Google, in an attempt to outshine one of the worst kept secrets in the industry at the time — Apple’s 3D Maps announcement at WWDC 2012 — hastily put together its own presser 5 days in advance, to announce their entry into the “next dimension” of maps.

That’s all water under the bridge now (see what I did there?), and both companies have 3D technology incorporated in their apps — Google, with Google Earth, and Apple, with Maps for iOS 6.

Obviously Apple’s maps update is still in beta, and Google just recently released their Google Earth upgrade, but which 3D building implementation looks better up to this point? The answer might surprise you…

The video comparison

Let’s look at the statistics up to this point:

From what I’ve been able to gather, Google Earth features 3D building support for 2 continents, North America, and Europe, for a total of 13 locations.

United States

  • Boulder
  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Lawrence (Kan.)
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Portland
  • San Diego
  • Santa Cruz
  • Tampa
  • Tucson
  • San Francisco and the Bay Area


  • Rome, Italy

Apple, on the other hand, supports 3D buildings on 3 different continents, for a total of 26 locations. That’s double the amount of locations contained within Google Earth.

United States

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Memphis
  • Miami
  • New Orleans
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Portland
  • Sacramento
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco and the Bay Area
  • Seattle


  • Toronto
  • Montreal


  • Birmingham, UK
  • Manchester, UK
  • Copenhagen, DK
  • Lyon, France


  • Sydney
  • Melbourne

As you can see, not many cities receive the 3D building treatment from both companies, but there are a few notable exceptions: Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.

With this in mind, I decided to compare each of the four cities at varying levels of zoom — far, midrange, and close. What you’ll undoubtedly notice, is that Google’s mapping textures pale in comparison to the textures used by Apple.  For each of the four cities listed above, the 3D buildings showed a significant graphical difference in favor of Apple.

Some of the textures featured in Google Earth were so bad, that they harken backed to Nintendo 64 days when it comes to texture detail. If you were a gamer back in the late 90’s, then you know exactly what I’m referring to — the washed out look that infamously plagued many of the console’s games.

That’s not Google Earth’s 3D buildings, that’s GoldenEye for the N64.

Let’s take a look at each city one-by-one. We’ll start with Boston. Please note that Google Earth is located on the left, and Apple Maps are on the right. Be sure to click the images to see the higher resolution comparison, as the thumbnails below don’t do it justice.


Los Angeles

San Diego

San Francisco

Granted, all of this is subject to change, as iOS 6’s maps app is still in beta, and Google Earth was just recently updated with 3D buildings. What we can glean from this, though, is that Apple was smart to snatch up startup Poly9 (three-dimensional rendering) and mapping experts C3 Technologies (rapid 3D mapping). It’s pretty remarkable that someone like Google, who’s been at this stuff for years, can be out-shined so quickly. It goes to show you how good Apple is at investing and evaluating talent.

While Apple’s Maps certainly look better, I’ve concluded that it lags behind from a performance standpoint. Keep in mind that Apple’s Maps are still in beta, so this will likely change. At the moment, though, it doesn’t appear that the 3D map data is cached on the device to the same degree as it is on Google Earth, as many times when you zoom out of an area, and then zoom back in, you’re greeted with the large checkerboard of doom. This could also be impacted by the fact that the textures are of such high quality, and it takes more time to download them than it does on Google Earth. I’m not sure how big a data file would have to be to contain an entire city, but I’d imagine that it’s of decent size.

Google Earth, on the other hand, is a bit smoother in operation at the moment. Zooming in and out seems more fluid, but again, this probably has a whole lot to do with the size of its texture files, caching, etc. At the end of the day, Apple’s maps are bound to perform just as buttery once completed, especially on a device like the new iPad.

Both apps are definite steps in the right direction. It’s hard to convince people how amazing 3D maps are until they’ve seen it for themselves. Whichever 3D mapping tech you end up using, it’ll still be miles ahead of anything offered in the past. What do you think?

Note: All screenshots and video taken from the new iPad running iOS 6 beta 4.

  • Sick!

  • moustafa idris

    goooooooo apple! ^___^

  • chjode

    Neat, but since I don’t live in nor travel to the areas with 3D maps by either provider, it’s not a big point of interest for me.

  • I think with both companies fiercely competing in this 3D map market – WE ALL WIN!!!

    As you pointed out, the 3D technology from games just a few years ago was all the rage, and that is now just a joke compared to what both companies are doing!

    It will only get better for all of us! 🙂

  • Apple 3D Maps look waaaaay better ^__^

    • LOLAppleMaps


  • God. Would Just One of them Do Hawaii Already. They’d be done in a HeartBeat

  • apple rules

    • Altaykai Yamada

      go f0ck yourself.

  • simon lewis

    Apple maps? Blatant rip off of Google idea. Google should sue.

    • What should Mapquest do, then?

