Google Maps gets an AI-powered update to help you plan your summer vacation, should Apple follow suit?

Apple Maps in iOS 17
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Google has been on a huge artificial intelligence push lately, and there are no signs of slowing down according to a new Google Maps update — but could Apple take inspiration from these features?

On March 27, Google announced a slew of new features for Google Maps, such as a refreshed design with fewer tabs and different colors for pins that will be introduced over the coming weeks. There will also be three lists that users can keep track of — trending lists, top lists, and gems lists, where you will be able to tag places to recommend to other users. There’s also an AI-powered feature that will tell you where certain foods have come from by analyzing photos that users have taken — so you can visit the restaurant in question to try out a burger for yourself.

As a Google Maps user, these updates only make using the app even more useful for me. On most weekends, I’ll go off on a random adventure and visit friends and family, as well as long walks in the Peak District — a national park in central England. During these adventures, I’ll have Google Maps on my iPhone, just so it can help me see if there are any public paths or pubs nearby.

The app is also my go-to in the car for when I need to get from one point to another — yes, I can use Apple Maps, but I just prefer the user interface and the familiar features I’ve been using for years with Google.

Yet seeing this AI-powered feature makes me wonder what plans Apple has for Apple Maps, once the company likely announces some new and improved features at WWDC 2024, taking place from June 10.

You are reaching your AI destination

Apple Maps on iPhones

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Maps arrived in 2012 on iPhone and iPad with a whimper, rather than a bang. As our sister-site TechRadar explained in 2013, maps were often incorrect, long stretches of highways were missing, and much more. 12 years on, and the app has finally built up a good reputation — but many, myself included, still remember how rough Apple Maps was in 2012.

I asked the iMore team for their thoughts about Apple Maps and Google Maps. Our contributing writer, Connor Jewiss, remembers when Apple Maps wanted him to drive off a bridge. “I prefer Google Maps, because Apple Maps tried to send me off the bridge into Waverley station in Edinburgh once.” A similar situation applied to our How-To Editor, John-Anthony Disotto. “Apple Maps once sent me by foot through a field with no exit.” Although our News Editor, Stephen Warwick, prefers Apple Maps because he likes the user interface. Each to their own.

Looking ahead to WWDC 2024, I'm hopeful about what Apple Maps could include to rival Google Maps. Some rumors have already surfaced as to what new features Apple’s app could soon get. The topographical maps currently available on Apple Watch Ultra could be coming to Apple Maps in iOS 18, as well as custom maps. For me though, I’d like Maps to go further, especially with all the rumors of artificial intelligence coming to iOS 18.

‘Absolutely Incredible’ features to come?

iOS 16 Apple Maps in 3D mode

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Many want to see Apple’s AI efforts in Siri, and that’s completely understandable. Apple’s assistant can be unreliable, slow, and useless when given a request. Yet I’d like to see the company’s AI model supercharge Apple Maps as well. Imagine a scenario when you’re driving, and instead of being given a prompt of a faster route, Apple’s AI model just reroutes the trip, alongside constantly monitoring traffic, weather conditions, and more to help your journey be less stressful. It could also recommend a service station if the AI notices that you’ve been driving for longer than what’s advised.

Or if you’re planning a vacation with your family within the Messages app, an AI feature in Apple Maps could find this conversation, and give you a rough estimate of how long the journey would take. The AI could also create a calendar entry of when you’d need to leave to beat the traffic, with a daily reminder of when the drive is coming up.

These features would primarily be about reducing the steps for the user, all thanks to AI. I do believe that artificial intelligence can be a tool — apps like MacWhisper, which can transcribe audio files using OpenAI, is a great example.

The same could potentially be said for Apple Maps in iOS 18 soon. The AI could be a useful tool to help arrange your trips without you having to manually create events, routes, and more. Google has already begun to prove this with its AI features in its own maps app. As we also get closer to Google I/O, its yearly event where the company announces new features and products, I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more AI features be announced for Google Maps in May.

For now, though, I’m still happy to use Google Maps, and as I begin an Easter vacation, I’ll be using the app again to see how my dog and I can take on the big, sprawling hills of the Peak District.

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Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.