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Google vs Apple: The Amazing Maps Race

posted 2 Oct 2012, 05:24 by Mpelembe   [ updated 2 Oct 2012, 05:24 ]

The iPhone 5 might be just what you wanted. But the accompanying IOS 6 maps app, not so much. Reuters puts the new Apple service to test against Google in bustling Hong Kong.

ASIA-SMARTPHONE MAPS - The New Apple Maps. It's kind of like old Google version you're used to, except according early customer feedback, it's a disaster.

Misplaced monuments, double-island diplomacy, and psychedelic melting architecture.

So just how bad is it? Let's find out with the Amazing Hong Kong Mobile Maps Race.

The competitors, Andrew on Google Maps, and myself going all Apple.

Round one: Kowloon.

From this Sea goddess Temple in the busy Mongkok district, we had to find our way to the iconic Bruce Lee statue on the waterfront.

Andrew was off right away, while I was stuck typing in the formal name for the home of Bruce's statue, The Avenue of Stars.

After that initial hiccup, I cruised ahead, until a weird direction cue flipped the sytem into driving mode.

Luckily by then the map showed me it was a straight walk down to the harbour, so I ditched the direction and went rogue.

The chase was on, and after a confusing run underground, the road to Bruce ended up in a tie.

Round Two: from the Bruce Lee statue to the nearby ferry pier.

Google instantly recognized the search for the pier, but skipped the beautifulwalk along the water in favour of a less direct path along a busy city street.

Apple Maps actually selected the same route, but only after I Googled the ferry pier's street address and manually typed it in.

Though we both ended up on the same ferry to central Hong Kong, Google's better search term vocabulary helped Andrew get there first.

Round Three.

After crossing the harbour, our next target was to find a nearby shop serving egg tarts, the Hong Kong dessert of choice.

Google offered up a helpful list of bakeries, while Apple had no idea what I was after.

We settled on Google's suggestion of Lok Yu, a classic tea shop.

I took a 30 second penalty for having to enter the address manually.

Both maps were thrown off by city construction, claiming we were literally walking on water in the harbour.

Neither picked the overhead pedestrian bridge, leaving us on street level with multiple dead ends.

Google's directions took Andrew on a weird tangent, while I had to cheat up to that walkway bridge after being directed to play "Frogger" on a busy highway.

I ended up in the lead, though despite entering the exact address on Stanley, Apple insisted I go up one street higher to Wellington.

I followed the map to its end, then cut through an alley to the correct spot, and waited for Andrew to finally show up.


"So I"m first then?"


"Actually, sorry, you're second."

In the end, for Hong Kong, walking directions for both platforms were spotty at best

But when it comes to details like building names, landmarks, search terms and finding local businesses, Google's maps are simply far more complete.

Mapping in the digital age isn't so much about design as it is about data.

And that's why when it comes to maps, Apple users may find themselves in uncharted territory, stuck with a second-tier offering.