While Google has a long head start over Apple in its mapping efforts, the iPhone maker has been working hard to close the gap, and doing so at a fairly impressive pace. Apple Maps has achieved a fair bit in the past couple of years, adding public transit and points of interest in iOS 9, improved searching and navigation in iOS 10, indoor maps for airports and shopping malls in iOS 11, and a whole new set of its own first-party maps starting in iOS 12.
After beginning its own data collection efforts last year to redesign its maps, it seems that Apple was also quietly working on producing its own answer to Google’s popular Street View feature, including cameras on its fleet of vehicles that would collect enough data to allow it to go a step beyond, and when it debuted iOS 13 last week, it was ready to announce this in the form of a new feature called Look Around. While the feature may mimic Street View on the surface, Apple promises that it will deliver smoother and more realistic scrolling and allow users to identify and tap on locations to bring up more details, making for a more robust “live” navigation experience than what Google Maps currently offers.
Look Around isn’t available everywhere yet as it’s dependent on Apple’s fleet of cars to collect the necessary data; Apple is promising to have the U.S. covered by the end of 2019, with other countries to come next year, and Apple’s mapping fleet has already been spotted numerous times in Canada and elsewhere.
Apple does already have data in place for a few locations, which can be pulled up by users running the iOS 13 developer beta. One such developer, Reüel van der Steege, took the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison of both Apple Maps’ Look Around and Google Maps’ Street View features, using a road in Hawaii.
As van der Steege notes, even in the first iOS 13 beta, Look Around doesn’t fail to impress, and the short one-and-a-half minute video clip shows that it really is incredibly smooth compared to Google Maps. In fact, while Google’s Street View relies on transitions between a series of static pictures, it looks like Apple has collected significantly more photos and is likely using some of its photographic machine learning algorithms to transition through them, presenting an experience that’s more like watching a video.
As great as Look Around appears, however, the real question is going to be how long it’s going to take Apple to roll it out, and how aggressive the company will be at updating it as things change. Look Around will be great where it’s available, but again Google Street view has a massive head start and for users who rely on Street View, a rough, uneven set of imagery is going to be better than nothing at all.
Google has also collected Street View data from a significantly larger part of the world than Apple may even choose to visit. For example, when Apple announced its plans to roll across Canada last month, its list of Canadian locations omitted the more sparsely-populated territories. While most Apple users may not care about towns like Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqualuit — the three capitals have less than 50,000 people between them — the fact that Google has gone to the trouble of capturing Street View imagery of these places goes to show just how much of a lead Google Maps still has over Apple.
This article was originally posted here