Apple Maps Got a Major Makeover

Apple’s updated base map is now complete for the U.S.

What: Apple's years-long project to overhaul Apple Maps is done for the U.S. and it now has more accurate and complete roadways and maps of things like malls and airports. There are also more 3D Look Around maps.

How: Apple drove millions of real miles to collect accurate and detailed information.

Why Do You Care: You probably heard bad things about Apple Maps. It’s no longer the same system and if you’re an iOS user there are benefits to using it over Google Maps.

Apple Look Around
Apple Maps update has more support for Look Around.  Apple

Maybe now you can finally love Apple Maps

Apple’s years-long project to build its own base map for the entire United States is now done and available to everyone. The update arrives for Apple Maps today and, if you're using iOS 13, there are some significant benefits, some of which Apple outlined during its developer conference in June.

The oft-maligned native app has suffered the slings and arrows of reviewers and users since its release in 2012 and, since first impressions matter, many have yet to change their opinion of Apple Maps, even though it’s undergone many significant changes in its 8-year lifespan. Misplaced landmarks, flat Stanley-like buildings, and downright wrong directions are long gone. Still, the app gets no respect.

Apple's decision to build its own base map and stop using a third-party provider means Apple is in charge of its own Maps destiny. The details of everything from local streets to waterways, malls, and airports were collected by Apple on the ground and from the air. And without a third-party map provider, it will be able to keep the map up-to-date in near real-time (in some cases, updates could appear on the map in as little as a few days). Apple is still working on building a base map for Europe, but expects to complete it later this year.

In a release on the update, Apple Senior VP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue said the update “required that we rebuild the map from the ground up.” During WWDC, Apple said the company drove 4 million miles to improve and complete its roadway picture.

A new base map helps drive a number of iOS 13 Maps features, including the photo-realistic 3D Look Around feature—comparable to Google’s Street View—which is now available in more major cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston and Oahu. Look Around, though, still has a long way to go before it matches Google Street View’s ubiquity.

The updated Maps data will also drive iOS 13 Maps' ability to build and share lists of favorite places with Collections and quickly access frequently visited places with Favorites.

Apple Maps
Apple Maps update covers airports (left), collect Favorites (middle), and lets you build Collections (right).  Apple

As a longtime Apple Maps user, I get that some are still afraid to trust it. However, Apple Maps of 2020 is nothing like the Apple Maps of 2012. In addition, the map data's integration goes far beyond Maps. iOS weaves map data through search, Siri, and Calendar. It's an integral part of iOS, which means that there are inherent benefits to using Apple Maps over, say, Google Maps.

Plus, there's the privacy component. Apple is not using Maps to track us. Your trip details are not connected to your Apple ID and location-based searches are, after 24 hours, “fuzzed” to a less precise destination. Apple also never saves map searches or travel activity.

The company has also been building out its real-time transit information and, in timely fashion, added Miami transit information, which should make lucky Super Bowl attendees quite happy when they head to the big game on February 2.

If you're running the latest versions of iOS 13, there's nothing to do except to wait for the new base map to download from Apple's servers. After that, you just have to ask yourself: Are you finally ready to trust Apple Maps?