Apple Maps vs Google Maps: How their offline maps compare

Grow up / With offline maps, Apple has managed to match Google Maps in one feature after eight years.

Samuel Axon

Apple Maps has seen a lot of news since it first went global in 2012, but anyone who has used Google Maps can name a lot of things that Apple Maps can’t do.

When iOS 17 releases this fall, one of these gaps will be covered. Apple will bring downloadable maps – a very important feature for many users and one that Google has provided for years.

The iOS 17 beta dropped this week, so non-Apple users can now access the feature for the first time – although I don’t recommend installing the beta operating system on your daily drivers, of course.

It took me a few years to consider making the switch to Apple Maps, but I finally did in 2019 after a change from Apple. However, there are some features (like offline maps) that have me saving Google Maps for occasional use. I’ve been using the iOS 17 beta for a few weeks now, so this seems like a good time to compare how the feature works on an iPhone running Apple Maps or Google Maps.

How it works

Downloading and using offline maps on Apple Maps is easy, and it mirrors how it’s done on Google Maps.

To get started, you can simply search for a city or place and a “download” button will appear next to the buttons to get directions or go on a flight path. Alternatively, you can click on your icon to open the app’s options, then click on offline maps, then click on “download new map.” There are some settings here, such as changing maps to download over mobile networks or Wi-Fi, using downloaded maps even when you have an internet connection, and whether or not updates will happen automatically. There is also an “optimize storage” button, but it’s not as clear to the user as to what it does.

When you choose to download a map, you can move or change the size of the box above the map to choose where to draw it. The map is downloaded, and that’s all you have to do to get going. When you navigate the area without a mobile phone connection, Apple Maps automatically switches to an outdoor map. You can find directions, search for businesses, or find websites.

These sites have useful information but they don’t have user reviews and photos, and they don’t have the labels (like “best X in town”) that you find in Apple Maps online.

All told, Google Maps users will feel right at home with this. There are a few exceptions that should be mentioned, however.

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