The iPhone finally has proper maps again thanks to thew newly released Google Maps for iPhone. The new standalone client loses a couple past features (like deep integration with the OS). In exchange, however, are several other benefits that “hardcore” maps users will no doubt love. Things like a much better, accurate database as well as real-time traffic information all within the app are just two things (of many) that go a long way into making a simply decent maps app into a great one.
But if you’re anything like us, you know that pictures are worth far more than endless babbling. As such, we’ve put together several side-by-side comparisons of Apple Maps and the new Google Maps for iPhone.
When choice routes, Google gives you an additional screen in-between (example) tapping out your destination and the actual navigation window which lists out the main route as well as a few alternate ones. Once you select a route, you’re taken to the main overview screen which shows you starting/ending points (in picture and locations listed). Apple Maps manages to show a bit more information here.
We’re going to call route selection a tie simply because it’s either you prefer one or the other. And really, both are good options.
As a list of directions, things can only be so different as you’re simply looking at a bunch of way points in a list. Apple’s approach is fancier and even with larger individual way point sections, manages to cram a tiny bit more onto the screen thanks to Google’s larger trip estimation and starting point sections up top.
Google and Apple’s approach to displaying ongoing navigation are quite different as you can see. For starters, Google opens up the screen to show as much data as possible by placing the current location point at the top of the display with only the ongoing remaining time in your trip located at the bottom. Meanwhile, Apple takes more room at the top (all things considered) by placing all relevant information above, with only the “locate me” and “3D” buttons on the bottom left corner. Naturally, Apple’s approach is a tad more flashy thanks to the well designed, faux street sign displaying the ongoing directions. While such things are highly subjective, we slightly prefer Apple Maps in this particular view as all the relevant options are onscreen; you can see an overview, end the current navigation sessions as well as locate yourself and toggle on/off 3D mode right on this screen. Google Maps, meanwhile, requires sliding out a menu pane (three dots on the bottom right) to access various extra views.
Location “cards” (for lack of a better word) is hands down better on Google Maps for iPhone. The overall layout is much nicer than Apple Maps and Google Maps offers up a lot more information onscreen. Also, from the location view you can quickly go to the location’s website, request a table, look up the menu and check out additional info (all where applicable of course). You can also pull up photos of the location and most importantly, launching Street View.
In comparison, Apple Maps looks downright rudimentary. You can see the address, launch directions to/from the location in question, adding the location to contacts, adding to bookmarks, sharing said location and reporting problems. No additional photos and no Street View makes Apple maps a lot less useful in this instance.
3D & Satellite Views
3D modes are pretty similar with Apple’s and Google’s map apps with the most obvious difference being the view angle. Apple Maps is a little less overhead than Google Maps, although, Google Maps still displays a lot more information such as street names and actual building labels. Switching over to satellite view we can see the same difference in perspective (see below). We like the perspective of 3D mode in Apple maps better (in both views) simply because it allows a better overall view. That said, 3D view is no replacement for Google’s Street View which allows insane levels of exploration, detail and visual information. For Apple to replicate Street View would take untold amounts of money, a ton of new hires driving around and lots and lots of time.
Apple or Google?
Choosing one over the other isn’t a cut and dry answer. Obviously, hardcore map users will appreciate Google’s much more expansive database of locations, Street View, traffic layers and more. Those looking for a tightly integrated experience will still want to stand by Apple’s own offering in iOS 6. For us, we’re taking a two-way approach: Navigation with iOS 6 thanks to tight system integration and Google Maps for exploring/traffic/visual information thanks to among other things Street View. In the end, though, whichever app you choose falls largely on how you use maps. Rural users might find Apple’s lack of building labels and traffic info a non-issue where as a city dweller lives and dies by such things.
What’s really worth pointing out here is how much nicer Google Maps is and what a good job Google did. The app shows that they’re finally starting to take design and UI seriously. Combined with their powerful maps data, the 1-2 punch is pretty much impossible to beat especially when you take into account Google Maps is free. At this stage in the game we only see two legitimate solutions – Apple for native experiences and Google for the most informative.