After its launch in 2012, Apple Maps performed so badly that Apple CEO Tim Cook actually apologized for the service and fired the company’s head of software (for the disastrous launch and other reasons). But now, many people actually choose Apple Maps over Google Maps and other services, according to a new report.
Once reviled, Apple Maps has come a long way
After the bumpy, potentially life-threatening start of Apple Maps in 2012, Cupertino worked for years on improvements with solid results, a report in The Wall Street Journal points out.
“Maps has come a long way, and people have noticed,” it quotes current software chief Craig Federighi as saying, back at WWDC 2020.
The report suggests reasons why many users now love the service, citing customers and analysts, and why Apple needs it to be good beyond the iPhone:
While Apple might not need the app to sell any more iPhones, the company’s lofty ambitions with cars and augmented-reality headsets depend on maps people actually like using.
One customer cited in the story was so pissed off with Apple Maps at launch that he switched to Android to use Google Maps more easily. But within three years, he was back on iPhone. And because he lives in New York City, he needed transit directions more than he did driving directions. So Apple Maps’ new transit features really worked for him:
He now thinks Apple Maps suggests creative, faster routes and manages the unpredictability of subway outages better than Google does. He recommends it to friends and family who visit.
[He] also likes Apple Maps’ cleaner transit view versus the more cluttered design of Google Maps.
He calls Google’s transit layer “sinfully ugly to look at.” But he does still use Google Maps for driving.
Reliance on Google Maps remains
Google Maps’ lead is hard to overcome, however. Even though every iPhone comes with Apple Maps, Canalys reports that most U.S. iPhone users download the Google Maps app. WSJ suggested Apple Maps keeps adding features Google Maps already offers, like street view and offline map navigation, to try to tempt users.
But the report also noted Apple Maps leads the way on visual effects, noting it was first to offer 3D flyover views of cities.
And it pointed out Apple Maps’ biggest advantage — its deeper integration with iPhone. Any iOS service that needs or includes directions uses Apple Maps, full stop.
“People are inherently lazy and form habits around default options,” said Peter Ramsey, a user-experience consultant. “For a long time Apple Maps was so bad that people proactively switched to Google Maps, but as the experience of Apple Maps improved, there was less incentive to make that default-breaking action.”
Improvements to design and directions
Another user cited in the article returned to Apple Maps after finding its suggestions for nearby shops and restaurants clear and simple to interact with compared to Google Maps.
She also finds Apple Maps’ design and directions easier to read. She and another user agreed that Apple Maps is less cluttered with places of interest, like bars, so it’s easier to see the street names.
“It made me kind of revisit and rethink some of my prior assumptions about it,” Natoli says. “Whatever initial reputational hurdles that Apple Maps faced, I think they’ve jumped over those.”
That said, some users quoted in the article still keep Google Maps around for now, for those times they still don’t quite trust what Apple Maps is telling them.
They should try this: See 8 secret features in Apple Maps.