Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Cartography Differences in Apple Maps and Google Maps

Justin O’Beirne is a cartographer who, until last year, led the design of Apple Maps. In this, the first in a three-part series, he explores differences in the way cities, roads, and points of interest are portrayed by Apple and Google. It’s impossible to summarize, but this is a must-read essay.

As noted earlier, I find the most striking difference to be search. Google Maps is very good at it; Apple Maps isn’t. The latter is getting better, insomuch as it less-frequently shows me results in Delaware and Washington D.C. instead of Calgary, but Google is still leaps-and-bounds ahead.

To Apple’s credit, Maps is now a much more reliable product than it was just a couple of years ago, and especially a couple of years before that. I use it regularly, and I only open Google Maps when I want to take a street-level look. But the degree of specificity I need to use when searching is not encouraging.