Apple To Google Maps: We Have Our Own App For That : All Tech Considered A report in the Wall Street Journal says Apple may soon replace Google's popular Maps app as the iPhone default with its own mapping application. The move has broad implications for the multibillion-dollar smartphone market.
NPR logo

Apple To Google Maps: We Have Our Own App For That

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Apple To Google Maps: We Have Our Own App For That

Apple To Google Maps: We Have Our Own App For That

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Apple and Google may be competitors, but for years now, they've had a marriage of convenience when it comes to mobile phones. Apple's iPhone ships with Google's maps program as a default. That could change later this year when Apple is reportedly planning to dump the Google software and provide its own mapping program to iPhone users. Now, this might not matter much to you, as long as you can get from Point A to Point B. But in the tech industry it's another battleground in the future of the mobile market.

Here to talk more about it is Jessica Vascellaro of The Wall Street Journal. Hi there, Jessica.

JESSICA VASCELLARO: Hi, thanks for having me.

CORNISH: So to start, you are reporting that this effort of Apple to release its own mapping program began with its development of its own geo-coder. So, in a nutshell, what is that?

VASCELLARO: In a nutshell, the geo-coder is what translates your longitude and latitudes of the string of numbers that stay where you are into the addresses you see on the map or the parks or the landmarks that you actually see when you pull up your phone and look at your location.

CORNISH: So, Jessica, just how much money is at stake here? I mean, what will it mean for Google to lose access to Apple's mobile tech users?

VASCELLARO: It's a great question. I mean, Google for sure, or will lose some advertising revenue. And, you know, right now there are Google ads that show up when you're using the maps app on the iPhone. And when Apple replaces it and presumably those ads won't be there, and so that's some revenue Google missed out on, as well as some data about locations that Google can use for ad targeting in general.

But there's sort of a bigger pile of money at stake when you look at the broader smartphone battle and what phones people are buying. Because people today, if they're buying iPhones or phones that run Google's Android software, they want the coolest, you know, hardware, but also the coolest apps. And if Google or Apple has a better map app, they're hoping that that might pull users towards buying their phones and being sort of on their software platform.

So it's really a broader battle about the billions and billions of dollars at stake in the smartphone industry.

CORNISH: So is that billions and billions in the future or billions and billions they can lose right now?

VASCELLARO: I mean, today, it's already multibillion dollar market globally, but the forecasts are just expected to skyrocket. Smartphone penetration is really low, so both Apple and Google want to have a smartphone running their software in the hands of every consumer. And Google has recently purchased Motorola, so now it's on the hardware side, too, in making money from direct sales of hardware, as well.

CORNISH: What do we know about Apple's mapping program so far? I mean, what kind of features will it have that's different from what we're experiencing with the Google program?

VASCELLARO: Well, what we know is that it's actually been a huge effort for Apple to just sort of match Google, in the sense of being able to offer all the coverage all around the world of, you know, imagery and including we expect sort of 3D imagery. And that's something that Google has to some degree and that we expect Apple's app will have as well.

Another feature Apple has been working on, which Google offers and is very popular, sort of turns your phone into an in-car GPS device. So it will talk to you so you don't have to look down at it as you're driving. And we know that Apple has been working on that too.

But I think where Apple is really going to try to differentiate is on sort of the vividness of the imagery and really 3D imageries that pops on your screen, which is something we're not totally used to yet on mobile. We're, you know, mostly using those line diagrams. And I think that's a big opening Apple sees.

CORNISH: Well, Jessica, thank you for explaining it to us.

VASCELLARO: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: Jessica Vascellaro of The Wall Street Journal, she spoke to us about the escalating competition between Google and Apple in the mobile maps market.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.