updated 10:12 pm EDT, Fri September 28, 2012
Testing limited to New York City area, however
Testing and recommendation magazine Consumer Reports has taken a closer look at Apple's Maps and compared it more closely with Google's Android Maps, specifically testing navigation features for driving. While initially condemning Apple's Maps as inferior last week, the more "thoroughly tested" Apple Maps has now been deemed to hold up well, though not quite up to the Google standard. Both, said CR writer Jeff Bartlett, "provide clear routing directions" that "route effectively, providing clear guidance and great points-of-interest integration."
It should be noted that Bartlett tested both products only in the New York City area. Outside major metropolitan areas, Apple's Maps in particular (though Google's maps are not exempt from issues) have been lambasted for inaccurate location data, missing information, cloudy satellite picture (completely obscuring the UK town of Colchester, for example) and the dropping of transit directions. Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier today issued an apology for the inconvenience caused to customers as Apple scrambles to correct issues and build out a mapping system that can fully compete with Google.
Consumer Reports' revised opinion reflects many reports seen mostly in comments on various stories about Apple Maps; for many in some areas (particularly cities and towns in North America), the program is working on the same level as the older Google-based Maps used to, albeit without Street View or transit directions. Quick tests various cities in Canada and the US by MacNN found that driving directions, like those tested by the magazine, still gives the edge to Google Maps but worked properly in all the areas tested.
While saying that both free services "lacks some of the features and integration found in dedicated portable navigators and other navigation apps from Garmin, Navigon and TomTom," Bartlett found that voice navigation between Apple and Google's mapping apps worked equally well. He added that traffic data was consistent and that signage and other graphic elements were on par between the rival services.
The Android phone used for testing was a Samsung Galaxy S III running version 4.0.4, with the magazine saying at the end of the tests that "Google provides a better overall package, but we feel that both provide a good solution for standard software." Apple Maps, while praised for impressing the staff with the "interface, results, signage and points of interest info" was dinged for not having as much "customization throughout" as Google -- but this was qualified as being "a mixed blessing while driving, where distractions can be dangerous. Google comes across as more business-like and less fun."
The report blamed the poor first impression rating it gave Apple Maps on having expected it to surpass dedicated GPS units and "match the state of the art and perhaps surpass it" which Bartlett says "it does not." However, he pointed out that "the large display for next-turn information (which looks like a familiar green-and-white highway-sign) is easy to read at a glance, and it compensates for a map design that is harder to interpret than that on Android."
Bartlett also pointed out that the 3D and "Flyover" features, while "rather intriguing representations that bring a map to life" are nonetheless a "novelty feature, not a component of navigation." Google has said it is adding a similar 45-degree overhead view to compete with Flyover. [via Consumer Reports]