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Not only has Apple Maps added some pretty cool new features in iOS 13, but it looks like it’s gaining ground as an underlying mapping service for other apps — a position much more commonly held by its behemoth rival, Google Maps.
Popular iOS-focused apps very often use Apple Maps for their internal mapping features, since Apple’s developer tools make it ridiculously easy for an app that runs solely on an iPhone or iPad to integrate into Apple Maps, while connecting to Google’s mapping service instead requires that they jump through additional hoops. It’s still much more common, however, to see larger social media and other online services rely on Google to provide their mapping and location data, since they’re trying to build a consistent user experience across multiple platforms, ranging from the iPhone and iPad to Android and the web.
However, Instagram may be leading the road to change, with an eagle-eyed forum member on MacRumors discovering that when he looked up a restaurant’s page on Instagram, the map shown was very conspicuously coming from Apple Maps — with the Maps logo and all.
We confirmed this ourselves by checking several additional locations, all of which are clearly now using Apple Maps rather than Google Maps, as least on the iPhone and iPad — Instagram doesn’t show maps on the web at all, and it seems likely it’s still using Google Maps in its Android app.
There’s no official word on why Instagram made the switch, but its reasons may simply be pragmatic. Last year, Google massively hiked the fees it charges for access to its mapping platform, with some developers noting it drove up their expenses by almost a hundredfold.
By comparison, Apple Maps is cheaper, and in fact for an app running on iOS may even be completely free, particularly in this situation where Instagram is mostly using static snapshots rather than live updated maps.
Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo made a similar switch to Apple Maps earlier this year, announcing that they would be using Apple’s MapKit JS framework to display Apple Maps in web search results. While in this case DuckDuckGo is almost certainly paying Apple for the privilege — Apple only offers 250,000 map views per month for free — it’s still dramatically cheaper than what Google would be charging, not to mention that DuckDuckGo’s philosophy on user privacy is inherently incompatible with using Google for just about anything. Apple, on the other hand, shares many of DuckDuckGo’s goals.
There’s also the fact that Apple Maps has beat Google to offering a Dark Mode in its mapping engine and application, making it a better fit for apps and services that are embracing the new darker look of iOS 13, which Instagram has also done.
So while Instagram’s move shouldn’t necessarily be taken as an endorsement of Apple Maps as the better mapping service, it’s definitely the cheaper option, and as Apple continues to expand the availability of its mapping APIs to third-party developers and dramatically improve the quality of its maps, it stands poised to actually become the default mapping service used by many more apps and services going forward.