We compared 54 pairs of maps across three cities (New York, San Francisco, and London) and found several significant differences between Google Maps and Apple Maps.
PART 1 | PARTS OF THE MAP
Apple Maps, on average, labels more cities than Google at every zoom.
Google Maps, on average, labels more roads than Apple on nearly every zoom.
For two-thirds of zooms, both maps generally show the same number of roads. For the remaining third, Apple almost always shows more roads.
Both maps, on average, label a similar number of places (a.k.a. points of interest)—but have only 10% of their places in common on an average zoom.
Both maps also prioritize different kinds of places: Google Maps heavily prioritizes transit, while Apple prioritizes landmarks. Apple also generally shows a greater number of place categories on a given zoom—and shows twice as many restaurants and shops as Google.
PART 2 | THE MAP AS A WHOLE
Google Maps and Apple Maps label very different things. On average, the two maps have only 24% of their labels in common at a given zoom. Surprisingly, the maps are most similar at their earliest zoom-levels, where they have the greatest optionality in labeling choices.
Out of everything labeled on both maps, Google Maps and Apple Maps are most likely to label the same countries and least likely to label the same areas within cities (i.e., districts, neighborhoods, boroughs, etc.). On average, the maps have only 30% of their city labels in common and just 21% of their road labels.
Overall, Google Maps and Apple Maps generally have a similar number of labels. Across the 54 map pairs, Google averages 28.2 labels per map, while Apple averages 26.8 per map—a difference of just 1.4 labels.
Despite having a similar number of labels overall, there are significant label count variations between the maps at many zoom-levels. And the zoom with the most labels is noticeably later on Google than on Apple.
The large variations in label counts at many zooms are the result of prioritization differences between the two maps: Google labels roads more often and for more zooms than anything else on its maps. Apple labels cities more often and for more zooms than anything else.
At the most zoomed in and zoomed out zoom-levels, Google Maps is more detailed than Apple Maps.
INTERLUDE | GOOGLE MAPS’S REDESIGN
Halfway through our comparison, Google refreshed its cartography.
Google evolves its cartography slowly and carefully—so little had likely changed.
Sure enough, Google’s new map has largely the same character as before.