How far behind Google Maps is Apple Maps?

“Over the past year, we’ve been comparing Google Maps and Apple Maps in New York, San Francisco, and London — but some of the biggest differences are outside of large cities,” Justin O’Beirne blogs eponymously. “Take my childhood neighborhood in rural Illinois. Here the maps are strikingly different, and Apple’s looks empty compared to Google’s… Perhaps the biggest difference is the building footprints: Google seems to have them all, while Apple doesn’t have any. But it’s not just Apple — no one else seems to have them either.”

“But if we had looked at this same area just a couple years ago, we wouldn’t have seen any buildings on Google’s map,” O’Beirne writes. “The buildings are a new thing, and I’ve been watching Google gradually add them over the past year.”

“But ‘buildings’ is the wrong word to describe what Google’s been adding; it’s more like ‘structures.’ Because not only has Google been adding houses, it’s been adding garages and tool sheds,” O’Beirne writes. “Apple doesn’t even have buildings in parts of the U.S.’s three largest cities… In downtown Los Angeles, Google’s buildings are so detailed that you can sometimes see the blades inside the rooftop fans.”

“Google’s building and place data are themselves extracted from other Google Maps features,” O’Beirne writes. “Google’s buildings are created out of the imagery it gathers for its Satellite View… Google has been using computer vision and machine learning to extract business names and locations from its Street View imagery. In other words, Google’s buildings are byproducts of its Satellite/Aerial imagery. And some of Google’s places are byproducts of its Street View imagery… Google is creating data out of data.”

Read much, much more – including tons of screenshots and other examples – in the full article – highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s not just about the data collection, but also what you do with the data. The data is freely accessible to those who wish to spend the time and money to amass it. Using it properly is another thing altogether, but Apple is certainly capable of doing what Google has done/is doing, but does Apple have the will and the focus required to do it?

In terms of “structures,” what Apple Maps offers today is several years behind Google.

It’s all about the dataset.MacDailyNews, October 4, 2017

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps – October 12, 2017
Why Google Maps is better than Apple Maps – October 4, 2017


    1. To the Tim Cook is a Genius crowd:

      Google paid less than a Billion ($966 million $US) for Waze- the best routing in the business.

      Tim Cook paid about $3 Billion for a me too music service and marketer of shitty headphones and defective speakers. For the life of me, I cannot see anything in Beats they could not have done in house- even Microsoft already had a rental music service.
      Here is a list of music services:

      Which one made the better buy?

  1. Just remember what MDN says about Apple, they still tend to run their company like it’s a 5 person company.

    I just wish they would actually use their huge resources better and deliver products on time. The delayed products of late and quality control is very telling.

    1. Go buy a Pixel XL then why don’t you? Tell me how that works out for ya.

      With Apple products….. iAm NOT the product. To each their own.

      iAm VERY content and happy knowing my information is not being bought & sold without my consent (in regard to Apple) not so much with other players.

  2. And then there are public-sourced maps/apps like that somehow have much more data than even Google (including wifi spots, public restrooms, water fountains, etc.) Is it really that difficult for companies like Google and Apple to include these public maps as a subset?

  3. And therein lies the essence of the difference. Apple will never catch up with Google on anything that requires shamelessly trawling through users’ data. Google offers stuff for free, which gives them license to follow users wherever they go. They crowdsource maps, which explains why in US, Google Maps dominates with a long lead. Elsewhere, not necessarily so much. Apple doesn’t really crowdsource their mapping. They buy smaller map companies and essentially pay their way through expanding the level of detail in their maps. While users’ privacy is significantly better protected, in the end, those same users will (ironically) donate their privacy to Google in exchange for a map with greater detail…

    There still are areas of the world where Apple’s maps are more accurate — those where crowdsourcing didn’t quite work all that well. For several years after the introduction of Apple Maps, the country of Serbia was essentially one big black hole on the map of Europe. Other than the major E95 highway, nothing else existed. Then, at one point, overnight, someone flipped a switch and the entire country appeared, with all the roads, streets, cities, towns, villages… And it was noticeably superior to Google: it actually contained house numbers, which was a significant advantage over Google that didn’t have them, and it took quite some time to Google to start getting them. Even today, Google Maps still doesn’t have consistent house numbers (a typical consequence of crowdsourced data).

