Justin O'Beirne

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

A Year of Google & Apple Maps
Google Maps’s Quiet Transformation,
Apple Maps’s ___?

MAY 2017


⚠️ Tap or click any image to enlarge


Shortly after I published my Cartography Comparison last June, I noticed Google updating some of the areas we had focused on:

Coincidence or not, it was interesting. And it made me wonder what else would change, if we kept watching. Would Google keep adding detail? And would Apple, like Google, also start making changes?

So I wrote a script that takes monthly screenshots of Google and Apple Maps.1 And thirteen months later, we now have a year’s worth of images:

On Apple Maps, the area looks much as it did a year ago. But it’s quite a different story on Google Maps: as the months went on, Google continued adding detail. And Google now has a complete map of the park paths:

It’s cool to see how much Google Maps has changed over the past year. But it’s also surprising to see how little Apple Maps has changed:

Comparing the roads between the maps – and ignoring their styling (i.e., their colors and thicknesses) – Apple appears to be using TomTom’s road and path data here. Notice the roads are angled the same way and notched in similar places:

So if Apple is dependent on TomTom for this kind of data, it would explain why the park hasn’t changed.

But in focusing on Patricia’s Green, we’re selling Apple short. Even though the park hasn’t changed, Apple’s map has changed over the past year. Take another look – many of the businesses and places shift and change, almost monthly: