Way back in November I compared both Apple maps with Google maps. Surprisingly Apple fared much better than I expected. Which isn’t to say it was great, mind you. Both apps had a lot of places they could improve. It’s been nearly three months and Apple introduced iOS 6.1 last week. So I though it would be useful to revisit both to see if things have been fixed and to see where both fail.
First off I expected after over three months for both services to improve a lot. I’ve been sending in corrections to both. It’s easy to do and I’d suggest doing it if you want things to improve. Sadly I’ve not seen any of the corrections I’ve sent in used by either service.
For local roads Google was accurate and Apple & Tom Tom haven’t updated the maps with the errors. I’d thought 6.1 would allow Apple to modify its streets so they were easier to see at a glance. As you can see from the above screenshots they haven’t yet. A road was built near my house last spring that Google properly displays as a major road while Apple doesn’t display it at all. Hopefully Apple will add that in iOS7 as it is pretty important. I do like how Apple’s display is less cluttered than Google’s. Some of those “roads” on Google’s maps aren’t roads at all but are trails. That seems to be a common failing in Google maps. They also still have the National Forest border screwed up as you can see from the lower right.
In my last test I noted that Apple did quite well for POI locations but missed one Bank of the West location when I searched for it. The screenshot is basically identical today as it was back in November. No fixes even though I submitted to Apple that correction. Last time Apple did beat Google for directions to the location once I entered in the address. It knew I could make a left turn at a light in front of the bank whereas Google had me go east for about a mile and do a u-turn to come back to the bank. This time inexplicably Apple’s map now gives the same directions as Google. A step back for sure.
Google map still doesn’t distinguish well between neighborhood names and location names. Apple uses uppercase in grey to name neighborhoods. (See the “PROVOST” in the above screen shot) In the Google map it’s hard to tell that’s not mislabeling a school or street.
With regards to rural driving both still largely suck with few changes that I can see. Major roads are displayed but important towns often are neglected, depending upon your zoom level. If you are driving in rural areas you really should get yourself an iPad and put it in your car as neither does well with an iPhone. You’ll be zooming in and out a lot. Unlike many map programs neither Apple nor Google has an option for +/- zoom buttons rather than using pinches or other gestures. A big problem if you are driving.
I was hoping to be able to do a thorough overview noting all the changes Apple’s made to their maps. Unfortunately after a period of quick improvement in October very little has been done. I don’t know if that’s due to Apple focusing on fixing Europe, which was far worse off than the US. However it is frustrating that all the changes sent in have not made it into their map service yet. I think many people were willing to extend Apple a period to fix maps. However when there appear to be no improvements I think people do tend to get a bit frustrated. Let’s hope changes are coming.