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New research finds Apple Maps to be more data-efficient than Google

Apple Maps may not get you where you want to go, but it will reportedly use less data than Google Maps in the process.

App-building firm Onavo claimed in a blog post that despite users' complaints about Cupertino's iOS 6 Maps offering, the app is actually better for iPhone users than rivals services like Google Maps.

Onavo's data team compared data consumption by Apple Maps on the latest mobile operating system to that of the Google-based iOS 5 Maps app. The results: Apple Maps is up to five time more data-efficient than Google Maps.

Various scenarios in both apps were examined, including searching for several US cities, addresses, and airports, as well as zooming in and out to locate specific locations, in both standard map view and satellite view.

On Google Maps, Onavo said, the average data loaded from the cell network for each step was 1.3MB, while Apple Maps came to 271KB – about 80 per cent less data, according to the company. Some actions, like zooming to a particular location, give the advantage to Apple.

Cupertino built its new map system using vector graphics, according to Onavo, so that instead of downloading map-tile images every time a user zooms in or out, Apple's graphics dynamically resize, using less data and allowing for a smoother resizing and faster responsiveness.

In satellite view, Apple Maps uses only half as much data as Google Maps for the same searches and views, Onavo's team said, citing an average of 930KB for a single Google page load versus 428KB for Apple.

However, the issue with Onavo's testing, according to PCMag's Jamie Lendino, sits in the fact that the company is comparing Apple Maps to an older version of Google Maps.

Data consumption doesn't mean much during a one-shot location look-up, but instead becomes important while driving, or when continuously downloading data, at which point, Lendino said, the comparison would need to include Android's Google Maps Navigation service, which uses voice commands. Google Maps never supported voice for iOS, he said, which is why Apple Maps even exists.

Apple Maps made its debut with the 19 September release of iOS 6, and the backlash was swift and fierce. Initially, Apple defended the software, arguing that it was a work in progress, but Apple chief Tim Cook recently issued an apology for the poor-performing app.

Onavo said 70 per cent of iPhone users are using Apple Maps. Yesterday, stats from Chitika found that 60 per cent of iPhone users in the US and Canada have upgraded to iOS 6.

Low data consumption won't make up for directing users to a street address in Ohio, when they were looking for a London address. As Lendino noted, Google had similar growing pains years ago, and crowd-sourced directions app Waze is going through the same issues now.

"It takes years of refinements to get this right," he said. "So far, it appears Apple's vague mix of TomTom, Waze, and other sources isn't panning out so well yet."