Justin O'Beirne

Justin O'Beirne of San Francisco, California. Essays, projects, and contact information.

Google Maps and Apple Maps.

Both are the default mapping apps on their respective operating systems (Android and iOS).

And both are racing to become the world’s first Universal Map  – that is, the first map used by a majority of the global population. In many ways, this makes Google Maps and Apple Maps two of the most important maps ever made.1

Who will get there first?

And will design be a factor?

In this series of essays, we’ll compare and contrast the cartographic designs of Google Maps and Apple Maps. We’ll take a look at what’s on each map and how each map is styled, and we’ll try to uncover the biggest differences between the two.


⚠️ This is an in-depth exploration, inspired by the styles of Anandtech and John Siracusa.

TL;DR: Though they look similar, Google Maps and Apple Maps present surprisingly different views of the world. (To skip to the Summary, click here.)


*   *   *


   - Two Very Different Maps
   - The Setup
Part 1: Parts of the Map
Part 2: The Map as a Whole
   - Two Halves of the Map
   - Labels
Interlude: Google Maps’s Redesign
   - Boiling Frogs
   - What’s Changed?
   - Next Chapter (Available Soon)
Part 3 (Available Soon)
Part 4



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1  It’s worth noting that Google and Apple aren’t the only companies and organizations racing toward the Universal Map. They may not even be consciously or deliberately racing toward it themselves. (Though given each company’s mapping investments, it’s unlikely either would be displeased at reaching the distinction.)