In the United States, Apple Maps proves to us that it is better than Google Maps

In the United States, Apple Maps proves to us that it is better than Google Maps

Visiting Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Numerama had the opportunity to compare different mapping applications. Apple’s efforts paid off. In cities where Apple Maps is comprehensive, the iPhone software is best.

Mocked at its launch in 2012, Apple Plans (or Apple Maps in original version) is still hotly contested in 2023. The fault of maps that were too imprecise at the start, as well as a presentation that was undoubtedly more confused than with the competition (Google Maps , Waze…). Even today, many iPhone owners swear by Google Maps as the only viable option for getting around.

However, since 2015, Apple has been increasing its efforts to make its service better. After months of touring France, the Californian brand rolled out its in-house maps in France in July 2022. This has greatly improved the quality of information from Apple Maps, which no longer has much to envy to competition in terms of the reliability of the routes displayed. But changing user habits will take time.

Logically, the United States took a bit of a lead. As early as 2018 in California (and in January 2020 in the rest of the country), Apple began testing its new Apple Maps. The result is striking. In Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the two cities Numerama visited for CES 2023, Apple Maps is hands down the best mapping app we’ve tried.

CarPlay, Apple’s in-car interface. We see here a stadium, perfectly modeled. // Source: Numerama

The 3D interface of Apple Maps is sublime

France may have had the new Apple Plans since July 2022, but it does not yet have all the functions of the service. For some reason beyond us, Apple has decided not to offer the same options in all countries. The deployment of the new Apple Plans is done in several stages, 12 precisely, according to the site of Justin O’Beirne. The blogger, who has made Apple Maps his specialty (his articles on city mapping are fascinating), Paris currently only has access to 8 new features out of 12. A city like Los Angeles, where the deployment is finished, therefore has advantages over France:

  • Several important buildings, such as the airport or shopping malls, are modeled from the inside. We can therefore obtain navigation information, including augmented reality, to find a store.
  • Public transport timetables are updated in real time, these are estimates based on the usual data in France.
  • Routes for bicycles are available. In France, you have to use Google Maps or special applications, such as GeoVelo.
  • The city is modeled in 3D, which is probably the most important point.

3D city modeling is what makes Apple Maps so amazing in the United States. There, hundreds of buildings, including hotels and parks, are viewable in 3D and color. In addition to marveling the user as soon as he searches for a destination, this function greatly improves the quality of navigation. Where Google Maps and Waze are content with rectangular buildings, Apple gives the impression of being in a video game.

3D buildings in Apple Maps add magic to the map.  Google is content with the same 2D display as in France.  // Source: Numerama
3D buildings in Apple Maps add magic to the map. Google is content with the same 2D display as in France. // Source: Numerama

In Las Vegas, where everything is colorful and bright, it’s even more impressive. Apple Maps doesn’t feel like a mapping app, but a 3D recreation of a city. These colored buildings are also displayed when in navigation mode, which makes following a map much easier. What appears on the right of the screen is really what is on the right of the car.

In Las Vegas, where all the hotels are modeled in 3D, the navigation is magnificent.  // Source: Numerama
In Las Vegas, where all the hotels are modeled in 3D, the navigation is magnificent. // Source: Numerama

Apple Maps’ 3D display has another purpose: to prevent you from taking the wrong exit on the freeway. In the country where it is easy to find 7 to 8 lanes on the same axis, Apple Maps is the only software with a sufficiently clear interface to avoid errors. When Google and Waze tell you to position yourself on the 3rd or 4th lane, Apple draws on the map the lanes to take. Once the exit is near, an animation makes it possible to anticipate the shape that the road will take in order to anticipate its braking. Once you understand the concept, it’s impossible to go wrong. Apple’s map, still colorful, is extremely clear.

Several examples where lane display and 3D animations have come in handy.  // Source: Numerama
Several examples where lane display and 3D animations came in handy. // Source: Numerama

On foot too, navigation is more pleasant at Apple than at Google. On a hike to the Hollywood Sign, only the Apple app gave us clear enough information for us to climb without taking the wrong route. Google suggested going through a gate inaccessible on foot. In Las Vegas, escalator directions, often required to get from place to place, have always been perfect on Apple Maps.

Finally good indications

Being pretty is one thing, giving correct information is another. How not to have in mind the failures of the first Apple Plans, which took its users too often to the wrong place? If our passage on the American west coast was brief, we never had the slightest problem with Apple’s software. On the contrary, he was often the only one to give factual information about building opening hours (Google got the hour wrong once).

How to explain the victory of Apple Plans in the United States? We can imagine two reasons:

  1. In the United States, more specifically in California, Apple plays at home. Its efforts are therefore greater, while Google is perhaps too well established and focused on more global deployments.
  2. In the United States, more than 50% of the population has an iPhone. For merchants, providing correct information to Apple Plans is more important than in France. This undoubtedly helps Apple to improve its service.
On the left, Apple Maps.  On the right, Google Maps.  Do we really need to comment?  // Source: Numerama
On the left, Apple Maps. On the right, Google Maps. Do we really need to comment? // Source: Numerama

In time, will Apple have the best mapping software on the entire planet? Allow us to doubt it. Already, because the deployment of the new Apple Plans is slow and is done in several stages. Then, because Google is not at a standstill. The presentation of a 3D Google Maps, worthy of a video game, had impressed in 2022. The deployment of such a function, undoubtedly worldwide in one fell swoop, could allow Google to overtake Apple very easily. Including in the United States.


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