Editorial: An Apple Maps Opportunity

There has been widespread reporting that Apple will be ditching Google Maps in favor of its own solution. According to online reports the unveiling of an in-house Apple maps will take place at WWDC alongside the introduction of iOS 6.

There is sufficient evidence to believe that this will actually happen. The reports are from online sources that have been right about these kinds of things in the past. Additionally, Apple also has already ditched Google Maps in the iOS version of iPhoto. Yet for such a monumental shift, it better be outstanding. 

An image of San Francisco that could appear in Apple's maps app.

For most Internet and smartphone consumers, Google Maps is the gold standard for mapping technology.  Being able to tap and hold on a location and instantly get Street View is incredibly useful. Having the familiar of interface of Google Maps on an iPad or iPhone creates a seamless experience when coming from the desktop.

However, the timing is probably right to make this leap. As Android has grown, Google has rapidly added features to its own Google Maps app, such as navigation, indoor maps, and Google Offers, that don’t exist on iOS. Users can bookmark a location on their computer when signed in to Google Maps, and find it on their Android device. The current Apple maps app has changed little since the iPhone’s 2007 introduction.

If it does it right, Apple can create another proprietary application that iPhone users can use to snub their nose at Android fans. Blow it, and they could give someone who is a heavy user of Google services one more reason to switch to Android.

With every product launch, Apple always tries to do the former. Its most recent major update to iOS, iCloud, was a major leap forward for music syncing. Yet as is often the case, it came with some initial limitations. Users couldn’t delete images from their device. And Mac users are still forced to go through the bloated iPhoto to retrieve their Photo Stream images.

In short, while Apple makes incredible hardware and rock-solid operating systems, it doesn’t always blow away the competition when it comes to designing a high level of functionality in its applications and software.

Much of Apple’s apps feels like novelty pieces: they look fantastic and better than its competitors, but often have missing features. In such a critical piece of a mobile operating system, that just can’t happen.

Will the new Apple maps app include navigation? Both Android and Windows Phone include free turn-by-turn navigation apps on their devices. However, iOS users must download a third-party app that is likely to cost around $20 or more.

The good news in all of this is that some of the images behind the technology look amazing. Some even say that Apple will, indeed, release a product far superior to Google Maps. Yet even if it looks better, will it have the kinds of features that are essential to those often using their phones to track down places while on the go?

Should Apple’s maps fall short, there is always the possibility that Google could release a Google Maps app through the App Store, like it has done with its other services (though unfortunately some have been lackluster). Google could then add in some extras not found in the Apple maps app, or put in a half-baked application, as it did with Gmail for iOS.

In the end this issue shows the growing gaps between the Apple and Google ecosystems. Users are more often being forced to choose one and forego the other.



  1. google maps user here..

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