Onavo: Apple Maps Uses 80% Less Data than Old Google Maps

| Analysis

Apple Maps in iOS 6 uses significantly less data to do its job than the Google Maps-powered service it replaced, according to a report from data compression and analytics firm Onavo. The company did side-by-side tests of Apple Maps in iOS 6 and the previous Maps app in iOS 5.x, and found that Apple's new Maps app used 80% less data than its predecessor in standard view, and half as much data in Satellite view.

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps

Apple Maps is Leaner than the Old Google Maps

The efficiency stems from Apple's use of vector graphics to draw the standard view, whereas the previous Google Maps-powered solution for iOS uses rasterized graphics. Vector graphics allow fewer downloads across the network because they can be resized on-the-fly, while raster-based graphics require new map tiles to be downloaded as users zoom in and out of their maps.

"On Google Maps, the average data loaded from the cellular network for each step was 1.3MB. Apple Maps came in at 271KB – that’s approximately 80% less data," Ovano said in its report. "On some actions, such as zooming in to see a particular intersection, Apple Maps’ efficiency advantage edged close to 7X."

Apple is also doing something with satellite views, because Ovano found that Apple Maps used an average of 428KB of data for searches and views, compared to 930KB for the old Google Maps app. That's 54 percent less data, for those keeping score at home.

This is a big deal to everyone involved. For users, less data usage means smaller bills for some user, and for those who watch their data usage, it means there will be more data in their monthly plans that can be used for everything else we do with our iPhones.

It is also why Apple Maps seems so much faster and smoother than its predecessor—less data means faster load and rendering times.

For the carriers, this means less data being used on already-cramped networks. It's less bandwidth being used, and it's less data traffic to manage, all of which translates to carrier bottom lines.

Apple also benefits because less data makes the device more attractive for carries who are concerned about such things as bandwidth used, traffic managed, and bottom lines. Apple already sells as many iPhones as it can make, but one thing some Wall Street analysts have often mentioned is downward pressure on Apple's industry-leading margins.

That pressure has yet to materialize, but an iPhone that uses less data will help stave off such pressure for that much longer. That is very, very important to Apple.

Some Fandroids have jumped to point out that Google Maps on Android has been vector-based for two years, utterly missing the point that the comparison is between Maps on iOS devices, not iOS vs. Android. The reality is that this actually highlights why it was so important for Apple to dump Google Maps in favor of a home-grown (with help fro TomTom) solution.

That Google has had a vector graphics-based solution for Android for two years while Apple did not have it for iOS was a competitive advantage for Android vis á vis user experience and carrier needs. This is just one of many reasons it was untenable for Apple to leave this very important service in the hands and under the control of its arch rival.

We are increasingly confident of our assessment that it was of paramount importance for Apple to own its own mobile maps experience, but this shouldn't be mistaken for a failure to recognize that the transition should have been better managed. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Comments

sflocal

Shhh… don’t let the Google apologists catch wind of this!!! They’ll get their tighty-whiteys all bunched-up.

This was one thing I hated when using GoogleMaps on my 3G phone.  Those maps too FOREVER to load.  Sure, may not be that much of an issue now on 4G, but at least I won’t have Google sucking up my precious dataplan limits.

$20 bucks that none of the regular mainstream will pick up on this.

dhp

I just started using an iPhone on T-Mobile today. Now I realize why iOS 6 maps were working so much better than the Google or MapQuest maps on the 2G connection.

KitsuneStudios

Well, let’s see what happens when Apple starts putting all the data back into the maps.

Kidding, but it’ll be nice to see more POIs around town

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

In other news, Ping is now using 100% less data than either Twitter or Facebook.

Intruder

“In other news, Ping is now using 100% less data than either Twitter or Facebook.”

Right up there with Google Wave and Jaiku.


This is definitely good news for those who travel internationally and have to occasionally use the map function. Google’s map app could burn through a limited data plan in no time. BTDT. Ouch.

Lee Dronick

“and half as much data in Satellite view.”

I don’t think that Apple’s Map app satellite view zooms in to a larger and sharper image as does Google’s. The less data used might also explain some of those weird satellite view distortions you see in Apple’s app. There is always a give and take. That being said I am liking Apple’s Map app more and more and I can always go to Google’s map webpage if I need a sharper satellite view.

getaneditor

“means smaller bills for some user”

Wow, I hope that *1 user* is happy.

“less data mans”.

