Apple Maps vs Google Maps: Consumer Reports… reports

by: Chris SmithSeptember 29, 2012

Image credit: Consumer Reports

Since Apple Maps, one of the main advertised features of Apple’s recently released iOS 6, is not the great out-of-the-box product the iPhone maker believed it would be, we keep finding various comparisons between Apple’s mapping and navigation solution and Google’s own Google Maps, in addition to ads and funny memes. In fact, today we’re going to look at an Apple Maps vs Google Maps report coming straight from Consumer Reports.

The publication compared the two products in day-to-day navigation operations just a week after finding the Apple Maps to be disappointing. This time around, Consumer Reports took Apple Maps for a real test drive out in the wild – in the greater New York area – right alongside Google Maps.

The chosen devices were the iPhone 5 running iOS 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S3 running Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich:

Our evaluations were performed in the greater New York City area using two phones per platform, each on a different carrier. We found that both Apple Maps and Google Maps route effectively, providing clear guidance and great points-of-interest integration.

This time around, Consumer Reports found Apple Maps to be satisfying in actual tests, although it still trails behind Google Maps.

Some of the highlights of Apple Maps in navigation with turn-by-turn directions tests include “the graphic presentation for the interface, results, signage and point of interest info.” Apple offers “less customization” than Google, which is seen as a “mixed blessing” when it comes to driving, but Google “comes across as more business like and less fun:”

Apple Maps is relatively streamlined, providing basic navigation guidance and limited travel information. The large display for next-turn information (which looks like a familiar green-and-white highway-sign) is easy to read at a glance, and it compensates for a map design that is harder to interpret than that on Android. We like the estimated time of arrival, remaining distance, and travel time countdown, although the text is so small, it is a greater aid for a passenger than the driver.

When it comes to traffic, reporting, Google “gets the nod,” as Google Maps is better design to show traffic flow, “although in reality it may often be a presentation choice rather than a data difference.”

Voice-recognition is another element that was tested during this comparison and Consumer Reports found that the overall experience “seemed comparable between the platforms with each occasionally tripping over spoken commands.”

Image credit: Consumer Reports

As for the actual navigation, the publication traveled to various destinations in Apple Maps vs Google Maps testing and found both apps to offer a similar experience. “Almost all” destinations were found and successfully routed, and the same goes for POI (points of interest) along the road. While Apple works with Yelp to offer more details about some of the restaurants found en route, Google gets its results from Zagat.

While 3D mapping is definitely an interesting addition to any navigation program, Consumer Reports was apparently not bothered by any inconsistency in Apple Maps 3D representations:

There has been much online grumbling about the iPhone app focused on weird 3D images, misplaced points of interest, and an absence of a Google-type “street view.” As shown on our previous post, we certainly have found instances of melting images in 3D mode, but more often than not, we found rather intriguing 3D representations that bring a map to life. The reality is, this is a novelty feature, not a component of navigation.

But the iPhone underperformed when it comes to searching for nearby train stations, as the app would not identify locations by “train,” but by their actual name, which appears to be a search algorithm issue “rather than a map inaccuracy. “

Finally, here’s the conclusion of Consumer Reports:

Bottom line:
Both the free Apple and Google navigation apps provide clear routing directions. Apple feels like a less-mature product. But as seen with the initial competing applications for the iPhone, we would expect updates to this new app over time–and Apple has promised as much. When getting down to the nitty gritty, Google provides a better overall package, but we feel that both provide a good solution for standard software. We expect the competition between the companies will benefit customers with ongoing improvements.

This is probably not the last Apple Maps vs Google Maps battle that we’re going to see, especially since Apple is reportedly hiring more and more people to work on its navigation application. Tim Cook, the company’s CEO has already apologized for the app’s issues, recommending in the process various apps from the competition, Google Maps included, to iOS 6 users that aren’t happy with the current state of the Apple Maps app.

  • timmaguire

    What i’m not happy about is how my ios6 “upgrade” is really a downgrade. Apple maps is not nearly as crisp and clear as google maps. And i find the 3d feature annoying.

    • I could be wrong, since I’ve never used Apple maps, but there has to be a way to turn that feature off. Apple maps still seems like it has a lot of work to do before it will really be worthwhile. They should have worked on it or selected certain people for a beta before releasing it either way.

      • Ram

        Its still in beta.

        • timmaguire

          How could it still be in beta? It’s built in to the new platform.

  • erikiksaz

    Any company with a mapping program would be foolish not to perfect their maps for large metropolitan regions. It would be interesting to see how they match up in smaller suburbs.

  • Bob

    “Consumer Reports was apparently not bothered by any inconsistency in Apple Maps 3D representations”…. YES its more of a novelty than of an important component in a navigation system/software. But would you rather open an app that shows maps with distorted/melting views or with a clean and crisp presentations? If its the former that you are OK with, then i guess you have no qualms of having distorted maps on a physical copy.

  • Ram

    Apple has bought Chris Smith


    Nokia map

  • Lolec

    Since Iphone 5 launch this site is IphoneAuthority.

  • AnotherAndroidKid

    Umm. My issue is they’re saying both voice commands tripped but they were comparing apple’s newest OS to ICS instead of Jelly Bean which cleaned up voice recognition greatly.