Apple just rolled out a completely new version of its Maps app, and among the changes is one that may not be obvious at first. My Inc.com colleague Bill Murphy Jr. has a good breakdown of all the new features, so I won't go through them all again. Instead, I want to highlight one thing you won't see in Apple's version of maps, and why it matters so much.

There are no ads.

Unlike Google Maps, which features ads in the form of sponsored pins and uses location and search information to show you targeted ads, Apple Maps has no ads. This means that Apple doesn't need to know who you are, what you're searching for, or where you're located.

Ads, on their own, aren't that big of a problem. It's the fact that personalized ads mean that your personal information is being collected and tracked. That may not seem like a big deal until you consider exactly how much information Google is actually collecting about you every time you interact with its apps. Google Maps, for example, keeps a detailed history of exactly where you've been (thankfully, you can now turn it off). Apple, on the other hand, doesn't even require you to log in with an account.

The difference between the two companies' map apps is actually far more revealing than you might at first think. Apple has made a point of focusing on privacy as one of its primary features. To that end, your searches on Apple Maps aren't connected to your Apple ID, Apple doesn't keep a history of your location, and personalized features like suggesting a time to leave for an appointment are handled on-device instead of requiring that information to be shared with Apple's servers.

This is a big deal because location data is one of the most personal and sensitive things your smartphone collects. And, obviously, map software requires your location in order to be useful. Both iOS 13 and Android 10 have made it easier to control how apps can use your location, especially when you're not using the app, but the reality is that Google Maps operates primarily as another way for Google to monetize your information. 

This focus on privacy, combined with the other new features in Apple Maps, finally makes it a worthwhile competitor to Google's version. For a long time that wasn't the case, and even the most loyal Apple fans found themselves lost without Google Maps. Now, however, Apple has rolled out new maps with far greater detail, along with handy features like "Look Around," real-time public transit updates, and the ability to share your ETA with other iPhone users. 

For Apple, it's all a part of the company's strategy to provide users with a better experience that respects their privacy. At last, you can find your way to that cool new café you heard about at work, without having to give up your privacy.

Published on: Feb 3, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.