As someone who relies heavily on maps and navigation in my daily life, I have used both Apple Maps and Google Maps extensively. While both have their strengths and weaknesses, there is one key reason why I choose Apple Maps over Google Maps every time – the integration with Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch Changes Everything
Ever since I started wearing an Apple Watch a few years ago, it has completely changed how I navigate with my iPhone. The ability to get turn-by-turn directions right on my wrist is an absolute game-changer.
With Apple Maps, I get a simple tap on my wrist to signal an upcoming turn. The directions are displayed clearly on the Apple Watch screen, and I can keep my eyes focused on the road. It’s easy, intuitive, and makes navigating incredibly simple.
Google Maps doesn’t offer the same experience. To view turn-by-turn directions on an Apple Watch, you have to raise your wrist and actively look at the screen. It doesn’t provide that subtle tap to notify you of an upcoming maneuver.
As a result, I find myself constantly glancing down at my watch when using Google Maps instead of keeping my eyes on the road. It’s distracting and disconnects me from the navigation experience. The Apple Watch integration with Apple Maps, on the other hand, feels seamless.
Accuracy and Reliability Are Virtually Identical Now
In the early days of Apple Maps, there was no question that Google Maps was far more accurate and reliable. But now I have found the two services to be virtually identical in this regard in my area.
Both Apple Maps and Google Maps get me to my destination with no major errors or issues. The routing and ETAs seem comparable, and both handle real-time traffic data well. I trust Apple Maps’ directions as much as I trust Google’s.
Of course, experiences may vary by location – some areas may see bigger differences in accuracy between the two. But for me, this factor is now basically a wash when deciding which service to use.
Apple Maps Has Caught Up in Features
For a long time, Google Maps had far more features than Apple Maps. But in recent years, Apple has invested heavily in Maps and rapidly improved its capabilities.
Some key examples where Apple Maps has caught up:
- Look Around – Apple’s version of Street View lets me explore cities in 3D, just like Google.
- Collections – I can save groups of locations like restaurants or parks. Google Maps has Lists.
- Indoor Maps – Detailed mapping for airports, malls, etc is now widely available.
- Transit Directions – Subway, bus, and rail routing is available in most major cities now.
There are still some features I wish Apple Maps would add, like biking directions and lane guidance. But overall, it now offers a robust set of capabilities that matches Google Maps in most practical ways.
Apple Maps Has a Sleeker Look and Feel
This is somewhat subjective, but I vastly prefer the overall aesthetic of Apple Maps over Google Maps. The map style itself is more appealing to my eyes, with subtle shading and labeling.
The driving navigation interface is also sleeker, with clean lines delineating the various elements like upcoming turns. In contrast, Google Maps feels a bit cluttered and busy to me.
Apple Maps seems optimized for simplicity and visual clarity. Google sometimes crams too much stuff on the screen. The use of color also feels more harmonious in Apple Maps. Again, this comes down to personal preference, but Apple Maps is just nicer to look at.
Offline Maps Give Google an Edge in Remote Areas
One key advantage Google Maps still maintains is offline map support. You can download entire regions for when you have no cell service, like in remote wilderness areas. Apple Maps still lacks an official offline mode.
For road trips to rural places where I expect sporadic coverage, I’ll sometimes switch to Google Maps solely for this offline capability. But in areas with decent connectivity, it’s a non-issue, and I’ll stick with Apple Maps.
The Bottom Line – Apple Watch Tips the Scales
While Apple Maps and Google Maps now compete head-to-head on most capabilities, the added integration with Apple Watch gives Apple a decisive edge for me.
The ability to keep my eyes on the road and get subtle, simple direction notifications right on my wrist is a vastly superior navigation experience. Once you get used to it, it’s hard to go back.
Of course, some people may prefer certain Google Maps features or find it more accurate in their location. There are legitimate reasons to choose Google Maps if it better fits your needs and preferences.
