Consumer Reports, an influential U.S. magazine published monthly since 1936 by Consumers Union, gave Apple’s iPhone 5 a thumbs-up recently but initially slammed iOS 6 Maps navigation (“we were disappointed”). Melted bridges aside, the publication known for its reviews and comparisons of popular products took both Apple Maps and Google Maps for a spin, concluding that Apple’s offering is “certainly more favorable than comments and articles that we’ve been reading online”

The publication compared turn-by-turn navigation in iOS 6 Maps running on an iPhone 5 to a Samsung Galaxy S3 running Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with Google Maps, each on a different carrier.

Evaluations were conducted in the greater New York City area, find findings published in a blog post last Friday.

Overall, Apple’s mapping solution did impress Consumer Reports with its visual flair, signage, and points of interest info. Google Maps provide for greater customization, but are more “business like” and “less fun”.

Consumer Reports found that both Apple Maps and Google Maps “route effectively, providing clear guidance and great points-of-interest integration”.

As for the criticism of Apple’s partnership with TomTom, a leading navigation company:

We suspect many criticisms pointing to the map quality are misguided, as we have found TomTom to provide quality maps and guidance across multiple platforms. Instead, the fault may be Apple’s software applied to the TomTom data.

Other notables:

  1. voice recognition seemed comparable between the platforms
  2. both phones will accept calls while navigating and both return to navigation automatically when a call ends, but Google Maps are more customizable: you can set the volume for voice directions while talking on the phone
  3. 3D view is a novelty feature rather than a component of navigation
  4. both platforms have comparable information about restaurants and other attractions (Apple’s using Yelp and Google partners with Zagat)
  5. each app provides contact information, reviews and user-submitted photos

Apple Maps have some issues with the search algorithm resulting in a map inaccuracy:

The system couldn’t identify the location by “train,” instead requiring a search for “Metro North”- a name that a visitor to the region may not be familiar with.

Summing up, Consumer Reports concludes:

Both the free Apple and Google navigation apps provide clear routing directions. Apple feels like a less-mature product.

It certainly does, but let’s revisit this claim in a few years.

When getting down to the nitty gritty, Google provides a better overall package, but we feel that both provide a good solution for standard software.

So, it seems that both platforms provide decent stock navigation capabilities, with Google having an edge in this respect due to its location and navigation expertise and especially given the company’s been doing this for seven years now.

As a result, Google has more accurate crowd-sourced intelligence and can put its data sets to better use.

On a final note, Onavo found that iOS 6 Maps are seven times more bandwidth-efficient compared to Google because Apple is using vectors whereas Google still relies on bitmap tiles. The difference becomes evident when searching for locations and zooming in and out to specific locations.

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! On some actions, such as zooming in to see a particular intersection, Apple Maps’ efficiency advantage edged close to 7X.

That’s another thing to consider in today’s world of metered cellular data.

Another thing to keep in mind: Apple’s fantastic called Flyover is a major data hog due to complex 3D data. Trust me, you don’t want to invoke Flyover mode unless on WiFi.

Onavo also has a free iOS app which promises to triple the data plan you’re on by routing email messages, apps or web sites through its cloud-based servers that compress data to as much as 90 percent.

Do you agree with Consumer Reports’ assessment?

  • I have noticed load times on apple maps are a lot less than google maps both in 2D and 3D

  • CollegiateLad

    We’ve said this all along. Jeff was spot on!!!

  • About time a “didn’t jump on the Apple Maps hate bandwagon” honest review came through.

  • Its easy for those that live in US….but apple maps knows shit about other places…(like Albania)….never heard of it? So does apple maps..

    • Here let me fix that for you. “Its easy for those that live in the US, but Apple maps doesn’t know shit about other places. Albania, never heard of it? Neither has Apple maps.”

      • Falk M.

        Nobody likes grammar Nazis

      • I think that only applies to people who already speak and write English and purposely write like a 13 year old girl texting someone.

      • Falk M.

        Nah, correcting people’s spelling isn’t exactly well perceived most of the time.

      • Hmm I guess I’ll just not do that ever again and let people not learn anything :/

      • skychet

        Now say the same thing in Albanian and see how you fare

      • Haha, we’ll said. He probably doesn’t even know where Albania is. Lame people knocking on people’s whose first language isn’t English. Classy.

      • Southeaster Europe I believe.

      • Well Google Translate exists so I did my best. Saj e lehtë për ata që jetojnë në US, por Apple harta nuk e di mut lidhje me vende të tjera. Shqipëria kurrë nuk dëgjuar për atë? As ka harta Apple.

      • Woah I totally didn’t mean that in a bad way. I was really trying to help him out. My bad.

      • Falk M.

        fair enough

    • holy shit… I didn’t know that some countries ended up like this. That is actually really bad compare to google. I’m from the Czech republic and all the maps are nearly perfect. Living in Dublin and maps are ok here to. Better then Navigon actually.

  • SetMeStraight OrAmIRight

    “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! On some actions, such as zooming in to see a particular intersection, Apple Maps’ efficiency advantage edged close to 7X.”
    Likely related to the fact Apple Maps is also missing up to 7X the information that Google Maps provides… Just saying

    • Not to mention with Google maps you can download entire parts of the part on to your device

  • VATekMan

    I did notice that this article did not mention the section about Traffic: ”
    In terms of traffic reporting, Google gets the nod. The iPhone doesn’t highlight roads where traffic is flowing well, and the red dashes and yellow overlays of roads meant to indicate stopped or slow traffic aren’t nearly as vivid and readily interpreted as those in the Google app” Most of the complaints I have seen about Apple Maps is the lack/diminished features, like traffic, Public Transportation information, and similar. For routing, it has done a good job, it just depends where you need to go as to whether Apple will work or not. (that includes problems with other countries as another commenter mentioned. I think that the best line of the source article was: ”
    We expect the competition between the companies will benefit customers with ongoing improvements.” so this is just plain good for all of us…

  • I tested the Navigation from Apple Maps here in Zurich, Switzerland, and i must say it worked just like intended…seriously i don’t understand the fuzz.

    I understand that the Terrain View is horrible and don’t get me started on the 3D View.

    but either way as a Navigation it worked for me. And i’m gonna test it now for up road traveling (Switzerland to Germany)

  • philadelphia

    I wonder how much Apple payed CR?? Lmao.. Jk, it’s refreshing to see someone say something good about iOS6 maps.

  • Effin’ fanboy. Of course you would agree 100%. Just don’t make other people start to believe that the new gorgeous is the ugly. Even the CEO apologized for it. It’s like you’re coating a big black ball of pepper with caramel for it to look like a lollipop. Effin’ fanboy.

  • Anyone know how good that app Onava is? Just downloaded it but haven’t had it long enough to tell, its got great reviews though.

  • SIRI & Apple Map … both fully utilize at US only …

  • greater New York City area?
    of course it would be perfectly nice

  • ThisBrian

    Works great for me, actually it has been better in the navigation department for me. Went to the same place google got wrong and it was fine on Apple maps. Now I don’t use transit so it hasn’t affected me but I know others need it.

    I think it sucks for some but I think 70% is bandwagon peeps. It’s like that every time a new iPhone is released.

  • Foarce

    Behind TomTom’s maps is Teledata or Telemaps, the bigger (better) map provider is Navteq, aquired by Nokia a few years ago…. So, the question should be answered, why they chose TomTom…

  • that is good news
    but we need world wide navigation