GET AN EDITOR

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks for the (jackass) note, getaneditor. The copy has been corrected.

nine2nine

“Some Fandroids have jumped to point out that Google Maps on Android has been vector-based for two years, utterly missing the point that the comparison is between Maps on iOS devices, not iOS vs. Android.”
You mean like you utterly missed the point that Google didn’t have developmental control of Maps for iOS, Apple did! Nice how you completely gloss over that fact..
So basically what your saying is that an old non-Apple Map App which Apple exerted complete developmental control over, uses more bandwidth compared to a modern Apple developed Map App. Good to know… Next.

Bryan Chaffin

I’d be surprised, nine2nine, if Apple had the option of switching to vector graphics with the old app but didn’t do so. It’s possible, of course, but I’d be surprised.

If you prefer a less logical narrative, feel free to run with it.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Of course they did, Bryan. Google publishes the APIs and has no restrictions on the kinds of devices or platforms that apps run from. Google would simply see Apple like any other API customer. Apple would have paid less to Google than they did to TomTom and other data suppliers, and will subsequently pay to patch up this mess.

Apple had to be all strategic about this because there is a platform war. The really funny thing is that Apple will never compete with Google on maps because Apple’s only customer for its maps are its iOS customers. Whereas there are tons of apps that depend on Google Maps and pay money to use the APIs. The almighty dollar will hold Google to a much higher standard.

nine2nine

It would be surprising; until you take into account the fact that Apple has been actively developing there maps application for years. You might have noticed but Apple doesn’t like competition. Why would they actively let their biggest competitor update their maps application with new features while they were building its replacement? Which one sounds more logical to you? Not to mention if what you say is true they would have added new features to the Youtube app (which they didn’t) rather than leaving it unchanged for 5 years. That’s their right of course per their agreement with Google. However, don’t sit there and pass blame to Google because of Apple’s corporate maneuvering. They deserve all the blow back they get from their maps fiasco because they sacrificed customer satisfaction just to take a swipe at a competitor.

Bryan Chaffin

nine2nine, you’re doing a lot of projecting while engaging in some active wish fulfillment at the same time.

If Apple had the option moving to vector graphics and didn’t take it, it was a mistake. I’ll add that it would have made far more sense for Apple to adopt a new interface for the front end of Maps a year or two before replacing the back end to make the transition smoother for end-users.  If Apple could have done that but didn’t, I’ll merrily hammer the company for making a mistake.

In fact, it’s so obvious, Occam’s razor plus a little background info suggests that Apple didn’t have the option.

It’s your “passing judgement” accusation that smacks most strongly of projection: If Google was responsible for keeping iOS Maps raster-based, it was a smart move that gave Android a competitive advantage, as I explained in the piece. That’s not blame, that’s acknowledgment.

If it was Apple, it was stupid and thus illogical, but it could have happened.

“Blowback…maps fiasco” - that’s wish fulfillment.

“Sacrificed customer satisfaction just to take a swipe at a competitor” - This is a very unsophisticated take on the situation. You can read my thoughts on the issue at the link above.

wee_Fred

Google Maps for iPhone used so much data because it was developed by apple using the old APIs and not the vector maps that are on android.  If apple had let Google have their own maps application on ios then apple iPhone users would have been using vector maps long ago.

Perry Clease

wee-Fred, what about Google tracking us around via their map app?

Anyway, it is a moot point. The new iOS Map app has vector graphics and uses less data than Google’s.

vpndev

I have read in a couple of places that Apple had a year to run on its contract with Google, or maybe an option year it could have exercised. Whatever - Apple could have kept Google-based Maps on iOS for another year.

In that case, a better approach would have been to develop new Maps while maintaining the existing one in iOS 6. Apple has done this “dual” approach before, most notably with Mac OS X and older Mac OS coexisting for several years.

The fact that Apple did not take this approach even when it knew that Maps was a critical app for many users suggests to me that Apple decided only recently to make the switch now. I would guess that the original plan was to switch next year, or keep both, but then the decision was made late spring to do it this year. The fact that Apple has a bunch of job listing for map engineers suggests that they’re still ramping up the team.

All-in-all, not one of Apple’s best decisions. I expect that Apple’s decision-making process will be tweaked to prevent a recurrence.

wee_fred

Perry Clease - “Anyway, it is a moot point. The new iOS Map app has vector graphics and uses less data than Google’s.”

Did you read my comment?  No one has measured how much data Google’s maps use, what’s measured here is the app made by apple using Google’s old maps API.

GmanSea

Yes, great!  But when will we get Transit routes back?  It’s a real pain not to be able to look up bus directions.  If the map app doesn’t give me what I need, it’s worthless.

GmanSEA

Maybe this will be good:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/transit-directions-public/id561866269?mt=8

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