Apple Maps up to five times more data efficient than Google Maps

Apple Maps has been getting its share of negative attention since being released, but some new research shines a bright spot on the comparison between Apple’s and Google’s mapping apps.

According to Onavo, a company that specializes in helping customers get the most out of their smartphone data plans, there are some big differences between the apps. The company ran tests on the two apps to see which was the most efficient in its data usage. After running a number of scenarios, the tests showed that Apple Maps was up to five times more data efficient than Google Maps.

For instance, when you search for a new location the mapping app has to download the street data you see on the screen — panning and zooming means even more data downloaded.

“On Google Maps, the average data loaded from the cellular network for each step was 1.3MB, the company wrote on its Web site. “Apple Maps came in at 271KB – that’s approximately 80% less data! On some actions, such as zooming in to see a particular intersection, Apple Maps’ efficiency advantage edged close to 7X.”

Results for the satellite view in Maps showed Apple’s app used about half of Google’s mapping application.

  • hootieandtheshellfish

    AHAHAHAHAHAHA it makes sense because there is obviously less data on the map to transfer lol

    • Unknown1313

      amen, that’s the first thing i was thinking. If don’t have to show details and your satellite resolution and clarity are worse, of COURSE is uses less data! And since i went back to my Android phone i can download the maps offline to my sd card so it’s really not that big a deal. plus if you have an iphone/android and don’t have an unlimited data plan, then u have a problem, and it has nothing to do with maps……

    • Techpm

      Not true for most locations and definitely not true on the satellite view.

      It’s just that the vector data Apple uses is much more efficient than downloading entire bit maps as Google does.

      • hootieandtheshellfish

        It’s funny. Nowhere in the above does it state the word ‘vector.’ You would think in order to explain that efficiency, and to explain why there is less data, that there would be some kind of mention of vectors/images. I mean, that IS the reason why there is less data and why it is more efficient, it’s not a big secret. Vectors use less data than images.

        • It’s funny.

          It sure is…

          Nowhere in the above does it state the word ‘vector.’

          FTFA – Apple Maps’ overwhelming data advantage in Standard Map views is because of Apple’s use of vector graphics.

          Oh, I’m sorry, you didn’t follow the link to read the full details in the original article? How long have you been using the internet?

      • read much? this is from the linked piece.

        Satellite View However, it seems that even in Satellite View, Apple has considered data usage. Our tests found Apple Maps uses only half as much data as Google Maps for the same Satellite searches and views (an average of 930KB for a single page load on Google Maps vs. 428KB for Apple Maps).

    • Hah. Yes, seriously. Good point hootie.

    • yea. that POI XML is fucking HUGE.. i mean. text. the scourge of the internet. clogs the tubes like you wouldn’t believe.

  • cybervicky35

    HAHAHAHAHA….. Typical fanboy…

    • hootieandtheshellfish

      Explain to mean why that’s not true. Have you graduated from high school yet?

  • Trippie

    I would imagine this is because Apple now has access to vector-based map tiles, and their satellite views are lower resolution, both of which are much smaller than what they were using in their previous Maps app. The vector-based tiles were one of the things that weren’t included in the original license, but that Google now offers. I’d be interested to see a comparison between iOS 6 Maps and Google Maps for Android. Regardless, it’s a big improvement that I hope they can maintain, even as the app improves over time.


    “Apple’s app used about half of Google’s mapping application”

    Aren’t they both Apple’s apps? Can you clarify that? The old one used Google’s data, but Apple built and designed the app’s UI and controlled it’s functionality (within the bounds of their license with Google of course).

    • Techpm

      The new satellite imagery is not lower resolution. Try seeing San Fracisco or London for example, it’s much sharper than before.

      • Trippie

        I guess it depends on where you are and where they’re testing. I’ve seen some pretty low res examples from the new maps, including b&w imagery. I have noticed that the new app loads less imagery as you move the map, so you see the black grid as you pan and zoom far more than you saw the grey one before.

  • ApplesOranges

    Come on guys…”5x more efficient”? It’s missing 5x the data. Listen, I’m an Apple guy from soup to nuts, but let’s not go full-retard here. Their maps app stinks – they’ll fix it – it’ll be awesome. Right now, it sucks. It is, what it is.

    • It’s missing 5x the data

      No, you putz, it isn’t. The data savings are because of vector graphics. What you know about “missing data” doesn’t amount to much.

      Their maps app stinks

      Is it your contention that the Maps App contains an entire map of the world?

