Is the Latest Apple Maps Update the Beginning of the End for Hiking Apps?

Are hiking apps about to go the way of the dodo? Photo: Antonio Gross//Unsplash

The Inertia

The hiking app AllTrails has risen to popularity since its launch in 2011, amassing 45-million users. But updates that Apple announced last week to its Maps app could render tools like AT obsolete in the not-too-distant future.

Just months after Apple named AllTrails the 2023 app of the year, the brand slyly added new features to Maps that will put it in direct competition with all hiking applications. Among a slew of updates in iOS 18, the free Apple Maps app will now include directions on trails within national parks, ability to create new trails, downloadable maps with topographic layers, and a filter to sort through hikes by distance, elevation gain, and rating. As of now the feature is limited to national parks in the U.S., with the topography map and trail network features also being rolled out in Japan. 

The features that Apple has to offer so far are not up to snuff with AllTrails, but I can imagine there have been some nervous staff meetings at AllTrails HQ to discuss the new tech behemoth that has stepped into the market. At the end of the day, the superior user experience will almost always win, and it’s all too convenient when two apps can be condensed into one, not to mention free of charge.

AllTrails offers a free version with the option to pay a yearly subscription fee of $35.99 to access more features, like downloadable maps. The bells and whistles include 400,000 trails to choose from around the globe, various downloadable layers for offline use, ability to share location on a trail and update emergency contacts accordingly, and a community section that is like social media where you can see what trails your friends have done and/or connect with other hikers in your area. AllTrails also just announced new app features of its own that include a new filter tool that groups hikes into “collections,” increased information on national parks, and new layout on the trail page.

AllTrails is not the only app that will need to adapt to Apple’s newest update. iOS 18 will also include the ability to record and transcribe calls straight from the phone app, which would essentially make the current market leader in the space, the subscription based app TapeACall, obsolete overnight. Apple is also launching a writing assistant that will compete with the popular writing and editing tool, Grammarly.

I’ve found AllTrails to be a nifty resource for hiking. I particularly use it for hike discovery – finding and brainstorming hike ideas. I’ve also found that it needs to be used with a grain of salt. Most of the information on there is correct, but user-sourced data can also be incorrect. Blindly following a recorded trail of someone who makes a wrong turn and has to adjust their route, for example, will cause you to repeat the same error. Thus, I’ve found it’s helpful, but should be corroborated with other sources of information as well (I do notice that it’s improving every year, however).

That said, AllTrails is going to have to pull a rabbit out of its hat to survive in the space. The app needs to innovate and come up with something unimaginably (at least for me) creative that will give it an edge. As it currently stands, as useful as AllTrails is, I see it as easily reproduced by Apple’s bottomless pockets and army of coders. If Apple wants to be the hiking app, which it appears they do, it might only be a matter of time before they brush aside the competition.


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