Apple Getting Back in the Maps Game with New iOS13 Features

As I prepare to moderate some great sessions at the upcoming Localogy Place19 event (October 15-16 in Austin, TX), I have been reading more and more about location marketing.

A common theme that comes up in my conversations with speakers is the growing default usage of Google Maps. More and more people seem to be bypassing the traditional Google search box in favor of Google Maps. I often define what I search for by where I am or where I’ll be. As a result, almost all of my searches for local businesses begin and end on Google Maps. 

Therefore I read with interest how Apple has upgraded its Maps application to coincide with the launch of iOS 13. The consensus of the tech media coverage is that Apple has done a good job of upgrading its Maps app and at least narrowing the gap with Google. 

Two upgrades stand out the most to me. First, the app will now use it’s traffic intelligence to alert someone about the timing of arrival.

For instance, tonight I happen to be meeting my wife in Berkeley. My wife will be coming from San Francisco via BART. I will be driving from Marin County. I will use the Apple Map App to send her an alert to let her know when I will be arriving. Berkeley is 20.5 miles from my location. According to Google Maps, it should take between 30 minutes and one hour.

Well, that isn’t very helpful for letting my wife know when I’ll actually arrive at our meeting location in Berkeley. The new upgraded Apple Maps app will alert my wife on my progress. Reportedly, it will send her an update if it learns that I am running more than five minutes late. That is a pretty cool feature, and I am sure it’s one that will entice some Google Map users like me to test it out. 

The second important upgrade — currently available in only three cities — is something called LookAround.

This 360-degree view is like Google Street view, offering the user tons of location-centric information and points of interest. This benefit of this feature is discovery, the notion of finding things around you that perhaps you didn’t know about, a coffee shop, a point of interest, perhaps even a bathroom. 

Apple’s new Look Around feature was initially limited to the Bay Area, but is now available in New York and Los Angeles.

There are other updates to Apple Maps. According to the company, new detailed maps will cover all of the U.S. by the end of the year with international cities — likely London, Paris, Hong Kong, to name a few — coming in 2020. 

So is this a big deal? At the moment, Apple Maps lags well behind Google Maps and its Waze product. But over time, I would expect Apple to ramp up the functionality and versatility of its Apple Maps app to become more competitive with Google. Looking forward three to five years, we expect Apple will continue to pour money into the Maps app to drive adoption by existing Google Map users.

Apple’s poor initial efforts in the mapping space is now forcing the company to play a challenging game of catch-up. It seems they’re making some progress. However, if another company rolled out these enhancements, would anyone pay attention?

My guess is no. But this is Apple, after all. It’s the company that built the laptop I am writing this on, the watch I used to track my workout this morning, and the phone I will use later today to meet up with my wife in Berkeley.

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