The Maps Race: Google vs. Apple

The Maps Race: Google vs. Apple
Tuesday, September 03, 2019
Zoran Dobrijevic

Every brick-and-mortar business knows it: maps channels are fast becoming the de facto driver for local lead generation. Whether you have 12 locations or 12,000, your local customers are not only browsing maps for your locations (and those of your competitors) but making their purchase decisions entirely in-app.

Although these apps have evolved relatively slowly compared to other digital advances in the same time frame, August 2019 saw both Google and Apple begin to roll out significant upgrades to their respective maps platforms. For Google, we’re talking about a conceptual leap forward with a serious wow factor; for Apple, it’s more a case of trying to keep up with a fierce rival who continues to set the gold standard.

Google Maps “Live View” is here

Walking directions and augmented reality—together at last! Google’s new “VPS” (visual positioning system) is now launching under the name Live View. Residing as a native feature within the Google Maps app for iOS and Android devices, it provides augmented on-screen walking directions in urban areas.

A GIF showing the Live View experience in Google Maps near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

GIF courtesy of Google

Live View was already available to owners of newer Pixel phones and to a small set of Local Guides who were essentially guinea pigs in Google’s latest experiment. Now it’s ready for the big time as Google seeks to consolidate its burgeoning status as the world’s one-stop trip-planning platform.

Right now there’s nothing business owners can do to take advantage of this new feature, but you can be sure that Live View will be monetised at some point. We’ll be watching closely as Google figures out how to integrate local discovery and ads—and visualise local listings—but for now we’ll simply enjoy a novel user experience getting from point A to point B.

Player 2 has entered the game

After a disastrous initial foray into maps in 2012 (described by The Guardian as a “$30bn mistake“), Apple is giving its increasingly popular Maps app a big upgrade in iOS 13. How big, you ask? Well, we’ve seen it referred to as simply a “makeover”, but this update represents the company’s most significant push yet to dislodge Google Maps as the go-to map service.

Apple is rolling out a new map with richer details and better road coverage.

GIF courtesy of Apple

Multiple new features will catch your eye immediately, including “Look Around”—Apple’s belated answer to Google Street View—as well as:

  • An all-new map interface with more detailed information about the terrain, including roads, beaches, parks, and buildings (which Apple drove four million miles to obtain, apparently)
  • The ability to save addresses to a list of favorites that’ll be displayed on the launch screen of the app
  • The ability to create shareable collections of regularly frequented places, complete with custom cover photos

For business owners, there’s also a long-overdue update allowing Apple Maps to display special operating hours (for holidays and other events) rather than defaulting to regular hours of operation. Remember, though, that Apple Maps attempts to corroborate data with other online sources. If your hours of operation or any other submitted information fails to match a business’s own website, Apple may defer to the website.

The new Apple Maps app is expected to roll out to all US users by the end of 2019 and to more countries by 2020—so now is the time to prepare. Check in with our Local Presence Management experts to map out your local strategy and take full advantage of every new feature at your disposal. Contact DAC today.