Apple Maps Can't Replace Waze (Yet)

Apple Maps incident reporting 6 photos
Photo: Apple/autoevolution edits
Sending reports in Apple MapsSending reports in Apple MapsSending reports in WazeSending reports in WazeSending reports in Apple Maps
Finding a potent Google Maps alternative sounds difficult but isn't, especially as other tech companies have started investing massively in their competing products.
Apple has no option but to focus heavily on Apple Maps. The tech industry is slowly but surely expanding in the automotive space, and Apple doesn't want to be late to the party. The Apple Car spearheaded its transition from tech to auto, but the project's demise forced the company to rethink its strategy.

The automotive expansion is now centered around Apple Maps and CarPlay, with both products projected to receive major improvements in the coming months and years.

In the long term, Apple Maps will likely become a more advanced Google Maps alternative, and it will also gain capabilities that allow it to expand in Waze territory.

Case in point: traffic incident reporting.

Sending reports in Apple Maps
The detailed city experience, whose rollout started more than two years ago but is still underway, includes a traffic incident reporting component that makes Apple Maps feel more like Waze and Google Maps.

The idea that powers incident reporting comes down to making navigation more predictable. Crowdsourcing allows navigation apps, including Waze and now Apple Maps, to receive information from users on the road and generate alerts for other motorists. Navigation apps can't tell what happens on the road (aside from traffic jams), so by letting users send reports, they collect more information that can be used to understand every route better and provide additional details to others.

Waze has been doing this for years, so users were already familiar with the concept when Apple received incident reporting.

However, Apple Maps can't replace Waze. Not yet, at least, and I doubt anything will change in the long term.

There are two reasons why users won't give up on Waze for Apple Maps.

Sending reports in Apple Maps
Photo: Apple
First, the incident reporting component only offers basic experience in Apple Maps. Apple didn't want to step too deep into Waze's territory, primarily because that's not Apple Maps' objective. Apple Maps is mainly a Google Maps competitor, and adding more advanced incident reporting capabilities would have made the app more complex, possibly causing confusion in the user base.

However, considering the limited options in the navigation space regarding crowdsourcing incident reporting, Apple Maps has a good opportunity to expand in this direction. Apple doesn't seem interested in doing it, though, but now that the Apple Car is no more and the company needs Apple Maps to be a top-class product, I wouldn't be surprised to see the iPhone maker rethinking its strategy.

Apple Maps currently allows users to report only accidents, speed traps, and generic hazards. Waze includes significantly more report types, including roadkill, broken traffic lights, potholes, speed bumps, sharp curves, blocked lanes, and vehicles stopped on the side of the road.

Second, the limited Apple Maps detailed city experience availability significantly impacts adoption. Apple has never been in a rush to bring the detailed city experience to all users worldwide, mainly because it involves tremendous amounts of data as the company builds its maps from scratch. Previously, Apple Maps used third-party maps.

The incident reporting engine is part of the detailed city experience, so the new feature is only available in regions where Apple has already shipped its massive map overhaul. In some cases, Apple only enabled the detailed city experience in one city in a country, so users who'd want to replace Waze with Apple Maps wouldn't be able to rely on incident reporting when leaving town.

Sending reports in Waze
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Traffic reports in Apple Maps are still scarce, even in regions where the detailed city experience is live. Apple's biggest challenge is to convince iPhone users to stick with the app in the long term. It's not a secret that many iPhone users switch to Google Maps because of the lack of features in Apple Maps, and now that Apple has become more committed to improving its mapping service, it must give users a good reason to abandon the switch.

As a bonus, Apple Maps can't replace Waze because it's only available on Apple platforms. Waze is already available everywhere, including Android, iOS, Android Auto, and CarPlay. Broad availability plays a key role in crowdsourcing, so Apple Maps can't build the same user base as Waze to power its incident reporting. The more users, the bigger the number of reports and overall accuracy, so Apple should at least consider bringing Apple Maps to Android in the long term.

Meanwhile, Waze remains the number one crowdsourcing navigation app, and its incident reporting system is top-notch. It's one of the reasons Google doesn't plan to integrate Waze into Google Maps, despite many users seeing a merger between the two as unavoidable. My sources told me that a merger was off the table, not only due to the different focus but also because of possible antitrust concerns. Waze will continue to operate independently, though I expect the app to feed more traffic data into Google Maps in the long term.
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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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