so as not to accidentally click a link and open up that garbage of an app)
  • If you've read the previous comments on here, Apple Maps is certainly not garbage. Yes it's probably inaccurate in your area, but just because it's bad in one area doesn't mean it's bad all round. Google Maps is very inaccurate for me around where I live, by your logic that means Google Maps is just as garbage as well
  • Google Maps is really better when it comes to overall reference and map information. But when it comes to driving directions, I find Apple Maps and Google Maps are mostly the same. Google maps is good at giving you lane instructions which Apple Maps doesn't do. However, I've had Google either stop giving directions or begin giving me directions in an opposite direction. I haven't had these problems with Apple Maps. Apple Maps is usually reliable when I'm driving and using Car Play.
  • I am, for the most part, content with Apple Maps. Give me lane guidance and multi-destination routing, and it'll be perfect for me.
  • Most people I know use Google Maps. I haven't driven in like... Years, Lol. So, naturally I only use Maps when told to. In that case, I just use whatever device I have. If I have my Windows Tablet, I will just use that cause it has GPS and Offline Maps. If I'm on my Kindle I'll check on that if I'm tethered. If i'm on my Phone, I will check Apple Maps, cause I don't install redundant apps on my phone (like Google Maps). I've yet to have any of those take me to the wrong place, so I pretty much don't care about these details anymore...
  • Over where I live (Bulgaria) Apple Maps has much more serious problems than your usual "oh, there aren't enough businesses and places of interest" or the "road is closed due to construction work and it's not reflected on the map". The biggest issue Apple Maps has for me is the omission of small roads and pedestrian walkways. As such Apple Maps cannot even give me the fastest route to my location. Google Maps, on the other hand, is much more comprehensive. That said, I still prefer Apple Maps, I just need to duplicate my route search in Google Maps to make sure that I am going where I need to go and that I will get there as quickly as possible.
  • For a very nice job with the same topic, head over here and check out what this other author has to say! Enjoy. https://www.justinobeirne.com/a-year-of-google-maps-and-apple-maps
  • That's the article that Rene is talking about.
  • Ah got it. That article is really good! Thx PM!
  • No worries. It is a great article that gives a good insight into the difficulty of creating maps that are used for all sorts of purposes. I think they should give the user more control over what they want to see on the map. Both apps have “transport” modes, and Google have “cycling”, but why not have options for hiking, shopping, tourism, emergencies etc? Although then no-one would buy my app!
  • yes a very good article. And if it's relying on Tom Tom information it explains why for more than a year my like 30 requests for a correction of a business and address went unfixed. They probably could not fix it because it was someone else's information, which i always suspected. That said they did offer a place to offer corrections. So i figured they had some input.
  • My experience is very much the opposite. Google has always and still does have far more detail, businesses in my area, LA. The addresses and business names are more accurate too. I even told apple several times about errors that didn't get fixed until just last year. Google street view is the killer feature though and i haven't seen an apple offering that compares to that. I do wish google had a feature where i could just have it in 3d driving mode w/o navigating somewhere. And also even when you're driving or navigating it doesn't always show the map in the direction your moving which is annoying. Google also has maps inside many stores here which was actually quite useful as when i was looking for a used record store i peered inside and it was pretty easy to determine that it wasn't a traditional record store but was more of a joint selling overpriced brand new albums you could get at Urban Outfitters and incense. Apple is ok. i use it sometimes. But it really annoyed me when i used it to drive to "Walmart" only to find out it was really a "Sam's Club", a business owned by Walmart but clearly messed up on Apple's maps. Somehow I'm guessing they got the information messed up. Unfortunately the nearest Walmart was like a 25 minute drive away. And i hate Walmart. I didn't want to have to go in the first place. Interestingly, i noticed Yelp had the exact same error along with several other errors Apple's maps had. I theorized that wherever they got their data from it was the same place.
  • Verizon Navigator FTW! :D Yes, I'm joking. Why on earth VZN still comes preinstalled on some phones, and is offered for download on others, boggles my mind. Who the **** is gonna pay for that when Google and Apple offer Maps for free? Anyway, I prefer GM to AM, mainly because it tells me what lane to be in, and that's a big one in the NJ/NYC area. Also prefer the look.
  • I routinely switch between Google and Waze. At least here in Toronto, I find Waze far and away does the best job in routing you around traffic and congested areas. The feature I like best about Google Maps is that as you are driving on a particular route, superimposed on the Map are various "similar ETA" routes, so for example, instead of driving straight up a particular street which may be the "main route", Google Maps will show me "similar ETA" if I turn left. I have tried Apple Maps and while I find it to be generally accurate, I have less confidence in its real time traffic updating. Anyone have any thoughts or experiences with Apple Maps and traffic (in Toronto)?
  • Here in Sweden Apple Maps is so far behind Google Maps.For info and POI i use Google Maps.For navigation i use Waze.
  • Still no bicycle choice! For a green company a shame!!!
  • I like the look of Apple Maps and the little Taptic feedbacks on my Apple Watch, but I've found that unless you have a general idea of where you need to go - IE not in an unfamiliar city - it is too unreliable. Can't tell you how many times I've searched for a store, restaurant, or a park name and it's given me directions to something across the country.
    I was in Florida recently and navigated to a restaurant with Apple Maps - except it sent us to a subdivision 4 miles away from the actual place.