Google Maps vs. Apple Maps: Report card of a year-long comparison

Both Google and Apple keep updating their map apps periodically with fancy new features. From remembering where our car is parked to packing in a punch of indoor mapping capabilities, they have been there, done that. But what’s the most basic thing users require from a map? That it should be able to tell them where something is located with unfailing accuracy. After all, what good is a map that keeps cycling through businesses plotted at the same location? Sadly, that’s exactly what Apple Maps has been doing.

Justin O’Beirne, who has worked on maps at Apple and has been blogging about cartography for years, undertook a rather interesting project recently. From May 2016 to June 2017, he tracked the map apps of Google and Apple to see how a San Francisco location changed on the maps over time. He documented his findings in an essay which shows how the maps have evolved over the past year with still images and mesmerizing GIFs.

His conclusion? “It’s cool to see how much Google Maps has changed over the past year. But it’s also surprising to see how little Apple Maps has changed.”

To be fair, on Apple’s map, places are added and removed on a monthly basis. Google does the same. But, Google’s month-to-month changes are only half of what Apple is churning out. Now, does that mean Apple is updating its map more often?

Not necessarily, according to O’Beirne who took a hard look at three businesses located next to each other. While Google has a distinct location for each business, Apple plots them at the same location. And then as the months pass by, Apple keeps toggling between the businesses, leading to a surge in the number of places it adds on or removes from its map.

Now, it’s up to you whether you want to commend Google for using computer vision and machine learning to update addresses through its Street View cars, or blame Apple for its dependence on TomTom for mapping data (and a possibly buggy geocoder). The reality is that Apple still has a long way to go before it catches up with Google. Apple also recognizes this and has stepped up efforts to make its location data better, including mulling the use of drones to update maps faster.

But as O’Beirne’s analysis clearly shows, not only has Apple bungled at ground zero by not being able to populate its maps with quality data, it has been pretty lazy with the map interface as well. While Google took the pain to make its data display as user-friendly as possible over the last year by doing everything from tweaking color schemes to changing the contrast, Apple did absolutely nothing!

“Over the course of a year, Google quietly turned its map inside-out – transforming it from a road map into a place map. A year ago, the roads were the most prominent part of the map – the thing you noticed first. Now, the places are,” O’Beirne notes. This, of course, would also help Google to make money off its maps, as CEO Sundar Pichai recently revealed.

Back in 2012, when Apple Maps debuted, they were so inaccurate and crummy that CEO Tim Cook had to issue a public apology. “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better… Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard,” Cook said. Seems like four and a half years have not been enough for Apple to deliver on that promise.

Now read: Why would you use OpenStreetMap if there is Google Maps?

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What is earth’s capacity and how many people can it support?

It took 150,000 years for humans to touch the 1-billion population mark. Today, there are over 7.5 billion of us on this planet. Of these, 2 billion have been added after 1993 – in the last 24 years. According to the United Nations, our population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. And that, many scientists believe, is the maximum carrying capacity of the earth.

The issue isn’t the number of people. If a space to provide shelter is all we were focusing on, there is enough room for all of us. The trouble begins when we start measuring the ecological footprint of this burgeoning population – the amount of biologically productive land and water a person requires for producing the resources it consumes.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN says that some 11% of the globe’s land surface is being used for growing crops at the present. An even bigger area is being employed for livestock grazing. To produce 1 kg of wheat, between 500 and 4,000 liters of water is needed. 1 kg of chocolate, meanwhile, requires a whopping 17,196 liters of water. Another 15,415 liters of water go into producing 1 kg of beef, while 1 kg of chicken meat necessitates expending 4,325 liters of water.

Accordingly, the ecological footprint – measured in global hectares per capita – is highest for the countries of Luxembourg (15.82 gha/person), Aruba (11.88 gha/person) and Qatar (10.8 gha/person). Conversely, countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have an ecological footprint of only 0.79 gha/person and 0.72 gha/person, respectively.

To put these figures into perspective, consider this: If all humans started living at the standards of Qatar, we would need another four earths to sustain ourselves. And this is without factoring in the additional stress that would arise if we put climate change into the equation. Rising sea levels in China and changes in precipitation patterns in some parts of Africa are just a couple of examples of how scientists are worrying about these regions’ capability to support human habitation and agriculture in the future.

Harvard University scientist Edward O. Wilson wrote in his 2002 book The Future of Life, “If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people.” Now,  it’s extremely unlikely that we all will stop eating meat. But considering the progress in agri-technologies over the years, the maximum carrying capacity of our planet can still be safely capped at around 10 billion people as far as food is concerned.

Check out a video by Life Noggin below which takes an interesting look on the subject:

It is ultimately upon advancements in science and technology and people’s willingness to change their lifestyles to make this world more viable for our future generations. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

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