December 13, 2012 at 8:16 PM by Dr. Drang
OK, let me get this straight.
- Apple and Google have a falling out over the built-in iOS Maps app. Among the problems: Google wanted more access to user information and Apple wanted the app to provide vector graphics and turn-by-turn directions the way Google’s maps on Android do.
- Apple cuts Google out and rewrites the Maps app with vector graphics and turn-by-turn. The data set behind the new app, however, isn’t as good as Google’s and the new Maps doesn’t have Street View or public transit directions.
- Three months later, Google puts out its own maps app with turn-by-turn, vector graphics, Street View, and public transit directions. It is widely hailed as a great addition to the dominant and every-growing portfolio of iOS apps.
- Apple is considered to have come out of this with a black eye.
I don’t see how Item 4 follows from Items 1-3. iOS now has a free maps app that’s every bit as good as what’s on Android. Google Maps is almost certainly collecting more user information than Maps was before, but it isn’t nearly as much information as it would be if Google Maps were a system app. Also, because it isn’t a system app, whatever data Google Maps collects, it isn’t getting it by way of Apple.
Sounds to me like playing hardball got Apple most of what it wanted. Reminds me of Flash.
A few followups:
- I suspect most iPhone users will continue to use the built-in Maps app because it’s already right there and it’s integrated with Siri, Contacts, etc. Yes, Apple will lose a certain amount of data collection, especially with regard to points of interest, but it was always going to be behind Google in that area. The raw map data (getting addresses right) is, I’ve read, less dependent on users.
- Neither Apple nor Google make maps for the sake of making maps—they’re not Rand McNally. Apple wants maps as a feature to sell its phones; Google makes them to gather information on us that it can sell. A separate Google Maps app is a compromise that gives the iPhone two good free maps apps and allows Google to collect more info than it could before.
- In the original setup, Google controlled the iOS system maps by controlling the data. Apple has broken that monopoly with only three months of inconvenience to that part of its customer base that needed what only Google provides.
- Personally, I doubt I’ll use Google Maps except for Street View (which I really missed—there’s nothing like that point of view when you’re going to an unfamiliar area). Because I live in the U.S., where Apple’s mapping data is generally good, and I seldom use it for finding restaurants and other points of interest.
Overall, I see this as a win for Apple and a lesser win for Google. More important, it’s a big win for iPhone users.