Apple Isn't Even Trying to Build a Google Maps Killer

Apple used this year's WWDC event to announce offline support coming to Apple Maps. This is undoubtedly huge news, though Apple treated it like a minor improvement, offering it very limited stage time.
Apple planning a different future for Apple Maps 6 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Apple Maps on iPhone 14 ProApple Maps on iPhone 14 ProApple Maps on iPhone 14 ProApple Maps on iPhone 14 ProApple Maps 3D navigation on CarPlay
In just a few words, iOS 17, which will launch in the fall for iPhone XS and newer, will come with two big updates for Apple Maps users.

The first of them is offline map support, while the second is an enhanced EV routing system. Both are useful additions nonetheless, but in the last few hours, I've seen more and more people complaining about Apple not trying hard enough to build a Google Maps killer.

While this might be true at first glance, the reason behind Apple's somewhat reduced focus on Apple Maps navigation updates comes down to its long-term strategy.

First of all, I must admit that offline support in Apple Maps is a critical update. We're not always driving in cities with full cellular signal but also in remote areas where getting Internet access is much more difficult. Human beings like to explore, and as such, we end up driving in all kinds of weird places where a spotty cellular connection is very likely.

With offline maps, you no longer have to care about this when using Apple Maps for navigation. The only thing you must do is download the necessary maps when an Internet connection is still available. After that, you can navigate freely because the essential capabilities, including turn-by-turn guidance and voice instructions, continue to be offered.

Apple Maps 3D navigation on CarPlay
Photo: reddit
The enhanced EV routing is also a great addition, as it helps find the nearest available charging station. As zero-emission vehicles are rapidly gaining traction, such capabilities become must-haves, not just for users but for Apple as well.

Here's the thing. Apple is also building its own car, and chances are it's going to be a fully-electric self-driving vehicle. People familiar with the matter claim that self-driving capabilities might be limited at launch, but the electric part remains. The Apple Car will be an electric model that many believe could become Tesla's fiercest rival.

Putting together all these tidbits makes Apple's long-term strategy clearer. The company isn't necessarily interested in building a Google Maps killer but a mapping service that's prepared for next-gen navigation, including for its own vehicles.

I'm not saying that Apple isn't interested in the current navigation market. It is, especially as services bring home the bacon, but the iPhone maker isn't necessarily interested in competing against Google Maps on all fronts. Living proof is none other than the limited availability of Apple Maps. The application continues to be offered only on Apple devices, with no plans to bring it to Android anytime soon.

Apple's long-term goal for Apple Maps is building a service that would power the Apple Car and autonomous driving. Offline maps are an integral part of this strategy, as self-driving vehicles also need to be able to travel freely, with or without an Internet connection. As such, Apple seems to rather pave the way for its future automotive ambitions rather than invest in an alternative to Google Maps.

Google is also increasingly focused on this approach, as Google Maps on Android Automotive is getting new capabilities supposed to power the next generation of cars. For example, Google Maps can already read vehicle data and estimate the range when arriving at a destination. The application can also suggest charging stops during navigation.

Apple Maps on iPhone 14 Pro
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
At the end of the day, Apple's navigation plans might seem disappointing to most users, but the company is planning in advance rather than trying to build a worthy solution to replace Google Maps today.

Software and services eat up most of Apple's resources these days, especially as the company brought new products to the market. The headset announced at WWDC needs flawless software, so without a doubt, investing in new-generation Apple Maps features wasn't exactly a priority these days.

In the meantime, Apple should really improve the release pace of new updates. The detailed city experience rolls out gradually, but most of the world is still waiting to receive the new maps and features. Apple started the release nearly three years ago, and since then, the company has been sticking with this gradual rollout, sometimes causing a lot of frustration for users out there.

The addition of offline maps might seem too little too late, especially because Google Maps has been offering such capabilities for quite some time. On the other hand, given we're still several months away from the moment iOS 17 receives the go-ahead for production devices, Apple could still come up with further refinements to improve the Maps experience. I doubt this is a priority, though, so if any updates are still on the table for iOS 17, they are entirely the result of the long-term strategy whose superstar is the Apple Car.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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