Apple Maps vs. Google Maps vs. Waze

“In early 2017, a conversation with yet another Waze fanboy finally nudged me to start a navigation app experiment. I was skeptical that the Alphabet owned company could meaningfully best its parent’s home grown Google Maps,” Artur Grabowski writes for Arturrr. “I was also curious whether Apple Maps had discovered competence since its iOS 6 release.”

“I thus set out to answer three questions: Which navigation app estimates the shortest travel time? How does each app over/underestimate travel times? Which navigation app actually gets you to your destination most quickly?” Grabowski writes. “This exercise lasted the majority of 2017 and led me to dread almost any car trip due to the self imposed data gathering tasks that came with it. Nonetheless, my wife and I persevered, and I hope this data serves the community well.”

“Relative to Google Maps, Apple Maps estimated trip times were on average 8% longer (i.e worse) and Waze estimates are 3% shorter (i.e. better),” Grabowski writes. “Using Apple Maps, I on average arrived 1% faster than initially estimated, versus 2% slower with Google Maps and 11% slower with Waze. In other words, Apple sandbags its estimates so that users on average arrive at the predicted time or slightly sooner. Google and Waze are overly optimistic in their predictions and thus their users arrive later than expected.”

“If you want to get to your destination most quickly, use Google Maps,” Grabowski writes. “If you want an accurate prediction from your navigation app to help you arrive at your destination on time, use Apple Maps. If thinking you’ll get to your destination quickly helps to ease your commuter anxiety, use Waze.”

Much more in the full article – very highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: We commend Arthur for undertaking and completing such an arduous test!

Note that all of the data was collected in the San Francisco Bay Area, so, for the hundreds of millions outside that area, your mileage will vary.

Bottom line: Apple Maps was saddled with a poor first impression because Apple screwed up and didn’t release it with a “beta” tag. Apple Maps is better than its reputation suggests. If you haven’t tried Apple Maps lately, give it a try! If you have an Apple Watch, especially, you’ll want to give Apple Maps another chance.

As Arthur writes, “Waze (Alphabet) makes money through ads when you use their app. What better way to get people to use your navigation app than by over-promising short trip times when no one takes the time to record data and realize that you under-deliver? If an unsuspecting user opens Apple Maps and sees a 34-minute route and compares that to 30-minutes in Waze, the deed is done. Now Waze has a life-long customer who doesn’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked and Waze can throw at them stupidly annoying ads.”

[Attribution: MacStories. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

42 Comments

  1. Two comments:

    First, I have been using Waze for years and I find it ALWAYS overestimates the time it takes me to get somewhere. I’m almost always beating it’s original duration by 1-5 minutes (depending on how far I’m driving).

    But more importantly, Waze is crowd-sourced. That means that people contribute in real-time things like accidents, traffic congestion or police speed traps. I find this invaluable. AFAIK, Apple Maps does not have this. This makes it utterly useless for me. Waze will often redirect me as traffic conditions change. This is invaluable.

    For now, I see no alternative to Waze.

    1. It has been over a year since Apple Maps began re-routing the user when a faster way is available due to traffic conditions. I also appreciate their explicit lane suggestions which I find highly accurate. I live in the DC metro area. I travel frequently with Google and Waze users and I am reminded why my reliance on Apple Maps is best for me.

    2. With Carplay Apple Maps is super fast and accurate. I suspect Apple Maps taps into the vehicle’s GPS signal rather than iphone, makes it a real pleasure and productive plan ahead tool.

    3. If you adhere to the posted speed limits fairly well, then I have found ETAs from both Apple Maps and Google Maps to be pretty accurate. That leads me to suspect that you are a lead-foot and routinely drive around 8-10 mph over the posted speed limit. I somehow doubt that you actually come to a complete stop at stop signs most of the time, either.

      A 40-mile trip at 60 mph takes 40 minutes.
      A 40-mile trip at 70 mph takes 34.3 minutes, 5.7 minutes or 14.3% less.

