What it is: Apple Maps recently added public transit directions to countries such as Australia.
When Apple originally launched the iPhone, they relied on Google for the YouTube app (where Google had to convert all Flash videos into HTML5 video formats). However, Google’s biggest contribution to the iPhone was Google Maps that offered walking, driving, and mass transit directions. When Google kept improving Google Maps on Android but failed to keep updating Google Maps on iOS, Apple took matters into their own hands and developed their own mapping app called Apple Maps.
Initially Apple Maps was noticeably worse than Google Maps, with pictures showing skewered bridges, highways, and buildings. Even worse, Apple Maps lacked public transit directions that Google Maps had offered for years. Now Apple Maps is gradually improving and starting to offer public transit directions for many cities and countries. Yet Apple Maps is still behind Google Maps.
This might seem like a problem, and it is. However, the reason Apple had to go with their own mapping app lies in the fact that Google had originally dragged their feed on updating Google Maps for iOS so Google Maps on Android would be superior. This put Apple in a position of relying on a rival for a major feature of the iPhone.
Perhaps an even more important point is that Apple had plans for mapping that required their own technology. Using iBeacon, Apple plans indoor mapping, and Apple’s latest augmented reality plans require knowledge of locations such as major buildings, stores, and streets. By relying on a rival’s technology, Apple wouldn’t have been able to innovate with mapping on their own.
The end result is that Apple Maps is still inferior to Google Maps in terms of features such as public transit directions. The future though points to Apple controlling its own mapping technology and using it for indoor mapping and augmented reality, which would not have been possible if Apple had relied on Google Maps forever.
For Apple to jump into the mapping business with little experience shows that they’re not afraid to offer consumers a worse experience for long-term future gains. Apple Maps still isn’t as good as Google Maps, but it’s often adequate for most people. By reducing their dependence on Google Maps, Apple forced Google to update Google Maps to convince people to download and install it.
Apple Maps might never equal or surpass Google Maps, but it doesn’t have to. It just has to be good enough for Apple to exploit their other initiatives such as indoor mapping and augmented reality. That goal alone is worth the short-term problems that Apple Maps introduced and that will slowly be forgotten as Apple Maps gradually improves.