In the face of negative press about iOS 6\'s new Maps app, a bit of detective work by mobile app producer Onavo has unearthed a positive tidbit of news. The company says that iOS 6\'s Maps app uses considerably less data than its Google-powered predecessor—in fact, Onavo claims the much-maligned Apple Maps is \"up to five times more efficient\" than the previous incarnation.
The increase in efficiency appears to come primarily from Apple\'s reliance on vector graphics in \"Standard\" view, rather than a discrete set of tiled bitmaps like Google Maps. A bitmap is an actual image file with a native resolution and a fixed number of pixels; when zoomed in, it gets blurry or pixelated because new details cannot be created. A map with multiple zoom levels must have one set of bitmaps for each individual zoom level, which for a very large data set like Google Maps can mean lots and lots of data. Vector graphics, though, are based on mathematically defined curves and lines. They stay sharp at any zoom level, because a vector curve can be re-calculated and re-drawn as needed.
When you zoom in and out with Google Maps, even in standard view, new tiles are downloaded and displayed at each zoom level. Apple Maps on iOS 6, though, doesn\'t have to pull an entire new set of tiles down—it just re-draws the curves and lines as needed for the new zoom level, remaining sharp and crisp. Onavo\'s tests indicate that an average download for a Google Maps zoom was about 1.3MB, whereas the same operation with iOS 6\'s Apple Maps was only 271KB.
Onavo indicates that the data savings extends to satellite view as well, with iOS 6 showing about a 50 percent reduction in bandwidth over Google Maps, though the company doesn\'t speculate as to why. It\'s likely that iOS 6 uses a level of image compression tailored for display on iPhone \"retina\" screens; if so, this is another area where Apple\'s notoriously tight control of the end-to-end ecosystem can eke out benefits that more open systems like Android can\'t match.
For Wi-Fi users, the data savings are nice, but not terribly important, since a quick Wi-Fi network will deliver a megabyte in about an eyeblink\'s time. The reduction in data becomes very important, though, for cellular users. The smaller size is nice from a speed standpoint for folks in 3G (or, heaven forbid, EDGE) areas, but the real bonus is in shaving megabytes off of the per-month cellular data usage counter. If you\'re a heavy user of your phone\'s mapping application, an 80% reduction in the amount of data it uses could free up a whole lot of megabytes for other things.
Tags: ios 6, maps, google maps,