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Apple Maps VS Google Maps - who's better?

Published on December 14, 2012 under Technology

Apple Maps VS Google Maps

Yesterday, Google released a new iOS app for it's famous map and directions system. For many iPhone, iPod, and iPad users, it was a welcome sigh of relief as the complaints about the new Apple Maps became endless.

I've been using Apple Maps since the release of iOS 6 this past September. I've had the chance to use it both on my old iPhone 4 and my recently purchased iPhone 5. I've seen the good and the bad, and wanted to review and compare both apps.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps 3D view
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I've seen the images of the distorted roads and buildings displayed online. I believe they exist, but I have yet to see any such instance on my phone. Maybe it's because I'm dealing with a more flat area like Chicago. Still, I was highly impressed with the 3D viewing mode. The images are clear, sharp, and detailed. Plus when you look around, things load up quick and the app seemingly doesn't crash...a problem I've had many times with Google Earth. I also have not had the issue others have encountered where a searched destination was completely off. I do believe this has happened, but I have yet to see it happen.

The GPS directions are where Apple Maps shined. When I was on my iPhone 4, and thus did not have Siri, directions would look like the classic Google Map directions. A blue path and small details on how to get from point A to point B. However, I did like how Apple showed your direction in a nice clear sign, and added a swipe feature to go to the next direction point. They also tied it with the GPS so you would not have to. Makes things much easier when you need your hands on the wheel.

Apple Maps directions
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For the iPhone 5, you get a nice guide the way you would get with a Griffin GPS. You'll see things in clear diagrams with turn by turn visuals, and Siri narrating your journey. It made me go buy a mount to put my iPhone on my dashboard.

Now there are two big sticking points where Apple Maps fails miserably in my book. One for me is the lack of mass transit directions, which Google still rules at. I'm often taking the buses and trains around Chicago as my fiancée will be using our car for her work in the suburbs. With Google I could easily get routes using buses and trains with recent stop times. I could have forgiven the lack of stop times, but not the ability to get around town on mass transit.

The lack of a real Street View is also a sticking point for me. I like Street View simply so I can visually see the place I'm looking for, or for showing someone. Taking a screenshot of Street View and sending it as a message can do wonders when you're trying to give someone directions or tell them about a place they are looking for. I know there is 3D mode, but it doesn't take you down to the streets to see details, and not every building has been 3D rendered.

Google Maps

The new Google Maps app for iOS is a welcome relief for many distressed folks who weren't happy with Apple Maps. With this new edition, I'd go so far as to say they borrowed much from Apple Maps that we had not seen in previous Map apps for older iPhones (or they could have been only found on Android).

Graphically, things do not look much different than when you look at Google Maps on a desktop/laptop or any Android device. Compared to the old Maps app for older iOS devices, many improvements were made in how much gestures manipulate the map. Swipes easily move you around with very fluid animation, and close-ups are clean and crisp in their normal map mode.

Google Maps satellite view
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The Satellite mode still has Google's deep attention to detail, and I'll say it still looks way better than the mode on Apple Maps. It would be cool if one day they could integrate the 3D nature of Google Earth with their map program. Street View though still puts Google ahead of Apple in many respects, and I can't see people taking Apple Maps seriously until they can come up with their own take on this feature.

New additions to Google Maps for iOS are many of the social aspects you had in Apple Maps. You can click on businesses, swipe up, and see information as well as reviews. I do wish Google would reach out beyond their own data network though. The reviews seem to all come from Google, as opposed to other trusted sources like Yelp.com.

Google Maps directions
Click to enlarge

The directions on Google Maps have been greatly improved compared to the old app. You also get the nice GPS-looking display and even swipe gestures to move ahead to new steps in your directions. I did like how Google gives you a quick set of choices on which route to take based on time, while Apple Maps still uses the old and troublesome method of showing you routes on a map to pick from. The Mass Transit directions on Google also put them ahead for us city dwellers.

The only big unfortunate for Google Maps fans is that this is still Apple's ecosystem. Thus you won't be able to simply set Google Maps as your default map app and have other apps use it for directions. I guess the only solution to this is to buy an Android device.

The verdict?

In the end, I think what you use will entirely be up to your own personal tastes. I jumped right into Apple Maps simply because it was there and Google was not. I'm sure when I'm using other apps that call for a map I'll end up on Apple Maps.

Google Maps is still the clear winner here simply because of the years and money they've invested into their map system. I'm sure Apple will eventually catch up to a degree, but Google's Street View system and usage of mass transit will make their map program more appealing in the long run. I don't think Apple Maps is a complete failure, but it does have a lot of room for improvement.

Have you used both mapping apps? Which one did you like better?

Tags: maps, apple, google, ios

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