Fri, 16 Aug 2013 Apple Maps vs Google Maps comparison review – is Google's Maps still better than Apple Maps?
We compare Apple's Maps with Google's Maps app
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Google Maps is simpler to navigate and generally a more accurate Maps app; Apple Maps has impressive 3D views
- Cons: Both apps will drain your iPhone battery when in use; we'd like to be able to specify routes in more detail, driving through central London is never the best route
- Price: Free
- Star rating:
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: review
Apple Maps is preinstalled on every new Apple smartphone and is a part of iOS 6 which launched in September 2012. Despite introducing a raft of new features, it turned out to be a highly controversial move on Apple's part. Stories of Map inaccuracies, missing information, and incorrect search results spread across the Internet. The general consensus: Google Maps was better and it was a rare step back for an Apple product to make. Apple CEO Tim Cook apologised for the maps fiasco and promised that Apple work strive to improve the product.
In the meantime people were avoiding updating to iOS 6 because they didn't want to lose the Google Maps app that had been preinstalled on iPhones until Apple removed it with the iOS 6 update. Apple even recommended that its users turned to Google's Maps web interface on their iPhones while it waited for Google to finish preparing a new iOS version of Google Maps for the iPhone.
Since December 2012 Google Maps has been available on the iPhone as a download from the App Store, and as recently as July Google Maps became available for the iPad.
It's been almost a year since Apple launched its Maps app and in that time the company has made various improvements to the tool. Have these improvements been enough to make it a reliable alternative to Google Maps?
An example of the Apple Maps fiasco...Luckily for Essex University students, Colchester is no longer permanently under cloud
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: UK price and how to download it
Both apps are free. Apple Maps is part of iOS 6 and is a default app on every phone. It's not even possible to delete it, although some have relegated it to a hidden folder on their devices (if you want to do the same follow the advice in our How to move or delete any app from your iPhone article.)
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: Accuracy of data
Locating: We definitely feel more confident using Google Maps, perhaps we are correct in the assumption that the data is more reliable, or perhaps the damage was done in the early days of Apple Maps when the location of whole towns was called into question. Many of the data inaccuracies of Apple Maps have now been corrected, and generally train stations and other key landmarks are now locatable and, crucially, in the correct location.
Time travel: How do two compare when it comes to predicting how long it will take to get from A to B? Google Maps indicated that it thought the quickest route would take 1 hour and 1 minute from Euston Road to Croydon, driving through London via the A32. Apple Maps suggested a slightly different route that it reckoned would take 49 minutes. A journey between Euston Road and Ipswich was judged to take 1 hour 55 minutes by Google, and 1 hour 57 minutes by Apple Maps.
A to B via Google Maps
A to B via Apple Maps
Roadworks and traffic info: The notable difference, Google Maps flashed up roadworks that might interfere with the trip. It's not as if Apple doesn't have traffic information, it just doesn't flash up a dissuasive warning with as much conviction. A quick look shows both apps have the same data about traffic and roadworks.
Car crash information from Google Maps
The equivalent crash information from Apple
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: Route planning
Planning a route: Both apps are similar in terms of how you search for a route. Search for your destination, confirm that you wish to travel from your current location, and then pick the route you prefer.
Mode of transport: Google Maps is slightly more flexible when it comes to your mode of transport. In Google Maps you search for your destination and then determine your mode of transport from the options at the top of the results page. You can then choose the route that you prefer from those given (three routes by car, four routes for transit, three routes by bike and three routes by foot).
Pick your mode of transport from Google Maps
In Apple Maps you can also start by searching for your destination, but changing your mode of transport is not so simple. If you search for a location and tap the car symbol to the left of the destination name it takes you straight to a visualisation of three driving routes to your destination. If you didn't want to drive you have to tap the > symbol to the right of the destination name, select Direction to Here, and then choose Car, Walking, or Transit. Apple may be making the assumption that most of the time we are looking for driving directions, but in London nobody would drive from point A to point B.