    This is probably one of the rare examples where Apple’s data, having been obtained commercially (and therefore completely) provides more consistent detail than Google’s crowdsourced stuff. Unfortunately, such exceptions only tend to reinforce the clear difference between Apple’s bought and paid for data efforts, vs. Google’s harvest as much as you can from willing (or unsuspecting) users…

    1. Apple could start by paying attention to user feedback.
      In order to get something corrected I sent them the issue, pictures of the new US 79 Bridge they did not have with embedded GPS data, screen shots of the new bridge and route on Google and other maps like Open Street.

      A year and a half later it is still wrong.

      Hell, if they monitored data and saw cars zipping through roadless areas at highway speeds it might do one well to investigate. That would not require user identifiable data- just monitoring GPS of where you drive vs known map data.

      To be highly paid and supposedly very smart people they do not seem very smart on this.

  4. It seems such a waste of effort having multiple companies all trying to create the same data. Would it be impossible for all mapping companies to put the basic data into one open database and instead put their efforts into how they present that information?

  5. I’ve used Apple Maps enough to not trust it. I’ve had voice tell me to turn right when the map clearly shows a left turn. I’ve had it try to get me to back track 10 miles just to take a particular exit.
    When using it while driving, it’s impossible to see. Whom ever came up with the idea of having thin light gray roads on a white background, with yellow lettering, was smoking something that day.
    I’m sure someone thought it would be aesthetically pleasing, but for practical everyday use is useless and borderline dangerous.
    Microsoft has always practiced the “get it out now and fix it later”. Apple seems to have adopted the “get it out now and ignore it”.
    Just another example of Tim Cooks “80% is good enough policy”.

    1. “Whom ever came up with the idea of having thin light gray roads on a white background, with yellow lettering, was smoking something that day.”

      I don’t know, maybe Jony had a traumatic event in some high contrast environment. Now, low contrast is the fad in many websites. Hope people get their brains back soon.

  6. People seem to be forgetting the original problem with Google Maps: Google was using it as a tool to extort Apple, threatening to take it off the platform. There were years where it was available on Android and not iOS – for a reason. Apple HAD to have their own version of Maps.

    Aside from that, I’ve used both quite extensively. I’ve found both systems will provide erroneous directions. For me, I find the Google Maps UI to be almost unusable. I can’t stand using the damn thing!

    1. I only use Apple Maps and Waze. Neither has sheds or garages, but I’ve found that if I have the address of the attached house, finding and seeing the shed can be done without the app.

      I would imagine local governments are LOVING all this data though. No more building an extension out back without the tax man coming for their share 🙂

  7. Apple Maps doesn’t have a shed on it. A shed that means nothing to me as a motorist as the shed doesn’t have an address for me to drive to.

    I guess it’s cool to see a water tower on a Map, but isn’t the purpose of a map to get from point A to point B? If neither point A nor B can be reached by car, why’s it on a map? I don’t think many people need “walking directions from my shed to my neighbor’s shack”. If they do, they likely have bigger problems than what Map app they use.

    1. Humans are primarily visually oriented and tend to use landmarks vs GPS coordinates or addresses. Maps are still landmark centered so it doesn’t seem strange to me that sheds appear on a system that uses satellite, traffic and streetview image data to present an integrated whole.

      1. There’s no question that the obvious will appear on the map, but when I tap on Apple Maps 95% of the time I’m putting in an address and I want directions to get to that address. I understand that cartographers really love data density because you can sit there and pour over it for hours on end looking at all the details, but I don’t think that there’s any pressure for Apple or anyone else to go to those lengths. If you can get me from here to there, you fulfill the expected use case.