  • TomCrown

    Apple is using TomTom’s data which has highly detailed data covering the world. Apple Maps of China are far more detailed than Google, these are facts.

    Apple’s back end implementation is less than stellar but they will work out the issues going forward. Here in Canada where I live I have had no issues with Apple Maps.

    Apple using vector maps stands to reason that they would need to pull less information to achieve the same results and Google is moving to vectors also.

  • cronked

    I realize that Apple Maps isn’t perfect. But I have been using it quite a bit in Portland and Seattle since the iPhone 5 release and not only has it been flawless on directions but I much prefer this mapp app to Google’s version (which I also used a lot). I even had to recalculate my route a few times which it did flawlessly. In my case the data was accurate and I understand that isn’t the case for others. BUT the way they present the data makes the app far easier to use for me than Google’s version. The next turn is clearly stated in the green box at the top and the streets are named as they are animated moving towards me. Sounds simple but this made a big difference for me not to mention the responsiveness and smooth execution. If Apple can get the data portion fixed (which would be a big task) and get the public transportation portion fixed, I think they would beat Google’s app for usability. I do think this whole thing has been overblown.

    • Ian

      I live in Portland. I was at a Shell gas station and it said the nearest Shell station was a few miles away. I looked up my cousin’s address, out near 102 and Stark, and it said she lived in the middle of what appeared to be a forest with no roads. I love the Flyover of downtown Portland, but it has its errors.

  • hootieandtheshellfish

    If you want to talk about efficiency, how about being able to cache and download maps to use offline? Google allows maps within a 10-mile radius to be cached, while Nokia allows you to download the entire countries (the US maps data is1.8 GB). Until Apple can offer that with their vector data, then efficiency means nothing when you are still wasting cellular bandwidth on the road.

    • mtrono

      Apple Maps does cache the vector ’tiles’ offline, provided you’ve drilled down to a certain resolution in advance. I just tested it. It’s very slick. I only require offline maps 2-3 times/year, so it’s not critical. But it certainly is convenient.

  • Jim, you obviously are a huge idiot!

    • 123123123

      Serban, you obviously are a small kid.

      • This statement is documented as good as Jim’s arguments in this article.

    • …and you base this on what, exactly?

      • On the fact that Jim’s words translate to: „using Apple Maps and seeing 3 lines consumes less traffic than using Google Maps and seeing the detailed map.” Cpt. Obvious has a name: Jim.

        • Where you being chased while you typed that?

          And you do understand that Jim was summarising an article that he clearly links to? Is Jim an idiot because you don’t understand the Internet?

  • Mustafa

    You can download a better maps app with your efficiently saved data

    • Or buy another phone with the money saved from saved extra-traffic.

  • hello!!! vector art is resolution independent thats why they call it vector ! instead of remembering the position and color of each pixel it draws a line and fills it with color or gradient . the files are much smaller by nature for example Illustrator is a vector program and Photoshop a bitmap it will display in the native resolution of the screen but will print much sharper look at your cereal box and you will see a bitmap in lets say “sugar pops” it has outlines and drop shadows but the ingredients and most other type are vector. bitmap or screen fonts print fuzzy for the same reason they are not math descriptions they are pictures of math descriptions.

    i like apple maps and love that the street names float over the art not under it as googles route lines hide information you may need while making a turn

  • Apple Maps dataset is practically empty, so there should be less data to download. In any event, Apple Maps will continue to lag behind Google’s rich dataset for years. Investors have already decided which company to go with and that’s Google. Google shares are now worth over a $100 more than Apple’s and the gap is growing larger by the day. That’s all that matters. Wall Street has decided that Apple’s value as a company is pretty much done for. Apple’s Maps are just the tip of the iceberg of a company that’s lost its way without Steve Jobs to direct it.

    • Wow, this article brought out the Doomers and Android marketing weenies. Impressive.

      • Phalougher

        Well, it’s an article published on the web, and it mentions the word “Apple”. So I don’t find the fact that it attracts Fandroids and astroturfers very impressive at all.

    • Apple Maps dataset is practically empty, so there should be less data to download.

      Good Odin’s Ravens shut the Hell up. You read a few headlines from Jizzmodo and you think you know anything about datasets?

      Google shares are now worth over a $100 more than Apple’s

      And this means precisely…what? Anything? Is it of any value whatsoever? Because I have some numbers for you.