But for me, Apple Maps is the clear winner when it comes to navigating with an iPhone and Apple Watch. The convenience and safety benefits of wrist-based turn-by-turn directions keep me loyal to Apple Maps whenever I’m hitting the road. It just feels like the ideal mapping service for the Apple ecosystem.
A Look at Key Differences Between Apple Maps and Google Maps
To summarize some of the main differences:
Accuracy and Coverage
- Google Maps has more extensive mapping data in many areas
- But Apple Maps has caught up significantly and is neck-and-neck for reliability in most regions now
- Google Maps has biking directions, downloadable offline maps, and profile integration
- But Apple Maps has Look Around, Collections, Indoor Maps, and more now
User Interface and Visuals
- Apple Maps has a cleaner, more intuitive interface, in my opinion
- Google Maps can sometimes feel a bit more cluttered and crowded
- Apple Maps integrates flawlessly with Apple Watch
- Google Maps has broader integration with Android and the web
- Apple Maps collects minimal user data for targeted ads per Apple’s policies
- Google Maps collects extensive user info to fuel Google’s advertising business
- Apple Maps excels at simple, subtle audio and haptic cues for navigation
- Google Maps provides solid voice guidance but no wrist alerts on Apple Watch
So, in summary, Apple Maps’ stellar integration with Apple Watch, appealing visual style, and privacy stance make it my go-to mapping service on iPhone. But Google Maps remains a solid alternative with some unique capabilities like offline maps. The competition ultimately benefits consumers – both companies are making big strides in improving their mapping technology.
My History of Trying Both Map Apps
I’ve been navigating with smartphones for over a decade now, so I’ve had ample time to compare Apple Maps and Google Maps extensively. Here’s a brief overview of my usage of the two services over the years:
Back in 2012
When Apple Maps first launched, I immediately started using it instead of Google Maps. But I quickly became frustrated with inaccuracies and lacking features. Within a few weeks, I had switched back to Google Maps and wrote off Apple Maps.
I stuck with Google Maps for several more years. Occasionally I would try Apple Maps again but usually found it still lagged behind Google in reliability and transit directions. These were early Apple Watch days, but navigation wasn’t very fleshed out yet.
Around 2017, Apple Maps started getting noticeably better thanks to a new data rebuilding effort. I was intrigued but still primarily a Google Maps user. Apple Watch navigation got more useful during this period.
The last few years have seen huge Apple Maps improvements, like Look Around and Collections. I began relying on it more for navigating. Its iOS 16 redesign is beautiful. Apple Watch integration kept getting smoother.
Now in 2024, Apple Maps is my daily driver for navigation unless I need offline maps. The Apple Watch experience has me hooked. But I still check Google Maps occasionally when planning routes and trips.
It has taken over a decade, but Apple Maps has gone from disaster to my preferred navigation app. The Apple Watch tipped the scales – its turn-by-turn integration is a game-changing advantage over Google Maps in my opinion.
My Favorite Apple Maps Features
Here are some of the Apple Maps capabilities I find most useful:
- Look Around – Street-level 3D views of cities help me preview destinations and walks
- Collections – I have collections saved for my frequent restaurants, parks, malls, gas stations and more
- Real-time transit info – Accurate predictions and ETAs for subways, buses and trains near me
- Siri integration – Asking Siri to navigate home after a long day is a regular routine
- CarPlay support – Maps look great on the dashboard screen of my car
- Shared ETA – Letting someone track my arrival via iMessage is handy when coordinating plans
- Indoor maps – Navigating airports and malls is so much easier with indoor directions
- Road details – I appreciate seeingturn lanes, dividers and other road features
- Speed limits – Having the speed limit visible helps avoid those speed trap tickets!
- Accidents/hazards – Reports from other drivers help me avoid accidents and slowdowns
These features really enhance my navigation experience and make Apple Maps a joy to use. It leverages the iPhone and Apple Watch ecosystem very well.
