Google Maps vs Apple Maps

One benefit Apple's Maps app does have over Google Maps is iOS integration, so for example you can bring up Siri and ask for directions or lock your phone and continue to see live mapping. With Google, Siri won't use it to navigate and you'll be left with banner notifications if you switch out of the app.

Google Maps for iOS vs Apple Maps: turn by turn directions

Both apps deliver driving directions in two ways: as a flat list of instructions, such as "go that way for ten miles then take the first left", and as real-time satellite navigation accompanied by Siri's voice. You can turn the voice off if you don't like it.

Apple's navigation is prettier than Google's, although things can get awfully cluttered sometimes as you can see here.

Apple Nav

Where necessary both apps tell you about multiple changes of direction, which is useful when you're approaching complex junctions and roundabouts, and while they both do it in slightly different ways - Apple pretty and Google minimalist - it's always clear what's going on and where you should be going.

It's worth noting that both apps get their maps from the cloud, so if you veer off route they need a data signal to re-route you: if you plan to do lots of driving where there isn't a 3G/4G mobile signal or where using 3G/4G will cost you money, you'd be much better off with a stand-alone sat-nav app such as the superb TomTom app.

Google's turn by turn navigation is more minimalist but just as useful as Apple's prettier design:

Google's turn by turn navigation is more minimalist but just as useful as Apple's prettier design.

Google Maps for iOS vs Apple Maps: performance

The original Google-powered Maps app was desperately slow, which was a real pain on poor mobile data connections. The new one, however, is a screamer: it uses vectors, not tiles, and as a result it delivers instant results when you swipe, search or zoom.

Apple's app is vector-powered too and feels slightly faster than Google's one, although that speed difference is negated by Google's superior autocomplete and location-aware searching.

Both apps also offer satellite views, and in Apple's case there are also 3D models of many urban areas. Where they aren't available, however, both apps use image tiles that take their time on anything other than the fastest 3G connections. We found Google's tiles often delivered more detail, especially in rural areas.

Google Maps for iOS vs Apple Maps: privacy

According to reports, the reason Apple wanted to give Google the boot from iOS was because Google wanted too much user data - so is it monitoring every step you take? Yes, sort of. With the app, Google gets your data in two ways: by connecting anonymised location data from your travels, something it lets you opt out of when you first run the app (you can also disable it by going into the app's settings menu), and by logging you into your Google Account.

You don't need to do this, although Google would of course prefer it if you did. The carrot for you is that Maps will share data, searches and favourites across the various devices you use instead of existing in a little world of its own.

Google Maps for iOS vs Apple Maps: early verdict

Google Maps and Apple Maps both offer excellent turn-by-turn navigation and won't cost you a penny, but when it comes to the crunch Google's app beats Apple's one hands down. Apple's app doesn't come close in the accuracy stakes, and the Google app is also nicer and faster to use.

The downside, of course, is that you're giving ever more data to Google, although you can opt out of the data sharing and Google Account integration if you're feeling a little tinfoil hat-y.

Despite the more excitable press reports, Apple's app isn't bad if you're using it to get to a particular address. The wheels only come off when you're trying to find specific businesses by name rather than the number on their doorbell. Whether that's a problem or not depends on what you tend to use mapping for: if you're using it because you're meeting friends in a restaurant, trying to find a specific shop or locate your nearest Nando's then Apple's app is often completely useless. If you know exactly where something is then Apple Maps will get you there, but for everything else we'd go with Google.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.