I am an extremely heavy maps user. Both for work and for recreation. When it comes to work I need to quickly and accurately look up landmarks to places that I need to go for meetings and on the recreation front I like to see a lot of new places and explore areas of the earth where I am probably not going to be able to go physically.
For this comparison I went through a lot of the articles that are currently available and also the iOS6 announcement. For information regarding Google Maps, trust me, I know! For my comparison, I would be looking at the features being offered by both maps in the context of my use cases.
Finding Places / Locating Addresses
As far I can make out, google maps will win this for India. Mainly due to the face that there is a lot of user generated content on google maps. This will make it easier for people to find the smaller locations more easily. A major issue in India is that most road names have undergone name changes and it gets difficult to find places. The user generated content ensure that local/prevalent names of roads and places are also available and searchable.
Routes / Navigation
Routing on both maps would be comparable for India. I don’t expect any real benefit of one over the other.
Navigation is not essential for me as I can figure out where to go if I have the route. iOS6 maps will be using maps from TomTom, which covers India very well. I expect most places to be searchable however only by their official names. I am not sure if Apple will offer navigation in India, but that would be definitely possible since they will be using TomTom. Google still does not offer turn by turn navigation in India. However, there are a lot of third party apps that are available that use google maps and offer turn by turn navigation on various platforms. I have had a chance to use these on both Android and Windows Phone. So this will be a win for Apple if they enable turn by turn navigation for India.
Satellite Views / 3D Views
Both Apple and Google will not offer this for India since none of them have “fleets of aircraft” flying over the country taking pictures. [only the CIA is doing this and they are not known to share data :-)] Google currently has a pretty high resolution 45degree view and Apple is going to be bringing very detailed and high resolution 3D views to iOS6. Both these can be rotated and go down pretty close to the ground. Why would anyone want this functionality apart from the wow factor of eye candy? I haven’t used these for much except to explore places from afar. Even for that you can get pretty close to places with Google Street View. More on that later. Coming back to India, there are no 45 degree or 3D views and the satellite images are low resolution. So neither Google nor Apple gets my vote on this. Eye candy is great, but the utility of beautiful 3D maps is very little. (unless you are a terrorist :-))
For the places where this is available, Street View is without a doubt, the best tool available for searching and locating places and businesses. Since we are talking about India, this tool is of no relevance to me here. However, I have written in the past about catching the Google Street View car in various cities of India. Unfortunately there is no comment from Google on if and when we would be likely to get Street View in India. From the lucky ones who do have the benefit of Street View, I doubt they would use any other tool for getting up close to the locations that they are looking for.
Basically for my use cases, both Google and Apple’s maps would do fine, with Google having a slight edge when it comes to user generated content. If Apple offers turn by turn navigation in India, then it will be a major point for Apple, in my view. I would personally prefer Google maps since the third party apps on my Windows Phone use that as a base.