Apple Maps v. Google Maps and why I’m sticking with Google for driving.

Apple MapsA brief experience using the new Apple Maps.

Not an exhaustive analysis, just a brief story telling of why I’m going to keep using Google for driving directions.

Apple updated their mobile device operating system (iOS 9) in September and along with it came a number of enhancements to the system and applications. One application that received a much needed update was Apple Maps. I have been using Google Maps for the past several years instead of Apple’s app for a couple reasons; Apple didn’t support public transportation options and Apple’s navigation didn’t seem to be as good as Googles.

I wanted to use Apple’s app due to the fact that my entire information ecosystem is Apple centric, and in every other way, all my information is in sync and available to me instantly on every device, including my Apple watch. When I click on an address on the iPhone, it automatically opens the Apple Maps app. Unfortunately, this is not configurable and I have to take extra steps to copy the address, then open up Google’s app and paste the address into Google Maps. This update promised to include the new and improved Maps app with public transportation options. I was excited to try it out and relegate Google Maps (which I still think is an excellent app) to the shelf for a more seamless experience. 

Public Transportation

I live in Chicago and the need for a mapping system that includes public transportation is essential. Apple has not had this within their application till now and I’ve been using Google’s excellent mapping application to help me figure out the best options for getting around Chicago by bus or train (the “L”). Admittedly, at this time, I haven’t used Apples app for this just yet. However, it looks promising and while using navigation for walking around the city, the integration with my Apple watch is pretty neat. As I approach an intersection, I get that little tap on my wrist to tell me to turn right or left. This is much nicer than looking at my phone constantly to make sure I’m going the right way. In general, I’m hopeful for this part of the app and I will add to this post as I use it more.

Driving Directions

This is where the rubber hits the road in my testing and where Apple’s trip navigation falls flat on its face. My first experience was driving from downtown Chicago to the northwest suburbs using Apple Maps to navigate my route. I have done this several times with Google and am using those experiences for comparison.

Getting to the expressway.

I noticed right away that Apple seemed to wait a little too long telling me to take a turn. Often, I was close to passing the intersection when Siri told me to turn, making driving a little dangerous and very frustrating. However, I knew where I was going and I made the turns ‘preemptively’, before Siri told me to. I also noticed that Google gave me better directions to avoid local areas of congestion, taking side roads for a quicker route. Apple kept me on the main roads, on what I’d call the well known routes.

On the expressway.

This is where I got really frustrated and ultimately turned off Siri’s navigation after several miles of me yelling at her. The expressway heading northwest out of Chicago is I-90 and at different times of the day, the center two lanes between the inbound and outbound traffic become express lanes going in one direction or the other. On this day, I took the express lanes heading out óf the city and Siri kept telling me to make a u-turn. Apparently, Siri didn’t know where the hell I was and wanted me to get back on the expressway, that I was already on. Between Siri’s apparent misinformation as to where I am on the map, constantly asking me to make a u-turn, and the fact that she gives me directions to turn way too late, I had enough. All of this is compounded while using the Apple watch, being constantly tapped on the wrist to make a u-turn in the middle of the express lanes.

It was way too distracting and not at all safe for driving by me looking at the map on my phone to see what she’s talking about, listening to her telling me to make a u-turn, and at the same time getting tapped on the wrists. She was hitting three out of my five senses to do things that I knew I shouldn’t be doing. Not safe while driving at highway speeds. If you plan on testing this yourself, do it with a friend so you can focus on the road.

In the suburbs.

I turned on Siri’s navigation again in the suburbs to give it another go and it all went pretty smoothly except for the timing of her notifications. Again, Siri told me too late to make a turn for what was safe. I’m guessing that either the GPS coordinates relative to the map is off, GPS polling is too slow, and/or Siri isn’t compensating for rate of speed. Regardless, the late notice was frustrating and made for some quick lane changes.

Conclusion

When it comes to driving directions, I’m sticking with Google Maps. Google has served me well over the years, provided me with good alternate routes, gave me ample notification of turns, and seems to know where I am.

I’m going to keep playing with Apple”s app when walking around the city and while using public transportation. There’s less danger with that than driving. Check back again to see my findings.

Public Transportation tip.

I’m using Transit App to find the closest available busses and trains to my location. It’s a great app and I expect Google and Apple will try to supplant it with their own but at this time, Transit App is the best option and works on my Apple watch too.

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About Brian Greenberg

Brian Greenberg is a senior strategy consultant specializing in whole systems design and leveraging technologies to advance the goals of organizations in the public, private, academic and not-for-profit sectors. An information systems and technology leader, Brian has 20 years experience in information systems design, architecture and business operations.  Brian holds a B.S. in Philosophy & Applied Computer Science and a M.A. in Whole Systems Design – Systems Theory. As a frequent industry speaker, Mr. Greenberg addresses how organizations can better align legal and business requirements with IT and has presented several papers and participated at conferences. Brian also sits on the Board of Directors of EcoMyths Alliance, a consortium of environmental education partners.