Mapbox Vs Google Maps: Which One to Choose

With so many services provided online, location is very important. Location is necessary to provide these services satisfactorily and for the application to work fully. With the availability of different mapping tools, including a map has become very easy. The trick is to pick the tool that meets the needs and preferences.

A famous map app is Google Maps. It is so popular that it has won a virtual monopoly in the internet mapping world. No wonder then that many API developers have used Google Maps to functionalize their websites.

The problem with monopoly software is that more and more developers start to depend on it for their needs. This results in an increase in price and a stark reduction in the credit of free API calls.

With the development of these obstacles, developers are looking for good alternatives for Google Maps. An increasingly popular alternative is Mapbox. This article compares Mapbox vs. Google Maps on their respective characteristics.

Mapbox

It is clear why Mapbox has the potential to compete with Google Maps. It is well developed, with flexible mapping options and integration into iOS and Android SDK mobile app software. Mapbox gives access to a complete set of location information.

The included tileset function allows the user to create and customize dynamic and static maps. After customizing, the maps can be embedded into a website or application with the help of the JavaScript library.

Mapbox is supported by an international community of voluntary mappers. They ensure that the data is open and freely available. The active community releases new updates regularly and maintains location data up to date. Mapbox uses different sources for their data. These sources include Landsat, Natural Earth, OpenAddress, OpenStreetMap, and USGS.

OpenStreetMap formed the technological inspiration for Mapbox. During the development, customizability was kept to the fore. A map editor called TileMill is included in Mapbox. It has a straightforward user interface.

Mapbox uses different components. These include GDAL, a translator library for geospatial data formats; Leaflet, a JavaScripts library of interactive maps; Mapnik, an open-source toolkit for rendering maps; and Node.js language.

Some of Mapbox’ strong points are:

  • Can be used offline, thanks to Vector Maps.
  • Cross-browser compatibility.
  • Esthetically appealing maps.
  • Free for 50,000 web loads and up to 25,000 users.
  • A higher level of customizability than Google Maps.
  • SDK is open source. Code is shared on GitHub.
  • Well documented.

Some of Mapbox’ weak points are:

  • Additional cost for many features.
  • Complicated.
  • Disruption of background processes.
  • Impractical for small projects.
  • Non-customizable API.
  • Weak coverage in some places.

Examples of businesses that can benefit from Mapbox are:

  • On-demand delivery. The GPS navigation feature helps a courier to find the delivery address.
  • Gaming. With Mapbox realistic virtual worlds and 3D maps can be created.
  • Live events. Mapbox used real-time data. Organizers can track assets that are on their way, using interactive maps.

Google Maps

Google Maps employs a commonly used SDK. Many are therefore familiar with it and this has increased its popularity. It has become the most used SDK for embedding maps. It has an extensive database of locations and routes. It also includes other features, like geocoding, location information, pictures, and routing.

The use of Google Maps is without cost. Additional features, like displaying places together with their address and other details, do have a cost. The maps’ appearance can be changed using the following website: https://mapstyle.withgoogle.com/. The use of this website does not require any developing background.

Google has access to large data streams that add many features to the app. Access, use, and processing of this huge amount of data is expensive and therefore not an option for most other companies.

Google Maps, for example, has an ETA function that is calculated using many variables. It considers average speed, current traffic conditions, terrain, and weather conditions, and more. This makes the estimated time much more accurate than Mapbox’.

Some of Google Maps’ strong points are:

  • A large community and many developers providing support.
  • The best geographical coverage. It includes information from satellites, Street View vehicles, and user-generated corrections.
  • Many style options. Google Maps uses JSON-like syntax, which allows the user to change different map elements. These elements include color, opacity, and visibility.
  • Geocoding: a process to convert geographic coordinates into a practical address form. The process also works the other way round.
  • Street View. The user can enjoy interactive views of streets all over the world.
  • Visual customization.
  • Broad language support.

Some of Google Maps’ weak points include:

  • Complicated pricing scheme. To bind customers, Google offers monthly API credit of $200. When the credit is used up, Google starts charging.
  • Strict quota limitation on the free plan. The free option allows only ten queries per second.
  • App freezes briefly upon first rendering.
  • Energy inefficient. Improvements are needed to improve battery life.
  • Google Maps does not work offline. The Google Maps app is available offline, but API is not. This hampers integration into other products.
  • Static shapes and map markers.
  • Expensive routing.
  • Not open source.

Examples of businesses that can benefit from Google Maps are:

  • Businesses with physical locations. With Street View, customers can take a tour through a business’s physical location.
  • Travel planning application. Users can plan an upcoming trip with Google Places. 3D imagery gives information and an idea of the locations.
  • Navigation apps. The real-time data and the associated algorithm predict routes and ETAs based on current traffic flow.

