I use a navigation app all the time. Even if I know where I’m going. Might as well see what the machine recommends. Sometimes I can beat the machine because I know secret shortcuts, but mostly it’s a good travel pal. I also like knowing my ETA, which is always correct.
- Apple Maps has always lagged behind Google Maps in functionality.
- After seven years, Apple will finally release an update worthy of getting excited about.
- With its new “Look Around” feature, Apple makes Google Maps Street View look like it came out of another century.
- While Apple hasn’t surpassed Google with its navigation app yet, it demonstrates in the planned iOS 13 update that it has the potential to kick aside the competition.
While I do have GPS navigation built into my car, I mostly rely on Google Maps, especially in traffic that would test Ghandi’s state of calm—and in Los Angeles, that’s the only kind. Waze is too Rube Goldberg-ian for me and Apple Maps… wait, is that still on my iPhone?
Can you quickly and easily spot my favorites on Apple’s Map?
Yes, I know Apple Maps is still there taking up space on my iPhone’s desktop. I’ve pushed it to the last window because I can’t delete it. I would if I could but it’s one of those apps Apple installs as part of the software.
Apple Maps is that bad. I’ve often wondered why Apple, a company that takes such pride in its advanced technology and seamless experience, would include such an inferior product in its lineup. Okay, Google launched Google Maps 14 years ago and has had time to perfect it, but Apple has had seven years come September since it first released Apple Maps. Certainly, enough time to come up with something respectable, at the very least.
A Buggy Mess
When it launched in 2012, bundled into iOS 6, Apple Maps was a buggy mess, with omissions and wrong information. It was so bad, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, apologized in a letter on the company website for the embarrassing release. He said, Apple is “doing everything we can to make Maps better” and even suggested customers use competitors’ products such as MapQuest, Waze—and even Google’s offering while Apple (supposedly) went back to nurse its black eye.
Still, Apple, for some reason, just couldn’t get its map app right. Until, possibly now.
Apple drops its new version in September with iOS 13, which also happens to be Maps’s birthday month. And, in a year, Maps apparently has come a long way, baby.
Michael Grothaus over on Fast Company got a sneak peak of the updated Maps. From his glowing review, it seems Apple has a shot at besting Google’s offering. Not yet, but soon. Let’s take a look at what got Grothaus singing Maps’ praises.
New Look Around Feature Slays
First, Grothaus points out the new and improved Apple Maps’ “most jaw-dropping feature” called Look Around, the same idea as Google’s Street View—but better. Apple finally applied the famous Apple touch with breathtaking views in a fluid interface that “leaves Street View looking like a relic of the early aughts.” To capture these stunning images, Apple used an array of LiDAR sensors and 3D cameras installed on its fleet of vehicles, which have been driving around the world for years now.
Another update that Grothaus calls out as better than Google’s offering is in vegetation and building structure data. Okay, so Apple has shown it’s got the chops to make Maps a contender—if it wants to put the effort into developing it. However, Grothaus points out that Google Maps still has more functionality and better design in certain areas.
Here are some places where Grothaus thinks Apple should take a page from the Google Maps playbook.
Where Apple Needs To Pick Up Its Game
While both mapping platforms offer “Favorites” to mark the places you visit frequently or want to visit, Google aces this one. It’s much easier on the eyes, enabling a quick overview while also allowing you to quickly hone in on specific places.
Grothaus says Apple could fix its version in a day by simply increasing the size of the favorite’s icon and giving it a unique color or shape. Seems simple and obvious enough; not sure why Apple didn’t think of it. Might be a case of overlooking something right in front of your nose, literally. Apple, are you taking note?
Google Maps offers a much better “Favorites” experience.
Another area where Apple falters is in not pointing out city highlights and commercial areas. Google Maps does it by shading areas of interest in orange. It’s helpful to know what’s offered in a new city—and even in your own, you can discover unmined treasures.
Apple also pales in comparison to Google if you want comprehensive info about places you’re going, such as if there’s parking, how noisy it is, times its busy, whether the service is good or not, etc. In Google Maps, other users provide the information on the establishment’s information sheet, including their own reviews.
Not Enough Reviews
If you’re expecting to find crisp photos and comprehensive reviews in Apple Maps this go round, forget it. Unlike Google Maps, you have to pop over to sites like: Yelp, TripAdvisor or Foursquare. I can hear the design hawks at Apple saying we aren’t a review service. Really though, Apple probably made this decision to keep the interface clean and under its control.
However, Grothaus offers another good suggestion to Apple to address the problem: “at least integrate third-party reviews and images inside the app so you aren’t kicked out whenever you want to learn more about a business.”
Despite Apple Maps’ shortcomings, it has risen to excel in what people mostly use a map app for: getting from point A to B and actually having points of interest correctly situated on the map.
As Grothaus concludes, Apple still has some work left to do in Apple Maps. But, given what it did with “Look Around”, Apple has the ability to make Maps the best in the business. Let’s hope Apple puts Maps on its priority list. And, instead of the popular refrain “Google it” to get directions, you might just hear “Maps it”.