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Apple Maps, the app that once led you to a dead end in a cornfield instead of your intended destination, is now improving. It’s as if the app is going through a self-improvement boot camp, shedding its old ways and emerging as a shiny, new, and improved navigation tool.
The new updates in Apple Maps include high-definition and up-to-date images. If we look at ‘Street View’ in Google Maps, the images found could be months or even years old, while on Apple Maps, the ‘Look Around’ feature is faster and keeps getting updated regularly. Moreover, unlike Google Maps where the Street View and Maps are independent, Apple Maps is more intuitive and the ‘Look Around’ perspective changes while moving the map, giving it a more live-like feeling, covering a lot more details.
Even the interface is a lot cleaner in Apple Maps. Streets are more visible with fewer labels while in direction mode, making it distraction-free and easier for drivers. In India, Apple Maps uses MapmyIndia’s map.
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Interestingly, Apple’s Siri, the voice assistant, too, has been better than Google Assistant. This advantage is visible when comparing the voice navigation of Apple Maps, which instead of giving distance or length measurements like, “Turn left after 50 metres”, asks you in a more conversational or human-like manner to “Turn left on the next crossroad”. This is definitely more appreciated by users than the machine-like Google’s version.
Looks like Apple is trying hard to get independent of Google and beat it at the game. Apple’s Safari browser still has Google as its default search engine, for which Google has been paying Apple billions of dollars every year. Now, Apple has been working behind the scenes for its own search engine.
The Struggle Continues
One of the features that Apple Maps has been ridiculed for for a long time is the satellite and flyover imagery. Now, it lets you see a 3D view of the streets when you tilt the perspective.
But with a smaller user base when compared to Google, the 3D view is not available across the globe yet. This is where Google takes the cake.
The result: Google recently announced a new AI feature in their map. Using neural radiance fields (NeRF), Google is leveraging its massive photos library to create a 3D experience within the app for several locations. Currently, working in only select cities, the popularity of the app will definitely make it easier for it to expand globally, most probably faster than Apple can. This comes after Google announced its Immersive View last year.
Google Maps currently dominates the mobile maps market with an 80% market share and over a billion users. Apple Maps ranks second in popularity among mobile users with a market share of approximately 10-12%.
This puts into perspective why Apple Maps looks more basic as well – in other words, less labelled places. Since most people use Google Maps, there are more businesses registered on their platform. See the difference below.
Apple Maps is only available on iPhone, making the community very closed. Though users can access it on Android through different browsers, they cannot start navigation. It does not work offline as well — you cannot download an area of the maps and access it later. On the other hand, Google Maps is independent of the platform and works on iOS too.
This can be changed though. Just like Apple Music is available on Android, their maps can also be integrated into it. But there has to be a very solid reason why an Android user might want to shift to an Apple product on their phone, given the smaller user base and community. Even though the tech behind it is getting better, Google also is taking big steps.
A Glimmer of Hope
Ever since Google Maps was launched in 2004, if you are looking at a map for a coffee shop or searching for directions on their phone, it is automatically the default choice. The same year, Microsoft’s Bing Maps (formerly known as Microsoft Virtual Earth), was also launched, but it could never compete with what Google was offering.
Apple Maps came late in 2012, released with iOS 6. Even after so many years to learn from and develop on Google’s product, and blaming Google for copying iOS and creating Android, their maps received a lot of criticism and dismissal, which was obvious, given its subpar functionality and horrendous satellite imagery, in some cases the directions were even “life-threatening”.
But over the years, a lot has changed. The humans of the Apple ecosystem are finding Apple Maps a viable alternative to Google Maps. It took a decade after its launch for the company to finally develop something that is better for the users.