Google announced that it would counter quickly with a new Maps app for iOS, and I predicted that it would be another blockbuster, just like their YouTube app was a few months earlier. Well, the new app came out yesterday and guess what? It turns out to be pretty great. There are many great posts that talk about the new functionality, so I'll be brief on such points and then move on to what this means to brands...
"Design" vs "Utility"The latest iOS Maps apps from Apple and Google are a perfect crystallization of the current strengths and weaknesses of these companies. Google has traditionally been much weaker than Apple (and others) in the "design" and "experience" departments. They are, after all, engineers and not designers. But I am finding that Google are closing this design gap and have arrived at a point that is a notch above "good enough". Google will never design beautiful things in the same way that Apple does, but I think that's ok. Where they seem to be substantially ahead is in the Utility department.
My experience has been that Google does a much better job in supporting your daily life. Apple, I would contend, currently does a better job in entertaining users, but I think that's a much lower bar from a technical and utility point of view. A phone can entertain, but it is also a tool that should support and enhance our daily lives. Google's network of services is much better connected and, to take a phrase from Apple, "just work" when you have an underlying Google (aka "gmail") account. Although they are not mutually exclusive factors, Google's new Maps app is a perfect example of how their utility can trump Apple's design.
Google Maps and the Need for "Google Optimization"
- Apple Maps will continue to improve
- Apple will work very hard to integrate their Maps features to the core iOS functionality in an effort to box out Google from daily interactions
- I cannot predict a timeline yet, but Apple will eventually produce an "Offers" app of some sort that ties into maps functionality so that they can get a foothold in the enormous Walk-in Economy. Again, this is the big opportunity being chased here.