If you like Google Maps, make sure to check out MapSVG. It offers integration with Google Maps. Users that have Google API keys can import locations, for example as lat/lon address, from a CSV file. With MapSVG it is possible to enable Google Maps, search for locations, and much more.

MapSVG maps are geo-calibrated, which makes it possible to add markers through an address or coordinates. Various special maps are included.

For example, it contains a combined map of the United States and Canada. It features maps of each US state, with their counties. Maps of Africa, Asia, and Europe can be found as well.

Mapbox and Google Maps Pricing

Many clients first look at the price, rather than the advanced features of a software choice. Since Google has recently increased the price of their Mapping API, other players are starting to take over the market.

The advantage of Mapbox vs Google Maps is that Mapbox offers 50,000 map loads at no additional cost. Comparing the two options shows that all Mapbox extra features are cheaper than Google’s. Google Maps charges $7.00 for 100,000 loads, whereas Mapbox charges only $5.00.

So, in terms of cost, it appears that Mapbox is the far better choice. But there are some things to consider in this regard. The volume discount mentioned above only becomes available after the client reaches one million loads. And the credit is not available for Mapbox users.

Even though Google Maps seems more expensive at first glance, it might turn out to be a more economic option. Google’s big plus is the credit they give away.

It takes some careful analysis for every individual organization to figure out what the best choice is. Mapbox’s costs may be lower, but Google delivers more data and includes credit in their subscriptions.

Something to keep in mind when deciding on Mapbox vs Google Maps pricing is the work of the developers. They put effort and money into making a functional API and customizing maps.

Associated Services

Google Maps API is a complete package. It includes a variety of services, like Business, Satellite Imagery, and Street View. All these features add to the usefulness of this map API. As yet, Mapbox still needs to develop and include add-ons.

Mapbox aims to provide an open-source platform that is customizable by default. The data from OpenStreetMap that is employed by Mapbox is open-source as well. The Mapbox API is also integrable with other open-source software and media.

Keeping that in mind, the customizability options are endless. TileMill, which is the built-in map editor, uses Mapnik technology for fonts and colors. Carto is used for mapping and spatial analysis.

Of course, also Google offers many APIs. These include Autocomplete, Places, and predictions.

Map Markers Features

Markers are very useful for highlighting locations. However, when many markers are close together on a map, it becomes challenging to read or to use the map. A solution for this is to group markers.

An analysis of the Mapbox vs Google Maps marker grouping feature shows that, in a technical sense, Google’s was more practical.

In the case of Mapbox, using this feature was far more tedious and time-consuming. This would be something else to consider when deciding between the two.

A feature that is very practical and available in both Mapbox and Google Maps, is the small information box that pops up when hovering over a pin. Both options also generate connected lists of all the markers and their locations.

Other Common Features

Google Maps and Mapbox share a couple of functionalities. The following list summarizes a few of them:

  • Easy interface customization. Both Mapbox and Google Maps contain visual styling editors.
  • Satellite imagery. Google Maps initiated this technology, but Mapbox is following in its footsteps. The Mapbox satellite images can be used to overlay data. It also incorporates vector data from Mapbox Streets.
  • Both JavaScript API have autosuggest built-in. Both mapping solutions allow for searches for locations and businesses using specified parameters.

Verdict on Mapbox vs Google Maps

At first glance, Mapbox appears the winner because of its lower-priced plans, but there are other factors to consider. For instance, Mapbox is harder to understand and its architecture is not as straightforward. These are factors that can make businesses refrain from buying it.

Google Maps is the biggest mapping solution available and it seems to maintain that position. Careful consideration shows that its plans are still very competitive, but it has other advantages over its competitors.

It excels in accuracy, availability, and extensive area coverage, and a vast amount of additional data. When zooming in Google Maps can provide much more detail than, for example, Mapbox.

Google Maps gives more than maps and location services. It is integrated into a large web of other applications, such as Google Places and Google Business.

The real-time accuracy gives businesses many added advantages. For many enterprises, Google Maps is therefore still the number one choice when it comes to API needs.

To conclude, websites that mainly rely on maps and attract many visitors, should consider choosing  Mapbox.

For less frequented websites, or websites with static maps, the increase in Google Maps prices is not a big concern. For them, it is unlikely that the free API calls are not likely exceeded.

If you liked this article about Mapbox vs Google Maps, you should also check out this article about free mapping software.

We also wrote about a few related subjects like indoor mapping, WordPress Google Maps plugins, Mapbox alternatives, online mapping tools, OpenLayers vs Leaflet, and Mapbox vs Leaflet.

A bit obvious by now, but we really like maps so we wrote even more about subjects like the blank map of Italy, Africa, Australia, and a few others, about websites with maps using interactive maps, and SVG animation examples.

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