Apple Maps' big update: Tons more detail but it only covers tiny part of US

Apple Maps gains parking lots, putting greens, harbors, beaches, and race tracks.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

With iOS 12, Apple has rolled out an updated version of its Maps app that adds many more details about the landscape, helping Apple close the gap on Google Maps.

The new version has been built with data collected from iPhones and Apple's own Lidar-equipped cars rather than using third-party mapping data from companies like TomTom.

Announcing the forthcoming revamp, Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue told TechCrunch in May that it was aiming for Apple Maps "to be the best map app in the world", built from the ground up with its own map data.

The plan is to roll out the new version of Apple Maps section by section in the US over the coming year.

Justin O'Beirne, a former member of Apple's iOS software group, has given his impressions of the new Apple Maps and concludes that on additional details like vegetation, "Apple hasn't just closed the gap with Google -- but has, in many ways, exceeded it"

Apple's new map has gained details around the corners of homes and, uniquely, has details about the vegetation surrounding homes and cities.

Other new details include visual representations of beaches, harbors, racetracks, parking lots, and even details within golf courses, such as fairways, sand traps, and putting greens.

"Crescent City is one of the 52 county seats located within the new map's coverage area. Surprisingly, 25 percent of these county seats had no vegetation or green areas whatsoever on the old map -- and now they look completely different," writes O'Beirne.

SEE: Tech and the future of transportation (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Within schools, Apple Maps now shows features of baseball fields, running tracks, and football fields. In parks, Apple Maps now shows pools, playgrounds, and tennis courts. There are also more detailed building footprints.

But there are a few downsides with Apple's new map. The first and most notable issue is that it only covers 3.1 percent of land in the US and 4.9 percent of the population, spanning 48 counties in California, and four counties in Nevada.

The other is inconsistencies in the height of buildings and mislabeled businesses.

"On the new map, San Francisco's fourth-tallest building is now shorter than San Francisco's fifth-tallest building," notes O'Beirne.

Additionally, Apple hasn't created labels for the new shapes its Maps have gained, such as baseball fields, which in turn impacts search.

However, Apple has also made improvements to the third-party mapping data it previously relied on, for example, by removing roads that no longer exist.

It's also adding roads in small counties previously not covered by Apple Maps and currently not included in Google Maps.

Previous and related coverage

iPhone owners on iOS 12: You can now use Google Maps on Apple CarPlay

You're no longer stuck with just Apple Maps on your car's dashboard display.

Apple CarPlay: iOS 12 will finally let you use Google Maps, Waze

With iOS 12, Apple is opening up CarPlay to third-party navigation apps

Apple to use drones for Apple Maps data collection

Apple is planning several updates to Apple Maps in its pursuit to topple Google Maps.

Why Apple is failing to upend Google in the battle for mobile map dominance TechRepublic

Google Maps keeps changing as it introduces new data into its product. Apple Maps, however, is falling behind in providing a competitive experience.

Google Maps adds detailed commute information CNET

You'll also be able to control music playback within the app.

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