      Google’s Q3 2011 9.72 Billion Revenue, 2.73 billion In Net Income Google’s Q4 2011 8.13 billion revenue 2.71 billion net income Google’s Q1 2012 10.65B revenue 2.9 billion Net Income Google’s Q2 2012 12.21 billion revenue 2.51 billion net income

      Apple Q3 2011 28.57 billion revenue and profit of 7.31 billion Apple Q4 2011 28.27 billion revenue net profit of 6.62 billion Apple Q1 2012 46.33 billion quarterly profit of 13.06 billion Apple Q3 2012 35 billion revenue, 8.8 billion in net profits

      How is that hundred dollar share price difference looking now, dimbulb, given that Apple made more profit and more revenue in Q1 2012 than Google made in 4 quarters?

      That’s all that matters.

      If you are stupid.

      a company that’s lost its way without Steve Jobs to direct it.

      I mean this with all sincerity when I tell you to kindly go fuck yourself. Referencing Jobs to support your simple minded tripe is as pathetic as it is disrespectful.

  • Macky

    vector will be more efficient. unfortunately accuracy is what we notice first. in time i know it will get better. but they should leave gmaps as it is until their maps is useable WORLDWIDE 😀

    • No, they shouldn’t have. Move now and get the crowd source data they need or give Google another year to solidify it’s lead.

      In light of Apple’s last 15 years, did you really think they were going to let any company have a hammer lock on an important element of their mobile OS?

  • Rangjan

    I wish there was a Nokia maps app… Neither Apple nor Google maps come close to Nokia maps (in Europe anyway).

  • If the calculation doesn’t has to be right, i can do it in zero time.

  • I’m tempted to say that it uses less data because for Switzerland it returns black and white images and the zoom only goes to 200 meters whereas Google Maps goes to “taken out of a plane” view.

    As they come to the a few years later you’d expect them to be more efficient. What I want to see is high res maps and more detailed local places. Google maps is excellent. It’s a shame that we went backwards to a product that’s “almost usable”.

  • Polly

    I must be using Google map wrong. Every time I use it, there is always something wrong. I suspected that the map updating is automated since I have seen a road drawn over a house and was off by half mile, intersections that are not even close to the actual layout, etc.

    As for the street view, it’s data is very dated showing business turnover and street changes,still its fun to play with but not very useful.

  • TC

    You cannot compare iOS5 APPLE Google Maps (an APPLE developed product) to iOS6 Apple Maps. You must compare Android Google Maps to iOS6 Apple maps. If you did, you would realize, and know, Google maps on Android switched to vector maps in 2010… 2010!!!!!!!! If you think iOS6 Maps stinks compared to iOS5 Maps, compare it to Android Google Maps and the difference is 10 times more pronounced. The media is full of BS, Google maps has been vector, for a very long time, when dealing with the products that Google actually developed, not apples crappy google maps product which they developed for iOS.

    • That’s kind of the point, you gibbering twat. Don’t you think if Apple could get Google to give them turn by turn and vector maps, they would have incorporated it into their Apple front end? The whole point of this exercise is for Apple to move ahead with features on iOS that Google wouldn’t let them use.

  • It’s only logical that it uses les data, when it has something, it send’s vector data. Vector vs. Pixel is in this case the real question and of course vector data is much better than pixel data.

    I know everyone loves to hate on something everybody is talking smack about, but keep in mind what the last paragraph says: For Sattelite Imagery it uses ½ as much data. That’s the only thing funny, because as we all know Apples Maps have crappy Sattelite imagery. The vector vs. Pixel has nothing to do with content. It’s just a fact that Apples vector-based approach is much more data-efficient thatn Googles Approach.

    This is something we need to acknowledge: By restricting the Maps to iOS devices Apple has a vector-support guarantee, Google has to provide pixel based data, as it can’t provide vectors to Internet Explorer and other bad browsers.

  • Pierre

    It isn’t just about how much less data Apple Maps use compared to Google Maps in order to complete the same set of lookups all over America. It’s also about how the data is cached and reused in future lookups around the same areas. Here it is… In the past week, I did a few searches in Palo Alto, San Francisco and New York City (NYC, just to check some of the funny bugs that were reported). Now if I switch the phone to Airplane Mode, I can still browse my maps to the highest level of detail not just around the few locations I searched but over the entire Bay Area and the entire city of New York – and I still get the second highest level of detail over all of California, eastern New York and huge swaths of Nevada and New Jersey. Without any data connection! Try that with Google Maps…