I’m really glad that Apple made their own maps app because the pressure of competition is supposed to be good for consumers. Right? Company executives love to win, designers love to be inspired, engineers love great problems to solve. So the deck is stacked for a great product cycle at Google to trump the heck out of Apple Maps. Right?
Wrong. Google Maps has arrived and it’s a real yawner. It’s design is littered with Android paradigms (which don’t work on Android either) and inconsistencies. It’s a mediocre and amateurish product by any criteria (excluding data set). Pastel grays and off-whites are not design - it’s punting. Inconsistent corner radii is sloppy. The gray transparent bar above the search field is … what is that anyway besides a waste of space? The lack of iPad UI is lazy. The feature set is minimal. The momentum enhanced gestures are about the nicest touch. But really this isn’t as nice as the Maps app on the Nexus 7 and it should be nicer. Where’s layers, and Local? Where’s Offers and Labs?
Apple Maps was a clear leap frog ahead of the original Maps.app on iOS. It had better tile caching, vector maps, simulated 3D terrain, fly overs and more. It’s a product targeting Google Earth as well as a basic maps app. It brought turn by turn directions on the lock screen. It’s a great design with real simple, intuitive usage.
There’s no doubt that Google is around a $1b ahead with data and 3rd party integration. That’s the only plus I can give Google Maps - more data. Apple’s choice to partner with 3rd tier TomTom is unfortunate but in time perhaps the partnership will produce a top tier data set.
What I expected from the “competition is good for the consumer” world is that Google would leap frog Apple and deliver a great new app. Instead Google once again reminds us that they can’t design and they can’t innovate. They had the world’s attention to deliver a blockbuster mapping app and squandered it.