        1. I see your point. I see value in having landmarks to help narrow down a destination when the address entered for one reason or another results in a map point that is ‘off the mark’ of the actual location.

          Also when using a map app to help ‘lost’ visitors it is nice to be able to point out certain landmarks since it is unlikely you’ll offer to let them borrow your device to get to the location.

  8. Never Ever Use Google for anything. No search and definitely not maps.

    Apple maps have been absolutely marvellous. Together with Apple Watch…unbeatable.

    “Sheds and stuff” is propaganda to wash your brain into thinking it is something “important”. It isn’t!

  9. For navigation, I find Apple Maps, Waze, and Google Maps in a virtual tie, none is perfect all the time. Apple Maps gets my vote for best due to it’s integration with my Apple Watch.

    With that in mind, whenever I find myself navigating to sheds and garages, I’ll use Google Maps.

  10. For all Google Maps is doing, it couldn’t indicate a 20 year old shopping area in a nearby community.

    Apple Maps did.

    That said, Apple Maps is missing a Street View feature. Something that is very useful to me and why I can’t use Apple Maps exclusively.

    That said, both Apple and Google are missing a multi-point routing… a feature that would be extremely useful to most people. It’s way, way past time for this to be available.

  11. Something that the article doesn’t recognize is that Apple tends to hold a lot of incremental stuff back in order to make a big announcement about new features. They don’t talk about future products, and that has some significance here. When the article writer indicates that Google is turning imagery into building outlines and Apple isn’t, what should be made clear is that the publicly available map shows this, but there is no proof that Apple isn’t doing stuff like that and just keeping it internal until they have a feature complete package to announce. They rolled out AppleMaps half-baked many years ago and learned a big lesson from it: don’t announce half-baked features. Apple loves to market their stuff, so they will wait until the next big development is complete before announcing it and releasing it. We have seen the Apple street cars for a couple years now and nothing has come from it. That doesn’t mean the cars aren’t doing anything of value.

  12. Since we’re discussing possibilities, it may be that Apple has enough streetview like data to make a nice dent. They may just be having problems making sure to mask ‘private’ data like people’s faces, license plates, etc.

  13. You do realize that there are several other better mapping apps available that put Apple to shame and don’t datamine you? Why do you spend all your angst pitting one goliath against another when so many smaller companies do a better job?

    Wego Here is my recommendation

  14. US 79 was re-routed about an hour away from me over one and one half years ago and Apple Maps still does not have the information correct. I and others have submitted feedback numerous times and it still routes people to a closed bridge and approach route, the only improvement is that it now shows the new bridge- but not as the US 79 route.

    For well over a year it showed the old bridge as out, no new route and would attempt to re-route people tens of miles out of the way to cross the White River. I wonder what they thought of the data from countless iPhones showing highway speed traffic going through what to them was a roadless area in a National Wildlife Refuge. Talk about Duh.

    In the town next to mine another new street has been open for close to a year and when I take it Apple Maps shows me driving through a godless area and tries to route me around it. This and the previous example are not found on Google Maps.

    Apple buys data from Tom Tom and apparently both are just mailing it in. Google takes maps seriously as it drives revenue- ad revenue. Apple seems to be content with mediocrity.

  15. Buildings?! Apple shows a satellite view of my house in rural Canada just fine – BUT it shows the WRONG CITY ADDRESS – the embedded village name on the map is correct, but the address (integrated among Apple’s apps) iS WRONG!!!! I have reported this many times to Apple over many years – no change, nada! Recently, we had friends from another province sent in the opposite direction by Apple’s map driving directions. This problem isn’t theoretical – it affects directions, it affects Contacts and other Apple software. Maybe it is rural, and Canada no less – it is still inexcusable to offer software as a solution, which presents the WRONG solution, and not fix it over five years of requests. By the way – Google’s info is accurate. I don’t like using Google, but I’m really tired of Apple’s indifference to fixing Maps.

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