How Apple Maps Has Improved Over Time
It’s remarkable how much Apple Maps has evolved in the decade-plus since it launched. Here are some of the biggest improvements I’ve witnessed:
- More detailed and accurate maps – Enhanced rendering of roads, landmarks, POIs
- Robust transit directions – Support for subways, buses, etc in most major cities now
- Walking directions – Better routing for pedestrian navigation in urban areas
- Look Around – Street-level imagery makes exploring cities immersive
- Real-time data – Incorporating live traffic, incidents, construction info
- CarPlay integration – Much deeper support for in-dash navigation
- Siri updates – More seamless navigation by just asking Siri
- Indoor maps – Detailed airport, mall, etc maps and directions
- Apple Watch support – Simple turn-by-turn alerts right on your wrist
- Interface updates – Cleaner layouts, road details, new map styles
- More country coverage – Expanding maps to more regions globally
Apple hasn’t stopped investing in improving Maps, and the progress over the years speaks for itself. Many of the early flaws have been remedied through considerable engineering efforts.
Why Competition Is Benefitting Consumers
The mapping space has gotten much more competitive in the last 5-10 years. Having viable alternatives to Google Maps gives consumers more choice.
This increased competition pushes both Apple and Google to aggressively add new features and refine their maps. The fear of losing users to the other service motivates constant innovation.
For example, when Apple launched Look Around, it wasn’t long before Google responded with big updates to Street View. Each Maps UI redesign is followed by subtle tweaks from the other as they observe and react.
This innovation cycle of moves, countermoves, and copying ideas is ultimately benefiting consumers. Healthy competition results in better apps for end users.
It will be exciting to see how both Apple Maps and Google Maps evolve in the coming years. Major advances in AR mapping could be on the horizon as Apple’s rumored AR headset approaches. The mapping space still has enormous room for disruption and fresh thinking.
As consumers, we win thanks to the intense rivalry between these tech giants. The incentives to perfect mapping only grow as more parts of our lives come to rely on understanding locations and spaces.
Why I’m Loyal to Apple’s Ecosystem
Stepping back, Apple Maps is just one cog in Apple’s larger ecosystem which keeps me loyal to their devices and services. Here’s why I stick primarily within their ecosystem:
- Excellent hardware quality and design aesthetic
- Tight integration between devices like iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch
- Services like iMessage, iCloud, Apple Music and Apple Pay
- Privacy protections that limit data mining for ads
- OS-level optimizations that enhance app experiences
- Customer service at Genius Bars and Apple Stores
- Seamless sharing and syncing within the Apple world
- Brand affinity and appreciation of their design principles
Once you’re invested in multiple Apple devices and services, it becomes difficult to switch away from them. Their ecosystem retains users by adding value across experiences.
Apple Maps exemplifies these synergies – its integration with iPhone and Apple Watch gives it an advantage over Google Maps in my daily life. Apple makes leaving their ecosystem hard because everything works so well together.
Final Thoughts on the Apple vs Google Mapping Rivalry
As Apple Maps continues maturing into a more reliable alternative, consumers are benefiting enormously from the heated competition with Google Maps.
Each improvement that Apple makes pushes Google to refine its own service. And if Apple lags too far behind, users will simply stick with Google Maps. These dynamics drive ongoing innovation.
Looking ahead, it will be exciting to see Apple Maps expand into more countries, add exciting AR navigation features, and further optimize the Apple Watch experience.
I’m hopeful that Apple Maps will address a few remaining gaps, like cycling directions and offline maps, to eliminate any remaining reasons to ever open Google Maps.
But when it comes to navigating with my iPhone and Apple Watch in 2024, Apple Maps provides the seamless experience I want, thanks to its deep integration. The subtle turn-by-turn taps on my wrist keep me loyal despite Google’s expansive feature set.
So while both apps will continue getting better year after year, I choose Apple Maps for the unmatched convenience of glanceable navigation from my watch. It’s a game-changer.