Shootout: Apple Maps vs. Google Maps For iPhone

Apple has taken a couple of years worth of negative press over their new Maps app in iOS 6 for iPhone and iPad. As is the case with all mobile device maps, there are problem locations. Apple took it on the chin by dumping Google Maps and rolling their own.

For most iPhone and iPad users, Apple Maps is just fine. Most of the hysteria emanates from tech pundits, Apple critics, bloggers, and late night talk show hosts. Apple’s maps app has plenty going for it, and now there’s a way to compare Apple Maps with Google Maps.

Yes, Google Maps is available for free on the App Store and it’s very good. How does it stack up to Apple Maps? Let’s have a shootout.

Map Data Quality: Apple’s maps are easier to read but have been plagued by location issues. Google has a few years head start on creating their own maps, so let’s just say Apple isn’t there yet.

Advantage: Google

Speed And Caching: Apple wanted Google to improve maps data and functionality for iOS users. When Google balked, Apple made their own and did plenty that is worthy, including vector-based data that is fast to load, caches, and maps that scroll, pan, and zoom with ease. Google’s Maps app for the iPhone is also vector-based, but seems to suffer from less caching.

Advantage: Apple

Details: Google adds a few items still missing in action from Apple’s Maps, including building details.

Advantage: Google

Mass Transit: This is a no brainer. Apple Maps doesn’t have mass transit data and Google Maps does. If you don’t live near or use mass transit, then who cares? But if you’re city bound, transit is important.

Advantage: Google

Desktop Map Syncing: Accuse me of stacking the deck against Apple, but syncing maps between devices is a plus, though probably not used by everyone.

Advantage: Google

Turn-by-Turn Directions: After getting kicked out of iOS 6, Google decided to cave in and provide features that, well, you know, users actually want, including turn-by-turn directions. Unfortunately, they pale in comparison to Apple’s implementation, which is easier to use.

Advantage: Apple

Traffic: Both maps apps have traffic condition indicators, but from what I can tell here in NYC, Google’s implementation is more comprehensive (more red for heavy traffic than Apple). Not every iOS user has New York’s traffic, but it’s good to know where the congestion is.

Advantage: Google

Integration Into iOS Apps: This is a no-brainer. Apple Maps is the de facto, default maps for iOS apps. Google is left out in the cold. For now.

Advantage: Apple

User Interface (ease of use): Google Maps is actually easy to use but suffers from a non-standard iOS-like look and feel, that’s also not very intuitive. Apple is the king of design for a reason.

Advantage: Apple

Street View & 3D: Apple’s flyover 3D is pure eye candy of the highest form. It’s not available in every city, but where it is, it’s to die for. Google, on the other hand, has Street View, and Apple Maps does not.

Advantage: Tie

iPad Version & Mac Version: Frankly, I’m beginning to nit pick the list. Google Maps works on the iPad, but it’s simply screen doubling of the iPhone app, therefore, not as elegant on the iPad. On the other hand, Google Maps is available for Mac and Windows PC users, and Apple Maps is not.

Advantage: Tie

Privacy: To Google, you’re the product, and the company wants as much information about you and what you do and where you go as they can legally (and, sometimes, illegally) get. Apple seems to value personal privacy more, perhaps because it does not impact their business model. Personally, and it’s my shootout list, I don’t like that Google tracks me so much (it’s their business model), and, in exchange for tracking me, gives me free apps to use.

Advantage: Apple

Winner: Google Maps app. But not by much. Everyone loves mobile device maps, but not everyone shares the hysteria exhibited by tech media over Apple Maps problems. Apple’s app is actually decent, and quite usable, despite hiccups in the data. Like Antennagate from 2010 and the iPhone 4, Mapsgate of 2012 will be but a distant memory by this time next year, and it’s likely Apple Maps will have improved more than Google Maps has advanced.


  1. Just a quick comment. I agree that Apple Maps is better designed, and loads faster than Google Maps.

    As for Google Maps’ traffic and transit information… Google may be providing these in large cities like New York, by where I live (Victoria, BC) Google Maps displays “Not Available”!

    At least with Apple Maps, we do get traffic information shown on the maps, and it is also quite accurate.

  2. How much better could this be for iPhone users? Apple, despite a few data problems, upped the ante against Google’s lame maps, and gave iPhone owners a more usable maps application.

    Then, as competition usually does, Google had to up their game, come back with turn-by-turn driving (and, you’re right Kate, they’re not as good as Apple’s), vector maps, and more.

    And all of that is free. What is not to like? Well, other than Google tracking your every move for profit.

  3. Ah, revisionist history.

    Keep in mind that Google did not create Google Maps for iOS 5. Apple created Google Maps for iOS 5. So the whole “Google had to up their game” lines are incorrect. Google already had these capabilities in Android.

    Remember, also, that Google was more than willing to allow Apple to develop turn-by-turn directions in return for improved branding. Apple said no. So the whole, “Google wouldn’t let Apple do turn-by-turn directions” is incorrect.

    If you keep repeating lies, they don’t magically become true. Ask Mitt Romney how that worked for him.

    Kate’s Note: What I wrote is accurate. Google did need to step up their game and Apple forced them to do so. Remember, we’re talking about the maps data that Google supplied to Apple (for a fee), which was deliberately kept inferior to Google’s Maps on Android. Could Apple allow that to continue? No. Now iOS users have two solid maps apps, both are free, and each is better in many ways than Google Maps (the data, not the app) was for iOS 5.

  4. Sorry, Peter. Apple created the Maps app for iOS 5, but used Google’s data. It’s a well known fact that Apple wanted more data for turn-by-turn directions, and other more esoteric maps functionality, including traffic, transit, vector-based data, and so on.

    Google refused to provide the data unless Apple gave Google more access to user data. In the end, Apple decided to go their own way. Now look at the mess Apple and Google have created. Apple Maps is good, fast, and highly usable (with some missing or incorrect data here and there). Google’s new iOS 6 maps app is good, fast, and though not quite as usable, is also free (with some missing or incorrect data here and there).

    Two good maps apps for free, both of which are better than the Google Maps on iOS 5. Oh, the humanity.

  5. Google maps has the edge but I agree, not by much. I use Apple maps a lot on both coasts of the US and it works well for me.

    One issue is that the media likes to pile on. I guess it is lazy journalism to jump on the bandwagon. We all heard that the Australian authorities warned people about using Apple maps. Did you hear the news about police warning against using Google maps? Probably not as that doesn’t fit the narrative.

    Kate’s Note: Haters hate, and Apple bashers bash. It’s what they do.

  6. I am ok with Apple Maps letting third party do transit. For so long we’ve heard how Apple “sherlocks” things. But it’s OK if Google does it? Notice that the pundits glow over Google’s transit directions. There’s no third party with Google at all – it’s Google services only. Apple opened it up to third party developers, and I think that’s a nice thing.

  7. Color me a bit jaded but I’m trying to figure out exactly what’s wrong with Apple Maps that isn’t also wrong with Google Maps.

    On Apple Maps some data is incorrect. On Google Maps some data is incorrect. Who knows which maps data is the worst? I have yet to find one location problem in Apple Maps where I live, but through the years I’ve seen three or four location mistakes in Google Maps.

    There’s a double standard going on here.