A question about Apple vs. Google maps

Having both iPhone and Android devices in the household, I’ve been struck for some time by the absence of two Google Maps features on the iPhone that appear on the Android. One is adaptive turn-by-turn directions (the “recalculating” thing that good GPSes, like those of Garmin, Magellan and Tom-Tom, have always done) when you go off the original course. The other is vocalization of directions (which, again, single-purpose GPS devices do). Android devices have those. The iPhone doesn’t.

I had always thought that this difference was due to one of two things:

  1. Apple didn’t want those features
  2. Google didn’t want Apple devices to have those features, presumably to favor Android in user comparisons with iPhone

The second one makes more sense to me, especially since Apple dropped Google’s maps and added those missing features to its own maps.

But I don’t know. In fact, without an Android with me here in France I can’t compare the two. (Back in the U.S., where I’m headed today, I can.)

I’m not even sure I have the facts right on Android vs. Apple navigation.

What I am sure about is that coverage of the change so far is mostly missing the possibility of numbers one or two above. Anybody got the facts on that? Specifically, did Google intentionally cripple its maps on Apple devices to favor Androids? I haven’t seen that question asked yet. [Later... The answer, according to comments below, and also on Twitter, is no. Apparently #1 is the case.]

Meanwhile, Apple’s new maps are a fail for us here in Paris. I upgraded to iOS 6 and my wife didn’t, on our pair of iPhones. Her Google map shows Metro stops. My Apple map does not. Lacking those stops is a deal-killer for her, and she won’t be upgrading until it’s clear to me on my phone that the Apple maps have parity. I’ve got a feeling that will be awhile.

Huge bonus link.

12 comments

  1. Seth Dochter’s avatar

    Ah but the plot thickens Doc. Apple also dropped the YouTube app, which Goigle didn’t seem to mind. They just made an official YouTube app, one they could run ads on. It doesn’t seem that Google put up much of a fight on the Maps app either. Is it their intention to pump out a maps app now that they are free from the ties that bind? It would be in their best interest because now that can have another app on iOS that they could actually monetize.

    I used the Google app sometimes, but when it came time for navigation I used GPS Drive anyway, so the new Apple Maps don’t really bother me that much. It just seems to me Google was eager to cut loose and make money off ads. It is their main business model after all. Not really a viable model for much longer, but they’ve for bills to pay.

  2. Fraser Smith’s avatar

    Apple wrote and maintained both the Maps and YouTube apps on ios. Google’s only involvement was to provide access to the data. Apple could have added those features at any time but, for whatever reason, choose not to. When Apple revealed that the new version of ios was no longer going to have either app, Googlestarted working on their own, which is why the YouTube app now has to be installed, but has all the additional features that the YouTube app for Android had had for a few years. They’re also working on their own maps app which promises to also have all the features Apple choose to hold back

  3. Hanan Cohen’s avatar

    Try downloading Waze, the free community-based GPS traffic and navigation app.

    For Apple and Android.

    It has the turn by turn feature you are looking for.

    I don’t know how good it is in France, but I know it’s great in Israel and in some parts of the US.

    http://waze.com

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    These are three great responses.

    Fraser, do you have any links to sources on that? Or is it just common knowledge I missed?

    Seth, I use TomTom, iGo and other Navigation apps. iGo is especially helpful in Europe, because it works while off-Net from its own database of maps, just like a real stand-alone GPS. (Oddly, TomTom doesn’t.) I have GPS Drive, but haven’t looked at it for a couple years after finding it wanting for reasons I forget.

    But for walking around a city, biking, hiking and some other purposes, the Maps app on the phone is better. Partly because I’m not always navigating. Sometimes I just want to see where I am, and switch between “standard,” “hybrid” and “satellite” (aerial) views.

    All of them fall down in places. iGo didn’t know what to do with canals in Venice. As I recall, Google Maps wasn’t good at that, either.

    I’d love more control over the clutter of promoted restaurants and other veiled forms of advertising.

    Hanan, I’ve downloaded Waze and will see how it goes after I get back in the U.S.

    Thanks again.

  5. Joe Crawford’s avatar

    Waze is really excellent and does both turn-by-turn and vocalized directions. Kind of amazing considering it appears to be free as in beer and free as in freedom.

  6. Fatemeh’s avatar

    +1 for Fraser’s comment on the shift of Google from data source to app developer. I think the Google Maps app, when its released, will be a far better experience. We’re a cross-platform household, and I am routinely shocked at how insidious (and poorly marked) Sponsored places are in iOS — less of a problem with that in Android.

  7. inscore’s avatar

    In Germany waze is very good as well. I can only recommend it and assume that it will work in france as well. I think Apples effort to be independent from Google because of the Android system is the first milestone that will make Apple history again in the next decade. I have heard from a lot of internal sources that since Steve Jobs is not running the company anymore they can not find consensus on any important topic. A company needs clear leadership and I doubt that Tim Cook can provide it in the long term.

  8. Jeff’s avatar

    Well, apart from the experiences of big city folk, the GPS navigation for me has worked great. I live in New Hampshire and every time I have used it, it has worked great. You see, I am a full time dad and a part time employee at Lowe’s that sometimes has to go out on the delivery truck. Yesterday was one of those days. We drove from Kingston, MA to Pepperell, MA to New Ipswich, NH to Milford, NH to Nashua, NH with a conversation with Siri to find a gas station that has deisel pumps and later for Dunkin Donuts when the need for caffeine kicked in. No problems at all. Although I would’ve liked to been able to put all the stops in for the day at once, but I but my Telenav app and Scout app do not do that either. But Telenav does keep track of your driving mileage and figures your expense for driving for you. Just my experience for what it’s worth.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Jeff, does Apple Maps vocalize for you, or re-route if you go off the original course? I tried to get it to do both tonight on the way back from LaGuardia Airport to my destination in Manhattan, and it wouldn’t do either.

    You’re in one of my stomping grounds in NH. My kid goes to a boarding school there. Soon as you mentioned Dunkin Donuts I visualized one on 101 in Nashua where I always stop on the way back to Boston from there.

    In fact, my model of a good GPS is one that will tell me how to get to the Boston place after I decide not to take 101 and 3, but instead head down backroads. By the time I get to, say, Brookline (NH), it’s telling me how to drive the right backroads the rest of the way. The TomTom app on the iPhone and iPad will do that. Will the Apple Map app do that, and talk the instructions along the way?

  10. Jamie’s avatar

    Waze is my favorite, though what bothers me is that with automatic night mode set to OFF, client does not save the mode setting for night. Each time you start the client, the mode reverts to day.

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