      Honestly, speeding does not really pay off for shorter trips. One stoplight can eliminate the potential time saved, and I despise the crazy drivers who routinely risk my safety out of ignorance or apathy.

      For longer trips, though, an additional 10 mph on the average speed can cut several hours. For example, on a 1200 mile trip, averaging 70 mph rather than 60 mph saves 2.86 hours – analogous to cutting 170 miles off of the trip at the lower speed. as mileage, of course, drops because drag is a function of velocity squared.

      1. I wonder if any of the three periodically adjust the arrival time similar to how I’ve seen car navigation systems in Japan do based on road conditions, speed and remaining distance.

  2. One more thing: just because Google bought Waze doesn’t make Waze a Google product. Yes, they own it. But they didn’t create it (it was originally an Israeli company).

    1. How long do you think it took Google to bastardize it for its nefrarious datamining purposes?

      By the “invented by someone else” logic,
      iTunes isn’t an Apple product.

  3. Accuracy of travel times is quite an important factor for me. Here in the UK I use a dedicated TomTom sat nav which uses my iPhone for traffic updates and it will frequently alert me to a faster alternative to the route originally planned, but in reality those faster routes are not necessarily any quicker than sticking with the original route and sometimes turn out to be slower.

    Yesterday evening I travelled for just over two hours, covering 110 miles from the other side of London to my home starting out at the tail end of the rush hour and the eta predicted by my TomTom at the start of the journey was within two minutes of the time actually taken, which I thought was pretty impressive.

    I prefer to use a sat nav instead of a mapping app in my iPhone because a sat nav never gets sidetracked by incoming phone calls or alerts and also a sat nav displays my exact speed, which is very important when I’m driving in a country where speeds are in kph, but my car has a speedometer showing mph.

    I gave up on Waze a couple of years ago. It wasn’t at all reliable and I found it cumbersome to enter destinations. The only thing I missed about Waze was the alerts for temporary police speed traps, but even they were often gone by the time I passed that point.

  4. I use Apple Maps as my main but I have to say it still lacks data. There’s places I couldn’t find on Apple Maps that I can find in google maps. Apple Maps got an entire shopping
    Mall on the wrong place and I had to report on every single of them and still gets some issue. I also don’t know why Siri always suggest going freeway when a shorter route is available.

  5. I love Apple Maps. It always gets me to where I’m going. Accuracy is more important to me than if I’m a minute early/late on a two-hour trip. What I’d be more interested in is having more choices in the “control box” on the main screen. I’d like to be able to quickly find a hospital or restaurant or entertainment venue if I’m on the road—not just coffee shops. Why not the full search range of choices?

  6. I very much appreciate the visual depiction of which freeway lane I should get into when approaching an exit or turn—but even more, Siri verbalizes it so if I can’t look at the phone display I know which of 6 lanes to ease toward at a critical junction. Also, one can specify whether or not Siri should favor HOV commuter lanes or the regular ones which can save a lot of time near the (horrors!) LA area freeways.

    Also, Waze frequently re-routes us when there’s a slowdown ahead but often after numerous small street detours, when re-entering the freeway it seems almost no time has been saved. Apple Maps tends to just stick with the original, simpler routing and even if it takes a minute or two longer than Waze, it is much more relaxing and hassle-free.

  7. On my iPhone Apple maps works fine. Just yesterday I used Maps on the computer and found that the satellite image of my neighbor in NYC is over 5 years old. I can tell as trees that were knocked down by Hurricane Sandy are still in the image.

  8. In my experience, Apple maps is spot on for directions and addresses. However, it sometimes doesn’t have any information. Google seems sometimes to have addresses on the wrong side of rural highways and roads. Inside cities, Google is spot on.

    As far as times go, each is close enough not to matter, their errors are the difference between catching a few traffic lights or not.

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