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Can Apple Maps finally compete with Google Maps and Waze?

Published Jun 14th, 2016 11:30PM EDT
Apple Maps vs Google Maps
Image: Apple

When Apple unleashed its homegrown Maps app with the release of iOS 6, the app was famously plagued by a seemingly endless stream of bugs, usability problems, and above all else, inaccurate mapping directions. Compounding matters was the fact that Apple Maps lacked many basic features found in competing app programs, with transit directions being a prime example.

But as the years passed by, Apple Maps quietly got a lot better: mapping directions improved and Apple finally rolled out integrated transit directions with iOS 9 last year. But it’s not as if Apple Maps existed in a vacuum, which is to say that competing programs like Google Maps and Waze did not sit idly by while Apple Maps improved. As far as Apple Maps has come in recent years, many people are still beholden to Google and Waze.

DON’T MISS: iOS 10 beta 1 is now available for download

Well, perhaps the time for Apple Maps to step into its own is finally upon us. With Apple introducing the world to iOS 10 at WWDC on Monday, Apple took a few short minutes to provide us with a glimpse into a completely revamped version of Apple Maps. And while we’ll have to wait and see how the app performs in the wild, the small preview we saw on Monday is extremely encouraging. In fact, Apple Maps may finally be mature enough to stand on its own against long-time mapping incumbents.

For starters, Apple Maps in iOS 10 will introduce an all-new design that looks a little bit more clean and easier to follow than its predecessor. But more than that, the new version of Apple Maps promises to be a bit smarter. For instance, Apple Maps in iOS 10 will be more proactive. In an example demonstrated in the keynote, users can swipe up from the bottom, where they can easily view suggestions pertaining to travel time and upcoming calendar events. Further, Apple Maps will be able to suggest places where users can stop to get things like gas, food and coffee while en route.

The new version of Apple Maps not only makes it easy to search for places like restaurants, but also makes it easy to filter search results with more granularity than ever before. Suffice it to say, the new version of Apple Maps is very Google-y.

Another long-awaited feature for Apple Maps is the ability to pan and zoom further ahead on the Map screen during on-screen navigation. While seemingly a minor feature, this has long been a sticking point for users who weren’t quite ready to drop apps like Waze in favor of Apple’s own offering. Along with enhanced CarPlay integration, Map extensions and more automated traffic information, Apple Maps finally appears to have graduated from the minor league to the majors.

As Eddy Cue boasted during Monday’s presentation, “I can find a restaurant, I can book a reservation (via OpenTable), request a car (via Uber), I can pay for it (via Apple Pay), and I can see when it will arrive, all without leaving the Map app.”

So is Apple Maps now better than Google Maps and Waze? We’re definitely not going to go that far, but at the very least, it’s fair to say that Apple Maps is finally able to compete with those two apps without being laughed out of the room.

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.