On September 19th, 2012, Apple released Apple Maps.
Having experienced such success with the iPhone and other devices, it seemed Apple was unstoppable. But, at the release of Apple Maps, the criticism against the application was so harsh that even Tim Cook had to apologize for how poorly it was executed.
That’s nearly 10 years ago now, and we find ourselves in an era where, still, Apple Maps is not considered to be the leading wayfinding app on mobile devices.
Apple did the right thing and opened up their software applications to allow people to choose other maps applications that they preferred, the obvious one being Google Maps, and then since Waze is also included in that list also owned by Google.
A study by Harvard Health Watch many years ago estimated the average American spends 101 minutes driving a day. Assuming they drove every day from 17 years to 78.7 years old (quite precise) they would spend 37,935 hours driving a car in their lifetime.
Harvard Health Watch
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Apple Maps even today. It has an attractive interface. It’s simple. It has everything that you need to get where you need to go.
The map data seems to be accurate enough, but there is one thing about Apple Maps that prevents me from using it as my go-to mapping device.
It would seem obvious to use Apple Maps as I am so deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem.
The ability to say, “Hey, Siri, open Apple Maps,” makes things just easier. And if you have CarPlay, then it just seems more natural to default to Apple Maps even though you can use Google Maps and Waze.
In fact, for any CarPlay device that I get in and use, the first thing I install is Google Maps because I trust the traffic data more than any other GPS software that I’ve used.
This isn’t a particularly objective statement as I don’t know the fine scientific details of how Google and Apple collate their traffic data, but I’m fairly confident in Apple Maps.
I cannot tell you the number of times when I’ve been late for a flight or trying to get across the country or across a major city where Google has allowed me to arrive on time. And to be honest, I’ve never missed a flight and I thank Google for that.
Now, I might be able to say the same thing about Apple had I been using it, but my number one complaint is this. If you’re driving in a city or a heavy, dense populated area, or even on the open road, the one major drawback with Apple Maps is that it is slow.
And when I say slow, I mean my position on the map always seems just slightly behind where I am in the physical world. This has always been my complaint over the last 9 and a half years, and it still hasn’t changed.
With Google, when I’m navigating in a city or to a destination, I feel like the street that I’m meant to turn on looks just right on the screen when I arrive at that street.
With Apple, it feels a little bit like the early days of the very early Garmin and TomTom where you arrive at the street but the map hasn’t quite caught up so you’re not 100% sure if this is actually where you should turn. And, a moment’s delay means you missed that intersection, and you missed that turn.
I wish that Apple Maps just felt a little bit faster and a little bit more accurate to allow me to feel more confident when I’m driving in stressful situations, unaware of where to turn and how to turn.
It would be fair to say if I used it every day, I would probably get used to this as a part of Apple Maps, but the undue anxiety it can cause me when I’m travelling through a city of 10 million people driving on the wrong side of the road in a rental car leaves me feeling that Google Maps is still my first pick.
Apple, if you’re reading this, I would happily use Apple Maps if you could just improve this one feature of, what I could only explain as, a delay in the speed of my location on the map.
And if you’re asking, when will Apple Maps be better than Google? It’s not worse now, it’s just the delay in the interface that kills me.
If anybody has thoughts on this, I’d welcome them in the comments below.