      • go back to giving you long out of the way directions with 8bit graphics ;]

    • AforAppleAforAndoid

      Way to go Tardroid

  • Nicolas Cevallos

    apple maps are way better

    • LOLAppleMaps


  • I’m torn, some of the images above in my opinion looked better on Google, others looked better with Apple. To me, it was about 50/50 and I couldn’t honestly say which one is better.

    Does it really matter? The winner will be the consumer because Google and Apple battling it out for superiority will make for great things for all of us. I love watching what both companies are doing.

    • Apple was obviously better in this comparison… Sincerely, an Enthusiast

      • you know what they say about opinions…

      • LOLAppleMaps


  • Well there both obviously amazing lol but for a beta apple sure hit the nail on the head

    • Don’t forget all google products are beta ;p

      • Is that so?then i can’t wait to see both finished products

      • LOLAppleMaps

        lol lol lol

    • LOLAppleMaps


  • AforAppleAforAndoid


  • Alexandre Pott

    Which one will the machines use to build the Matrix?

    • pegger1

      You’re already in the Matrix and you don’t even know it.

  • Johnathan Jennings

    Yup, that’s google. always Lagging behind

    • pegger1

      How is google lagging? Their maps have been around forever. Apple is just joining the party now.

    • LOLAppleMaps


  • M Last

    awesome!!!! great job Apple!

  • seyss

    TIL Jeff is black!

  • hey jeff, do you have a list of all the countries that 3d maps is suported in ios 6?

  • I dont give a ish. I just don’t wanna get lost! They both look good enough for me but I do appreciate attention to detail.

  • B Phillips

    seriously who cares. slow news day much.

  • Can’t wait to use it so it chews my battery even more

  • William D

    Use Google Maps in Chrome with GL supported and you get more cities – e.g. BRUSSELS in Belgium, is in 3D; and has been for months. that’s not in your list at all..

    • pegger1

      That’s not the same 3D they’re talking about here.

  • fuk them both, even thou i own galaxy tab and ipad, i hope they both fail. greedy bASStards.

  • Who really cares… They both look “good enough”.

    I want something that works and works fast and if Google maps are faster then that is a major advantage.

  • Karim Signe

    Amazing roof top definition.
    Where is Apple street view ?
    Where is the public transportation system ? Do I need to pay for the 3D on apple ?

    Goooooo SAMSUNG + ANDROID + ME
    Anioiii KAsséo 🙂

  • alex card

    Outshone not Out-shined

  • Apple maps look better but if they don’t sort out the load time, I couldn’t care less. I mean, when I am searching a place, time is of the essence!

  • But we also have to remember that current beta maps suplier is apple and it can possibly variate when iOS goes out

  • Im an Apple fanboy, have several iOS and Mac devices. But it seems to me that apple own map solution is still behind google. Maybe not for the principal US cities. But mapping is a feature that shows better its functionality when traveling So international and complete support is better that really good maps for a few cities.
    I’m in Argentina and the iOS maps here are far away from google for now. Both in map mode and satellite.
    On the other side. Google earth have crowsourced 3D building. And with this it have 3D building on thousand of cities more. I have even modeled some of them from my city.

    iOS maps seem promising. But google is far away from being replaced by now. It’s simply the most reliable map source worldwide now. I love to see better quality 3D building textures on apple. But I will never prefer that instead of accurate map data. Is really simple to google to fill that gap, just feed higher resolution source images. But the data gap from apple to iOS is still a lot bigger.

    I hope google releases a good maps app when iOS 6 arrives. To be able to have reliable maps while waiting for apple to grow

  • Thank God Google had the foresight to use an appropriate texture resolution to ensure a smooth experience. Allow me to inject some truth into the article title.
    “Apple’s 3D maps LOOK much better than Google’s but… “

  • This was a month ago. Look what’s happening with Apple Maps now. Total fail.

  • Yo

    Bull SHits buddy,you got to check out the mistakes of apple maps!!stop blaming google cause you fucking apple is worst!

  • Ganitsky


  • On the visual performance, apple is clearly winning this round. I just realized that 3d buildings were released on the new version of google earth on windows. I was really enthusiast about it. Then I realize how buildings models and texture were low quality compared to the buidlings found on apple maps… Honestly I was shocked to see the difference between the fidelity, I was sure that google would do a better job than apple on visual… Good job for apple. Now for the directions and travel method, apple still has a lot of job to do 🙂

  • For map purpose… both are already good enough. You just have to
    understand that all the 3d buildings on those maps are generated by
    algorithm from the airplane and satellite imagery data. That’s pretty
    amazing to see the fidelity they achieved with nobody manually modeling
    each one of them. Now imagine ths getting better and better. Eventualy
    we’re gonna see flight simulator and racing game with real 100% fidelity
    3d models for the entire earth 😉 As a 3d modeler, this tech is going to change my life 😉

  • Guy

    Actually, Google Earth has more than 13 3d cities. Including downtown Dubai, Manhattan New York, Paris France, and may other locations. I have to say the author’s “Gatherings” aren’t very accurate.

  • Great link! Perfect examples of what this article completely ignored.