Whether iPhone owners care or not, Google Maps will no longer be part of Apple's mobile core when iOS 6 hits in the fall. Really, it was only a matter of time before Apple offered its own maps after we learned the company swooped up Placebase, C3 Technologies and Poly9.
We're going to take a look at Apple's new Maps compared to Google Maps and Bing Maps on the iPhone only so it's a somewhat level playing field. Yes, Bing Maps is at a big disadvantage because we're looking at it through the browser, but we wanted to include it as a wildcard anyway. And no, this wasn't meant to be an iOS against Android debate.
On that note, we don't expect Apple Maps to be as comprehensive or as well executed as Google Maps seeing as it's in the early stages. What it does promise to offer when it's out of beta, however, is traffic view, 3D rendering, integrated Yelp, 100 million business listings, turn-by-turn navigation, Flyover and Siri-integration.
We're merely looking at the most basic features of each respective maps. Apple must be pretty confident it can offer something great, otherwise it would never have ditched Google in the first place, especially after the search giant's recent maps event. Let's take an early look, with Apple on the left, Google in the middle and Bing (in the browser) on the right.
Maps are all about information, and standard view is the cleanest and simplest way to digest what's being presented. On looks alone, my gut reaction is to favor Google Maps, which is the easiest to read and shows the most information without being too cluttered. Apple's Maps obviously most closely resembles Google's offering on the iPhone, but small streets aren't labeled (yet) and main streets aren't color coded like they are in Google Maps. Bing Maps in the browser is similar to Apple's; unlabeled and difficult to see side streets, and there isn't any color coding… save for major highways. What I do like about Apple's layout, however, is the fact that there isn't a navigation bar on the bottom. The corner page is already peeled back slightly to indicate another options menu, and the Directions button has been moved to the top left.
Well here's some conflicting information for you. Apple shows no traffic, Google shows some, while Bing is telling us that the streets of San Francisco are relatively clear. Apple said it's going to rely on users to determine traffic, and since iOS 6 is in beta right now, the traffic results aren't surprising. (Before anyone asks, yes, I did remember to "check" the traffic box on Apple Maps.) This will obviously change once iOS 6 hits in the fall, but as of now, we wouldn't even consider using Apple Maps for gridlock info.
Hybrid view sure looks cool, but is it something people consistently use? It's fun to browse, but for me it's just blurred chaos. Either way, the three look very similar. Apple Maps is right now the cleanest, but it displays the least information, just as it did with Standard View. We would expect that in the future Apple will add more information when zoomed in, otherwise it would be pretty frustrating to navigate cities and neighborhoods.
The three different options all chose the same route from one Starbucks to another (although the distances don't match up). Because we compared Bing in the browser, we weren't able to change routes, which can be annoying if there's traffic. Speaking of traffic, Apple Maps will give you turn-by-turn navigation and offer alternative routes if your current path is congested. All three, though, work great on the iPhone, but right now we'd give Apple the slight edge because it offers turn-by-turn. Of course, Google Maps for Android has had this for a while, but we're talking strictly about the iPhone here.
Decent Start for Apple
I'm no cartographer, just a simple user who occasionally calls upon maps to get me from point A to point B — my sense of direction is terrible without them. Apple Maps is in the early going, so it'll be interesting to see how it finally turns out when iOS 6 is released to the public this fall. The look of it right now, like most things Apple, is bright, colorful and minimal, which fits right in with the company's design mantra. Whether it will turn out to be the better option over Google Maps remains to be seen. As it stands, Apple Maps lacks important information folks will need to get around, but that's likely to change.