How far ahead of Apple Maps is Google Maps?

Long ago, Google Maps had a huge edge over Apple Maps, but Apple Maps made great strides. In many areas, Apple Maps caught up. In my travels (mostly in the eastern US), Apple Maps works well, gets me where I need to go, does a solid job predicting traffic, rerouting me as needed. And the tight integration with my Apple Watch makes a big difference when I’m navigating new territory.

I realize Apple Maps is great in some areas, lacking in others, but this post is about one specific feature, a feature in which Google has a decided edge: Representing property, buildings, and structure outlines on map.

Justin O’Beirne has pulled together an incredibly detailed post showing these differences. As you make your way through the post, you can’t help but see how massive Google’s lead in this particular area has become.

Google has repeatedly told journalists that it started extracting data from Street View imagery in 2008, as part of its “Ground Truth” project. So this suggests that Google may have a 6+ year lead over Apple in data collection.


And as we saw with AOIs [Areas of Interest], Google has gathered so much data, in so many areas, that it’s now crunching it together and creating features that Apple can’t make—surrounding Google Maps with a moat of time.

This is not a complaint. For me (and I recognize your mileage may vary here), Apple Maps works quite well. But the arguments and images in Justin’s post are fair proof. Google has a big edge in data collection.

Can Apple catch up? Of course. If they spend the money, make the commitment.

As has been said many times before, data is the new oil.

  • jmas

    Apple Maps is light years behind Google Maps in many countries, including most of Western Europe. No transit directions (except for a few lucky cities), poor or outdated street maps and POIs; no lane guidance; 3D view (“Flyover”) limited to some cities; no Street View equivalent… The list of missing features goes on and on.

    In my experience (I live in a densely populated urban area at Northern Spain), the only advantage of Apple Maps over Google Maps is the Siri voice when using navigation. Google Maps’ voice (at least the Spanish one) is irritating.

    • Google Maps is simply awful in western Canada. I have found I can’t trust it; sometimes it seems fully half their data points aren’t even real.

      So I search for websites and plug in addresses whichever service I use.

  • Kyjaotkb

    Hi Dave, come and take a trip here in Europe. Go to Paris. Open Apple Maps. Search for “Opera”. Put on your walking boots as Apple Maps takes you 200km away. Apart from London, few places I have been to in Europe really give you good results on Apple maps. Even more so if you are a pedestrian / use transit. But, hey, in London we have Citymapper anyway.

    • weird, i set my maps to Paris then searched for “opera”. Plenty of local POIs.

      I’d attach a screenshot but seems to be disabled here.

      • Kyjaotkb

        My point is that if you are in Paris and look for Opera, it should point at the Opera building/station/area. So would do any person you are asking on the street. Not at an opera located outside of Paris.

  • GFYantiapplezealots

    Apple Maps is light years ahead of Google maps where it counts most, navigation. Do I need to know about satellites and fans on top of a skyscraper is what I’m navigating to an address? No. If I want to explore that area but sure Google maps is fine. Otherwise I’m using Apple Maps to get to where I need to go.

  • Jean-Daniel

    In my country, Google Maps is junk. They tried long time ago to guess the road using satellite image analysis and the result is that anything that remotely look like a line (field edge, trees, shadow in the grass) are represented as road. I often see people coming near my house a stopping when they reach the lawn, surprised that there is no road to go further (like on there favorite map app)…

    Unlike Google Map, Apple Map is pretty accurate in the same place.

    • Kyjaotkb

      Which is your country?

      • Jean-Daniel

        France… Not all the country map suffer from this fortunately.

  • That’s a great post, thanks for the link and discussion.

    For me, it’s a balancing act between data and integration/navigation. Google has the data and Apple has the integration on its devices. Too bad they’re in competition, it would be nice to see them merged in some way.

    So far, I use Apple maps more because it’s easy to use but I do have Google maps on both my iPhone and iPad and will use it at times when I want more data on a given location. As was said in the post, Google has been collecting data long before Apple got into mapping so Apple may never catch up in that area, but integration and ease of use is an area they can keep the lead in (if they keep their eye on the ball).

    • jmas

      Agreed. However, I find myself using Google Maps more and more over time, mostly because transit directions (looking for the best combinations) and Street View. I do not use navigation very often.

      Anyway, I think that Apple could greatly improve Maps, especially outside the USA. It is a simple question of resources: money and time. In my opinion, Apple should spend a bigger part of the pile of cash they are sitting on in order to make Maps more competitive (I insist: especially outside the USA).

      • I agree: more map data fewer emoticons.

        • freediverx

          But what about Animojis?

          • James Hughes ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ”

            Maybe Animojis that point to the correct direction. Just imagine the “poop” emoji leaving a skid mark trail and you are on the right track, so to speak.

  • ThinkActive

    Thanks. But I’ll stick with Apple Maps. #PrivacyMatters.

    • Alex Hon

      Facebook has allowed small businesses to volunteer their patrons’ location and foot traffic info by authenticating their in-store Wi-Fi. In a way that helps them augment their mapping data, especially for stores within shopping malls.

      But as a result, the individuals are letting Facebook know even more about their schedules and possibly shopping/consumption habits.

  • freediverx

    Apple Maps is fine for navigation, and their user interface is infinitely better than Google’s.

    But what’s frustrating is their ridiculously outdated satellite imagery. Satellite photos of Miami are over five years outdated, which is particularly meaningful since we’ve had a huge construction boom with numerous new skyscrapers and development complexes.

    The site of Apple’s newest store in Miami appears as a vacant lot in Apple Maps.

  • JimCracky

    Stay home more.

  • rb763

    No, Cryptocurrency is the new oil. Oh, wait….

  • Billy Razzle

    What bothers me about all of this is that people act like Google Maps is perfect.

    It isn’t.

  • Cranky Observer

    I have loved maps since childhood, and I have a nice collection of well-drawn paper maps. I used to pour over my hand-drawn perspective map of downtown Chicago and enjoy the accurate-but-artistic building shapes.

    But for everyday practical use, who cares? Maybe a few thousand Amazon delivery unicorns flying over the rooftops dodging Mary Poppins to make that last 500m delivery from the floating zeppelin-warehouse will find all those 3-views useful along with a couple of million map geeks. The other 6 billion people on the Earth use maps down at ground level and really don’t need anything more than to be dropped off fairly close to their final destination. 3-views add nothing to that and can easily make it more difficult, not less, to read the map as a tool.