Justin O'Beirne

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



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How Do the Maps Compare, Zoom-by-Zoom?

Earlier in this essay, we counted the labels that each pair has in common:

While we were counting those labels, I also counted the number of labels at each zoom for all of our seven categories from earlier…

…doing it like this for each city:

This is cool because it now gives us enough data to make a map of our maps.

Let’s color-code our seven categories…

…and plot what’s labeled at each zoom, starting with our New York map pairs:

The chart above gives us a good X-ray of Google Maps and Apple Maps across all of our zooms. And glancing at the charts, the three zooms that look the most different are z2z3, and z8:

Let’s take a quick look at each, starting with z2 and z3:

If z2 looks familiar, it’s because we looked at it earlier—it was the zoom where the maps had the least number of labels in common. And once again, we see why: Google is labeling countries, while Apple is labeling continents and cities.

The pattern largely repeats on z3:

Here at z3, Google is labeling country sub-areas (i.e., states & provinces), while Apple is labeling major cities.

Meanwhile, z8 is actually one of the zooms we looked at in Part 1:

Here, Google emphasizes roads, while Apple emphasizes cities:

*   *   *

Let’s see how our San Francisco map pairs compare to our New York ones:

Similar to New York, there are large differences at z2 and z3 (Google labels countries & country sub-areas, while Apple labels cities) and again around z8 (Google emphasizes roads, while Apple emphasizes cities).

There’s another noticeable difference at z13:

Let’s take a closer look:

It seems that Google is emphasizing roads, while Apple is emphasizing places.

Here are just the roads:

And here are just the places:

*   *   *

Do we see the same patterns in London?

Let’s take a look:

Once again, the maps appear to be most different at z2 and z3, and again at z7 and z8.

Meanwhile at z13, Google seems to show significantly more places than Apple (a reversal from what we just saw in San Francisco at z13). Let’s take a quick look:

Ah, this is the zoom with all of those Tube stations. Because they don’t have text (just icons), Google is able to fit many more of them onto the map (and in much tighter spaces). Just look at how many more places are on Google’s map, compared to Apple’s:

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that z13 is the zoom with the least number of labels in common between the two maps?

*   *   *

Let’s average the charts from all three cities together and put them back-to-back:

Here we see the general labeling patterns on Google Maps and Apple Maps—and the chart shows us where (and why) the maps are different.

Notice that Google spikes at z3 and again at z13—while Apple spikes at z8. These three zooms (z3z8, and z13) are actually the same zooms where the maps spiked in our earlier chart:

Let’s overlay those spikes onto our new chart:

It’s so clear now, isn’t it?

Google spikes around z3 because of all of the country and country sub-areas it labels there — and Apple spikes at z7 and z8 because of all of the cities it labels.

Later on, Google spikes again around z12 and z13 because of all of the roads it labels and because of all of those text-less transit station labels.

*   *   *

Our charts for each city also give us enough data to calculate grand totals for each of our seven categories.

Let’s see what’s labeled most on each map…


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