Justin O'Beirne

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



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In What Happened to Google Maps?, we saw that the number of cities labeled on Google Maps has decreased over time:

But how does Apple Maps compare? Does it show more cities than Google? Or fewer?

Let’s investigate…

Which Map Labels More Cities?

First, let’s take all of our map pairs and count the number of city labels on them:

On nearly every zoom with city labels, Apple labels more cities than Google.

To get a better sense of the differences, let’s plot our counts above into a set of graphs:

As the graphs show, there are some big differences: Apple is labeling more cities than Google—and in some cases, many more.4

Let’s combine the three cities into a single chart and see if we can see any patterns:

The Apple lines (black) are higher than the Google lines (red) at nearly every zoom.

But the graph is a bit of a mess. Let’s clean it up by averaging all of the red and black lines together:

Much clearer. And look what it shows: Apple, on average, labels more cities than Google at every zoom.

The graph tells us that the biggest difference between Google and Apple is at z8. Let’s take a look at that zoom across our three cities:

First, New York:

What a difference! Apple shows way more cities than Google. It’s not even close. (Here, Apple labels 44 cities, while Google labels just 10.)

I wonder why Google doesn’t label more cities here?

Let’s look at San Francisco next:

Another large difference! Apple labels 32 cities, while Google labels just 10. And it’s also surprising to see Oakland and Napa missing from Google’s map.

Let’s check London, too:

The pattern continues: Apple labels 48 cities, while Google labels just 13.

Though these are the most extreme examples, our graph showed that Apple, on average, labels more cities than Google at every zoom. So to answer our first question, Apple Maps generally labels more cities than Google Maps on the maps we looked at.

*   *   *

We also saw in What Happened to Google Maps? that the number of roads shown on Google Maps has actually increased over time:

How does that compare to Apple Maps? And which map—Google Maps or Apple Maps—shows more roads overall?

Let’s investigate that next…


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4  The purpose of our tally isn’t to say “more is better” or to render a value judgement. It’s to identify each map’s priorities.