Can Apple Win the Maps App War?
Karen is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Google introduced their Maps API in June 2005, giving them a twelve year head start over Apple. Google maps have been available on Apple’s iOS since 2007. In November 2007, “My Location,” a GPS-like location service was released and in December 2008, it was made available on Apple’s iOS, iPod and iPad. Google Street View, giving users a 360 degree panoramic street level view, was released in May, 2007. In July 2010, Google made aerial views available for their maps. Last week Google added a new 3D feature which will be available for Android and iOS users in a few weeks. Google maps will soon be available to users offline, meaning that if a user loses power or if the data connection link fails, the map will still be available so that the user doesn’t get lost.
So what’s Apple bringing to the table? Apple’s Maps App will provide users with real-time traffic conditions, Yelp integration for local web searches and help in finding local businesses, GPS style navigation with Siri, vector graphics and 3D flyovers. Oh, and of course, maps.
Although Apple is making a big deal about Siri’s integration with the maps app, this feature was already available in Apple’s earlier operating systems. The difference is that with iOS6, Siri will give the driver turn-by-turn directions (with Tom-Tom providing most of the service) along with the maps. Since Google provided voice-command navigation with their maps on Android two years earlier in 2010, Apple is rapidly bridging their gap with Google.
Apple’s 3D flyovers, one of their new features, appear to be computer generated models that, although detailed and realistic, don’t measure up to Google’s actual flyover images. And since cities write their public transportation directions using Google Transit Data Feed, Apple users will lose out on that function, too.
The new Apple Maps App will feature vector graphics so that users can quickly pan over maps without having to pause and wait for a new map to load. It’s a considerable improvement over the older bitmap images, which is probably why Google introduced vector graphics for Google Maps on Android in 2010.
After just this cursory comparison, it’s hard to see how Apple’s Maps App offers anything significantly different or better than their rivals. It does raise some interesting questions, however. If Apple iOS6 users find they prefer Google, will Apple block or prevent them from downloading Google maps? Would Google consider this action a restraint of trade and take legal action? Apple users will ultimately decide whether the iOS6 Maps App is a superior product or just a knockoff of the Google original.
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