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

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.