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: Driving directions
Via options: We feel that both Google and Apple Maps would benefit from the option of including a Via option when determining a route. Google Maps lets you add Route Options that include Avoid highways and Avoid tolls, but if you want to use the M25 rather then drive through the centre of London there's still no simple way to set this route up. Apple Maps has no option for avoiding tolls.
Route Overview: You can get an overview of your route on Apple Maps by tapping the tiny square at the bottom of the Map next to 3D. To get the same view in Google Maps you have to tap the three little dots on the bottom right of the screen and select Step-by-step list. You'll see various other options there including Route preview and Satellite view. The Satellite view impressed us, it gave us a 3D satellite view of the area through which we were travelling.
A route overview in Apple Maps
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: Walking directions
Footpath: When we used Google Maps to search for walking directions from our office on Euston Road in London to Euston Station we actually thought we'd stumbled across a glitch because the map showed a number of blue blobs rather than a line indicating the route. We associate a blue blob in Google Maps with our location and hence these small blue blobs look like the phone is telling Google that we are in all those locations. It just doesn't seem that logical to us although Google is clearly trying to differentiate between the points in your journey when you are walking or on public transport. The Google Maps route also didn't take us to the station entrance but abandoned us on the main road outside. Tapping Start gave us spoken instructions as well as turn-by-turn style navigation. Spoken directions are fancy, but we couldn't actually hear them out on a busy road.
Apple Maps, on the other hand, gave us a simple blue line to follow that took us to the station entrance. Tapping Start gave us clear directions that we could swipe through as we approached our destination. We preferred the fact that we could swipe through the directions on Apple Maps; with Google Maps it is not possible to see your next move until you have reached the preceding location.
Walking routes in Google Maps - we thought the blue dots were a glitch
Walking directions in Apple Maps
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: turn-by-turn directions
Voices: Google Maps has a bolshily American woman telling you which way to go while Apple Maps has the UK's male Siri voice giving you directions. There are strange ways for saying things like roundabout and the odd unusual phrase that isn't familiar to UK listeners, but all in all the turn-by-turn directions are acceptable.
Adequate warning: both systems give you plenty of warning before you need to make a manoeuvre and directions are clear and concise. The real competition here is from the Tom Toms and other dedicated sat navs.
Data and battery: Speaking of dedicated sat navs, those devices will always have one up on any navigation app on the iPhone as they will not run down your phone battery, and they do not rely on data to download the maps. We have frequently been caught without a data connection when we've needed to use either Maps app on our iPhone. Just try putting in a new route when in the middle of the Kent countryside, or for that matter at most locations on the M25. If you don't have 3G you have no chance.
There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to get the data connection you need to plot a route
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: transit directions
Trains, planes and automobiles: Only Google offers transit directions. Request a transit route in Apple Maps and you are greeted with recommendations of Routing Apps, top of the list being Google Maps. Both apps do include ferry routes as part of route planning for driving routes.
Apple's answer to providing transit information...
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: graphics
3D: Before the launch of Apple Maps much was made of the graphics, particularly the 3D flyover Maps. Initially these maps were only available in the centre of London and a few other UK cities, now the maps have spread out – we now have 3D maps around the location of our office, these weren't available back in September 2012. The question is really whether we need to see London landmarks in 3D. It's a bit of a novelty really.
Satellite view: The Google Maps app has detailed satellite images but these can't be viewed in 3D, so the effect isn't nearly as impressive as on the iPhone.
Street view: However, Google does have Street View. To access this through the iPhone app, search for a location, e.g. St Pancras International Station. Tap the orange pin to bring up information about the location. Then tap Street View to see the image taken by Google's street cars.
A beautiful 3D render by Apple
The satelite view in Google Maps
Street view in Google Maps
Apple Maps vs Google Maps: the verdict
While Apple Maps has come on since its launch 11 months ago, it's still not really a match for Google Maps. Some features are impressive, like the 3D maps view, but we wonder how necessary they are. What people need from a navigation app is accuracy and in that case we still feel that Google is more reliable. We would still prefer to use a separate navigation device when driving however based on battery usage and the lack of reliable 3D data around the UK's roads.