April 8, 2015

Is the Competition Gaining on Google Maps?

A white flag with the Google logo and one with the Apple logo on a large map.  The flags have arms that are up in fighting positions.
By Justin H.

For years, Google Maps has had a stranglehold on the mapping industry. Whether you need to plan and plot your route, get turn-by-turn directions, or get a full 3D street view of your destination, Google Maps gets the job done. It is still the most popular smartphone app in the world.

However, we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world. Google Maps does not simply sit upon its throne and pound its chest without doing everything possible to avoid ending up like King Joffrey of Game of Thrones. The Google Maps development team still works to create the best possible product for its users.

In recent weeks, Google has unveiled a number of features, including Ocean Street View, the Google Ability Project, voice search, Google Maps for the human body, and, of course, Pac-Man. All of these outstanding features point to Google continuing upward, but the competition is ramping up its production as well.

Is Google’s grasp on the championship belt still as tight as it once was, or can these other mapping platforms throw them out of the ring?



Apple Maps


This mapping system will always have its place in the industry due to it being the default map service on iOS devices. Apple Maps is still chasing the quality of Google Maps, but its newest feature is a huge leap ahead.

According to AppleInsider, search results on Apple Maps now return TripAdvisor and Booking.com reviews for hotels. The addition of social startup Spotsetter has certainly helped, since it uses algorithms to recommend interest points for the user according to their social networking. They also added 10 more sources for business listings last year.

Apple doesn’t plan on stopping there. It also has partnerships with third-party companies such as GasBuddy and GreatSchools to provide similar recommendations, albeit with gas prices and nearby school information.


Nokia HERE


Back and better than ever, Nokia’s mapping system has returned to iOS after admittedly falling flat on its face the first time.

Nokia is without a doubt the underdog in this race, but it definitely cannot be overlooked. “We view it as the most credible competitor to Google Maps for consumers,” said HERE 360 Editor-in-chief Pino Bonetti.

Call him crazy, but he just might be right. HERE offers everything you could ask for, including offline search, the ability to save entire maps, turn-by-turn in-car navigation, public transit routes for nearly 1,000 cities worldwide, live traffic updates, mobile trip planning, and a fantastic database of places containing a bevy of photographs, reviews, and information.

I know, I’m as surprised as you are. Even without the beauty of Google’s Street View or incredibly crisp satellite imagery, this is a seemingly flawless app.


Waze


One of Google’s stiffest competitors is, in fact, one of its own.

Google purchased socially-focused mapping startup Waze nearly two years ago for over $1 billion in order to provide a social boost to its maps and mobile business endeavors. Both Waze and Google Maps have a mutually beneficial relationship, but the former has instituted a feature that the latter cannot touch.

Waze has added a feature called the “time in traffic bar” that tells users how long they’ll be stuck in a specific traffic jam. Using its crowdsourcing benefits, it constantly updates and counts down how much longer you have until you’re on the open road again. The new iOS update for Waze is also much faster, and includes enhanced turn-by-turn directions.

The knock against Waze is that it has not yet included iPhone 6 and 6 Plus optimization. Other than that, it is a fantastic app that is generally more fun than the other mapping platforms, but still has some kinks to work out.


The Verdict


Google Maps still reigns supreme as the world’s most popular smartphone app, but the competition is undoubtedly keeping the pressure on to make sure the tech giant doesn’t get to comfortable. Pushing them to continue making improvements only makes everyone in this competition better.

The big surprise is how functional and effective Nokia HERE is. It doesn’t get the recognition of the others largely because Nokia no longer makes smartphones, but it is very much worth the download.


What is your favorite navigation app? Do you think any of these can overthrow the mighty Google Maps? Please let us know in the comment section below!

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