Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: What's the Difference?

Discover what sets these navigation tools apart

Both Apple Maps and Google Maps are popular options when it comes to knowing you've got a comprehensive navigational tool on your smartphone. At first, Apple Maps had a few navigational issues but they're both pretty top-notch now and offer great services entirely for free. So, you really can't go wrong with either option. However, both services do offer some important differences. 

Apple Maps is only available for Apple devices including iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch, and Mac systems. Google Maps is available for all those devices, as well as Android smartphones and tablets, and it's also available through its website. 

An illustrations of Apple Maps vs Google Maps

Overall Findings

Apple Maps
  • Built-in to iOS for added convenience.

  • More stylish looking satellite view.

  • Siri integration.

  • Uses less data than Google Maps.

Google Maps
  • Available for all devices.

  • Plenty of information about nearby locations.

  • Bicycle routes.

  • Offline mode.

The battle of Apple vs Google Maps used to be a fairly easy fight when Apple Maps first launched back in 2012. It had numerous issues with problems associated with accuracy - a huge problem for any navigation app. Nowadays though, the difference between the two is much more slight. Ultimately, whatever you use will get you to your destination via a fairly stylish and practical interface. 

The differences are much more subtle although you need to bear in mind that only iOS owners can use Apple Maps. It's not available in any other form, unlike Google Maps. Because of that, Google Maps has the edge for all-round convenience but it is certainly convenient that iOS device owners don't have to worry about installing a separate app. It's already ready to use on their device and updates alongside iOS. Added Siri integration is sure to help too when you're on the move. Much of which one you favor is likely to come down to personal preference. 

App History: Google Maps Has More Experience

Apple Maps
  • Launched in 2012.

  • iOS exclusive mapping option.

  • Regular updates via iOS updates.

Google Maps
  • Launched in 2005.

  • Street View added in 2007.

  • Mobile apps introduced from 2008.

Is Google Maps better than Apple Maps? Once upon a time, it was a no brainer. Google Maps, having launched in 2005 and having plenty of time to refine its services and improve over the years, was easily better than Apple Maps. "Google Map it" soon became part of the vernacular for many people and its introduction of Street View appealed to everyone's urge to look around the world from the comfort of their home. 

Apple Maps didn't launch until 2012 (before that iOS devices used Google Maps as its navigational tool). Apple Maps launched with features to rival most of Google Maps' features. The early days of Apple Maps were fraught with issues but such problems have been mostly rectified in recent times thanks to iOS 13. To some, Apple Maps still feels like the new kid in class but it's a much closer competition than before.

Ease of Use: Both Simple and Intuitive

Apple Maps
  • Very iOS style interface.

  • Siri support.

  • Custom icons for key locations.

Google Maps
  • Colorful and clearer icons.

  • Highlights more key locations.

  • Street View is the best street-level viewer.

Both Apple Maps and Google Maps are quite similar in how things are laid out. As soon as you open either app, you can immediately type in the location you want to head to and the respective app does all the hard work for you. It's intuitive stuff for the most part although there are some differences.

Notably, Apple Maps offers a somewhat flatter looking layout. Smaller text and icons may look good and in keeping with the iOS aesthetic, but Google Maps uses brighter and larger icons to make the interface seem a little more eye-catching. However, Apple Maps uses custom icons for key landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as shows the current weather for such locations, making it a stylish option again. 

One of the biggest and most useful features is being able to gain a street-level view. Apple Maps calls it Look Around while Google calls it Street View. Both work well but Google Maps has the edge here, plus it takes into consideration bicycle routes while Apple Maps hasn't fully caught up here yet. Google Maps generally has more 3D models of many buildings and a couple of extra modes for looking at locations. 

When it comes to navigation, both services are quite effective, whether you're walking or driving, with appropriate and accurate turn-by-turn navigation. Google Maps offers extra information about nearby locations on the screen while you need to tap to find it on Apple Maps, but that can mean a slightly less cluttered interface than Google Maps'. 

Both apps offer arrival estimations based on current traffic conditions and they're both usually fairly accurate. 

Thanks to Google Maps being available on more devices as well as in a web interface, it's simpler to transfer addresses and locations via your Google account and syncing up, than with Apple Maps, although this does come down to how tied into the Apple ecosystem you are. 

Unique Features: Both Offer Some Compelling Bonuses

Apple Maps
  • Siri integration.

  • Uses less data.

  • Flyover mode.

  • Yelp reviews.

Google Maps
  • Offline mode.

  • Bicycle maps.

  • Website option.

Outside of basic navigational features, both Apple Maps and Google Maps offer some useful extras. The biggest one for Apple Maps is that it has Siri integration. Just speak to your iOS device and it'll tell you exactly how to get somewhere with Siri Natural Language Guidance ensuring it speaks in an understandable manner. 

Apple Maps also typically uses slightly less data than Google Maps which can be handy, but there's a catch here. Google Maps is the only one of the two to offer an offline mode which immediately makes data usage less of an issue. It does require some forward planning though so there are pros and cons here.

Apple Maps also has a Flyover mode which lets you tour various city landmarks as well as explore densely populated areas with 3D models of key structure. It's impressive if not exactly something you'd use every day. Integration of Yelp reviews for locations is something you'll use every day though and is something that Apple Maps has instead of Google Maps.

On the other hand, Google Maps has bicycle maps at a time when Apple Maps only has bike-sharing stations listed. Bicycle maps immediately make Google Maps a far superior option if you regularly cycle and could do with help with navigation. 

Privacy: Different Approaches by Both

Apple Maps
  • Most data stored on your device.

  • No records are kept.

Google Maps
  • Account needed for syncing of data.

  • Incognito mode is an option.

If you're privacy-conscious, it's worth paying attention to how both Apple and Google deal with your data. Via Apple Maps, it's possible to access many features without needing to sign in to an account. A lot of the information remains on your device rather than in the cloud with Apple adamant that it doesn't record a history of what you search for or the locations you visited. Instead, any data on your device is fragmented as part of its privacy protection, leaving no one other than you knowing your whole route. 

In contrast, Google Maps' data resides on the cloud so that you're able to easily switch between the website and the app. It has numerous customization features such as Incognito mode so that your searches and locations are kept private, however. You do need to remember to set these up though. Google has a location timeline otherwise that tracks everywhere you've been. 

Final Verdict

The clear winner between Apple Maps and Google Maps, for most people, is Google Maps. That's in part because it's available on more devices. It also offers a more intuitive interface and slightly better accuracy when tracking locations. Regular cyclists will appreciate its bicycle maps too. 

However, Apple Maps is still very appealing if you're an iOS device owner. It has plenty of useful features like Siri integration, Flyover mode, and more secure response to privacy concerns. There was a time when Apple Maps may have struggled to keep up with Google Maps but that isn't an issue any longer.

Whichever choice you make, you'll be happy with the results. It's just that Google Maps has the edge right now. That could well change in the future with Apple regularly updating Apple Maps as part of iOS. 

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