The One Killer Thing That iOS 6 Maps Is Very, Very Good At

The One Killer Thing That iOS 6 Maps Is Very, Very Good At

If someone told you that iOS 6 Maps had one advantage over Google Maps, and that it was 80% more efficient in using data, you’d probably quip, “That’s because it’s 80% less accurate” then do an air drum roll and punctuate the whole thing with the sound of a cymbal crashing that you made with your mouth.

Joking aside, though, it’s true. iOS 6 Maps uses way less data than Google Maps, and it has nothing to do with accuracy, but with its beautiful new vector graphics.

Here’s the thing. When you use Google Maps, if you zoom in or out, Google downloads new tiles to show you the increased or decreased details. These are called raster graphics, which are bitmaps because they correspond bit-for-bit with an image displayed on a screen. If you’ve ever seen a file with a .BMP extension, that’s an example of raster graphics, and Google downloads new ones for every tile at every stage of zooming.

But Apple uses vector graphics. Unlike raster graphics, vector graphics don’t come in files that correspond bit-by-bit with the same image seen on a screen. Rather, vector graphics are made up of mathematical expressions that tell iOS 6 Maps how to draw the map. And since vector maps allow you to scale by any amount without degrading quality, that leads to big savings in file size.

The end result is profound, according to Onavo:

Our data experts performed an identical series of activities on Google Maps and Apple Maps that included searching for several US cities, addresses and airports and zooming in and out to locate specific locations. On Google Maps, the average data loaded from the cellular network for each step was 1.3MB. Apple Maps came in at 271KB – that’s approximately 80% less data! On some actions, such as zooming in to see a particular intersection, Apple Maps’ efficiency advantage edged close to 7X.

What this all means is that while Apple Maps may not be very good right now, the graphics engine driving the Maps is extremely powerful and is a good starting out point for things to come. For right now, though, I’d rather spend 80% more data getting accurate information from Google than try to do the same search five times in a row with iOS 6 Maps because it doesn’t know where my address is. But give it time.

  • FriarNurgle

    What’s our vector, Victor?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVq4_HhBK8Y

  • Roger Robledo

    I find it funny how this maps issue has been blown out of the water.
    I think it works perfectly. Gets me where I need to be on time and correctly.

  • DdeviTo_3

    After using my friends iPhone 5 over the weekend, apart from the features the maps apps is missing, it did work very well and smoothly. Maps on my galaxy s has always been choppy. I hope google bring a 3D maps feature to android like iOS has. I’d still think about getting an iPhone 5 now. I’m not a fan of the surfboards Samsung are making now.

  • mudiaga12

    Me too. Maps gives me accurate turn by turn directions. Never had any problems with it. I know its lacking some features but that really depends on who u are. I drive everywhere I go so Maps is adequate. If u rely on public transit then it’ll definitely suck for u.

  • Eric Harrington

    I know there have been a lot of reported and confirmed issues with the maps app. I live in DFW and have never had one issue with it. It’s directed me to places I needed to be way out in the sticks just fine. I guess I am in the minority, but it works fine for me.

  • Kevin Hancox

    I am wondering if vectoring maps is that good how well it would work, if for example, you loaded a map using wifi (3g – data turned off) before you left home, and then started route as you walk out the door, if it uses vectoring in the way i think, then in theory you should not need to load data as the map is already loaded in it’s entirety for the whole trip… Just an idea…

  • Alex Yovko

    Personally for me iOS maps has worked like a charm for me. I havent had any problems and it has got me to my destination without a problem and the turn by turn directions is not only awesome but has been dead on. Ya the 3D map part Isnt great w you zoom all the way in isn’t great but who cares. Apples maps get me to my destination without a problem. I don’t know why everybody is making such a huge deal that it sucks. It’s really not bad right now. Seems like bloggers and online sites start to say how bad it apple maps is and everyone just jumps on the bandwagon.

  • John Frum

    People need to realise that the people doing the complaining are located outside the United States. If your usage will mostly be inside the U.S., and particularly within a major metropolitan area, you shouldn’t have problems.

  • markrlangston

    Looking at the two screenshots I like Apple’s approach to having less information from certain distances. Google’s Maps always looked overtly busy but Apple’s cleaner, minimalistic approach suits my tastes. And I’m like many others here, I haven’t had one problem with Apple Maps with an experience I prefer over Google.

    Then again, I don’t rely on mapping as much as the next person. To me if you’ve lived in a city for more than 5 years you should have a pretty good lay of the land and only require cross-streets to get where you’re going.

    But for those still having issues with Apple’s Maps, fire up Safari and open Google Maps. Problem solved.

  • tzm41

    A funny fact is that, Google Maps on android phone supported vector maps last year. Good job Onavo!

  • Len Williams

    Apple Maps seems very accurate around Clearwater, Florida. What’s all the hubub, Bub? OK, I’ve seen reports of the errors in various places and the weird melted freeways. These happen, by the way, because the program erroneously tries to map the photo image to the contour map of the ground underneath. That’s why some 3D views of bridges appear to have fallen down into the canyons they cross. It’s a glitch and you can be absolutely positive that Apple has invested TONS of manpower and resources to work on making Maps at very least the equal of (and hopefully better than) Google Maps. Give Apple 6 months to a year and like they always do with their products, you’ll see Maps become very hot stuff. Now if we can just get Tim to ban all faux leather interfaces, we’ll be golden.

  • Cortney Sauk

    I gotta say I have yet to have any type of issue with the street maps on iOS Maps. (I don’t care for or use satalite or fly over, they are pretty much useless on Google Maps or iOS maps)

    As for looks, I think iOS Maps looks 1000x better than Google Maps and I’ve totally noticed the speed improvement when zooming.

  • wingman001

    Google Maps uses more data because you’re using the wrong OS. Google Maps on Android uses vector graphics…

  • wingman001

    Google Maps uses more data because you’re using the wrong OS. Google Maps on Android has been using vector graphics for a while now…

  • robert_tlse

    What ? Google maps for IOS is still tile based ? Strange, cause they went vector based with offline navigation in Android 1.2 back in 2010:

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/16/google-maps-5-0-hits-android-includes-new-3d-map-view-and-offli/

    Apple problem or is Google holding back it’s goodies for itself ? :)

  • RyanRam80797249

    what Scott said I’m stunned that some people able to get paid $9585 in a few weeks on the internet. have you seen this web link (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/UNpKq

  • totemynote

    I live in Oregon and iOS maps works very well here.

    I’ve read the iPhone 5 has a new GPS chip that is more efficient and accurate … … http://www.slashgear.com/broadcoms-new-gps-chip-offers-10x-performance-half-the-power-consumption-21219418/ …can anyone confirm this?

  • rlowe

    Really nice to know this stuff. So it means when the detail level of Apple Maps is improved, it would be a killer app with fast searching and rendering.

  • Steffen Jobbs

    The news media doesn’t care about whether anything is good about Apple maps. They’re only interested in showing it’s overall not as good as Google Maps and try to show that Apple is making mistakes and that it isn’t a great a company as many people think. The news media is bent on going out of its way to find fault with everything Apple does. Fortunately, it’s not enough to stop consumers from buying iPhone 5s because they’re quickly being sold out everywhere around the world.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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