Justin O'Beirne

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

CARTOGRAPHY COMPARISON
GOOGLE MAPS & APPLE MAPS

INTRODUCTION

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INTRODUCTION

Four years ago, Google announced that Google Maps had reached one billion unique monthly users. Today, that number is even larger.2

One billion is an astounding number – it’s one out of every seven people on Earth:

It’s also far larger than the United States:

One billion is so large that even 1% of one billion is huge. It’s larger than America’s largest city:

Put another way, just 1% of Google Maps’s user base is larger than all of this:

📷 New York City | Photo by Faisal Yaqub

*   *   *

But Apple Maps is also huge.3

At the end of last year, Nielsen reported the top mobile apps in the U.S., and Google Maps and Apple Maps both made the Top 10:

📊 Source: Nielsen

For all of the hype and press surrounding them, notice what’s not in the Top 10: Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, Yelp, Foursquare, Twitter, Periscope, and Amazon – among others.

Isn’t it interesting that none of these apps made the Top 10 while Apple Maps did?

But then again, Google Maps and Apple Maps aren’t just apps – they’re also platforms. And as platforms, they’re actually inside many of these other apps. You can’t use Uber, for instance, without also using Google Maps, and the same goes for many other apps:

📱 Google Maps in Uber's iOS app

📲 Google’s & Apple’s maps in Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, Lyft, Foursquare, Yelp, and Shazam.

*   *   *
 

So both Google Maps and Apple Maps have really large user bases, and they’re not only two of the world’s most used apps—they’re also inside of many other widely-used apps.

Yet given how important they’ve become, we know relatively little about them. (One of them might become our Universal Map, after all.)

It’s interesting: I can easily find hundreds of articles that’ll tell me the differences between an Apple iPad and a Microsoft Surface, or even the differences between iOS and Android. But I can’t find anything comparing Google Maps and Apple Maps, despite how important they’ve become.

And that’s a shame, because there are so many questions.

For instance:

  • How often do the two maps label the same things?
  • Does one map emphasize things that the other doesn’t?
  • And is one map better than the other at something in particular?

We know the exact color gamut of the Apple iPad – but surprising little about our future Universal Map.

Well, that ends today...

 

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2  Whatever number of Google Maps’s users were lost when Apple Maps was released in 2012, Google Maps was back at one billion users by 2014. ↩︎


3  While Google has announced the global number of Google Maps users, Apple hasn’t released this same information for Apple Maps. So a direct, global user-base comparison isn’t possible at this time.

That said, Comscore’s data provides a view of marketshare in the United States, Google Maps’s and Apple Maps’s largest market. (However, it’s important to keep in mind that other geographies will have drastically different marketshare figures.)

The sole aim of referencing the marketshare numbers above is to establish that each map is important and worthy of closer examination (given their large user-bases). ↩︎