For nearly two decades, I’ve sworn by Google Maps. I gave Waze a shot before it was acquired by Google, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Years later, Apple’s Maps app made such a revolting first impression that I flung it into the recesses of a folder, never to be seen again. But after moving to the suburbs and buying a car, I gave Apple Maps a second chance. I was shocked by how much it had improved, but I wasn’t ready to abandon Google Maps just yet. Then Google rolled out its most controversial Maps update in ages, and I did the unthinkable.
I made Apple Maps the primary navigation app on my phone.
Even if you haven’t experienced the Google Maps update firsthand, you’ve probably read about it. Google says the update makes its map “reflect the real world even more accurately.” That may be true, but the new color scheme is a disaster. The patches that represent parks and forests are now a bizarre shade of nauseating neon green. Gray now permeates neighborhoods and roads alike, and even the blue navigation line looks wrong.
Were this my only issue with Google Maps, it probably wouldn’t have been enough to convince me to switch. Sadly, it’s one of many. Notably, Google Maps doesn’t realize a small road leading out of my neighborhood is a real road. For more than year, I’ve had to mentally override Google Maps when I realize it’s trying to take me half a mile out of the way because it can’t detect that road. Apple Maps, on the other hand, has never had this problem.
Furthermore, Google Maps just doesn’t seem to understand how to navigate Phoenix, Arizona, as well as Apple does. When my girlfriend gets in the car and I load up Google Maps, she rolls her eyes. She’s utterly convinced that Google takes us on routes that aren’t as efficient. While I think both apps are prone to making some odd choices, there’s no question that Google Maps has suggested questionable routes more often than Apple since I moved here.
I still believe Google Maps has plenty of advantages over Apple Maps. When I lived in New York City, there was no better way to navigate the subways than Google Maps. Even after I knew the N and W trains like the back of my hand, I would still check Google to see if they were running on time and how far away they were from my stop.
But living in the suburbs of Phoenix, what was once inconceivable has now become inevitable. The recent changes to the user interface were just the last straw.
As strange as it feels to leave Google Maps behind, I hope this is a wake-up call for the design team. I’m just one Google Maps user, but I’m far from the only user dissatisfied with the latest updates. Maybe Google can win me back in 2024.