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Google Maps vs. Apple Maps


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Among the many changes introduced in the newest version of iOS, Apple Maps may be the biggest, or at least most jarring. Since the advent of the iPhone, Apple has relied on Google Maps, the more or less universally accepted internet-maps king, to provide navigation features for its users. A lot has changed since then, however--namely, that Google has, via Android, become Apple's chief mobile OS competitor. It isn't hard to imagine, then, why Apple decided to pull the plug on this growingly unsavory partnership. No competitor is going to feel inclined to make life easier for its competition, and Apple's own maps software stands to be better integrated with its own ecosystem. Besides, Apple has long made a point of doing things in-house, or, if not, with universal standards (see: iOS's abandonment of Adobe Flash). 

For many, however, this move doesn't seem worth rejoicing over. The reason is simple: Google Maps is great. There's a reason it's the standard for all online maps services--it's the most comprehensive, the most impressive, and, in the case of Google Earth, the most beautiful. And it got to where it is today from years of work, licensing, and acquisition. But Apple isn't a company that releases half-baked software, either. According to what we know from Apple's introductions, and to the beta versions they demoed, Apple Maps just might the first true competitor for the online maps throne. Below, we'll break down the most important differences, based on what we know now:

First, the big question marks: Apple maps, as it stands currently, doesn't feature anywhere near as much information as Google Maps. This isn't surprising for a beta version, nor would it be surprising if the final variant fell short of Google in this department, at least for a while. There's also an off chance this may be an aesthetically motivated choice; Apple likes simplicity, and perhaps they're avoiding visual clutter at the expense of information. 

Transit Directions: Apple Maps doesn't yet feature public transit directions, and it's likely that the final version won't, either. That might seem like an odd choice and/or a glaring omission, and, to some extent, it is. But Apple has a plan to fix it--kind of. By leaving out transit directions of its own, Apple is paving the way for major competition among developers to create their own transit apps. The best of these might then be integrated into Apple Maps, though the extent of that integration is unclear. Theoretically, this might lead to better, more accurate transit directions. Or maybe it'll be really irritating. Only time will tell. 

Turn-by-Turn: Apple Maps introduces turn-by-turn navigation in the iPhone, a big deal in the realm of Apple, despite the fact that it's been available on Android for quite some time now. Turn-by-turn will function via Siri, the voice recognition software introduced in the iPhone 4S, and will effectively turn the iPhone into a fully functioning GPS device. 

Apple Maps will also support Yelp! integration--a choice that's a perhaps a little surprising in light of FourSquare's rising popularity (Yelp! has its own, far less popular check-in feature), but one that nonetheless stands to provide a great deal of useful information.

Google Earth vs. Flyover: Google Earth was, when it was introduced, pretty revolutionary, and it remains the most entertaining way to use a map in existence, at least among civilians. Not to be outdone entirely, Apple has crafted its own Google Earth-like, super-impressive satellite map called Flyover. Flyover simulates the view from a low-flying plane, and allows users to move through a beautiful 3D and quickly-rendering environment. Useful? Eh, not particularly. But Google Earth, too, is mostly for show.

Verdict: This is, unfortunately, another 'wait and see' kind of conclusion. Apple Maps is still in Beta, and we won't know for sure how well it really stacks up to Google Maps until its final release. Even then, it'll be an evolving project. We can say, more or less for certain, that Apple Maps will move more smoothly than Google's version (there'll be less waiting for blank space to populate with information, thanks to a powerful vector-based engine), and that it'll probably be prettier, generally speaking. But the absence of internal mass transit directions, the lack of all that gradually-added information, and a currently less-than-complete traffic system could leave some missing good ole' Goog. 



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