The definitive Map API buying guide
Several questions arise: "Do you need only a map solely for data visualization? Or do you require more complex (and expensive) APIs such as Geocoding, Reverse Geocoding, or Routing? Will out-of-the-box solutions fit you?"
The use case plays the most important role in deciding on a Map API vendor.
Specific and niche requirements mandate the choice.
A slightly neglected feature to pay attention to is the burst rate - queries per second (QPS), especially for asset tracking and navigation purposes.
Unfortunately, many Map APIs don't explicitly state the limits, and the increased quota is charged extra. For example, Geocoding and Routing burst rates vary from 5 QPS (TomTom, Mapbox) to 50 QPS (Google).
Because asset tracking requires a collection of map APIs (map display, map visualization, reverse geocoding, distance matrix, directions), the pricing is outstandingly higher. The pricing is usually per vehicle or per API.
It's important to mention that vendors typically do not include map matching or are limited to a small number of sequential positions. Also, despite throttling API requests, this specific use case typically requires higher burst rates.
The development of navigation apps is either strictly prohibited or incredibly expensive by the majority of vendors. Automotive is a particularly niche use case and is always tailor-made.
Only a few provide an option of running map APIs on physical servers, virtual machines, or private clouds.
Mapbox provides Atlas for such purposes, however, with APIs limited to Tile and Geocoding only and a yearly map update (industry standard is quarterly).
The majority of API vendors, especially within proprietary SDKs, inherently track, collect, and process end-user movement (locations).
If your goal is to offer absolute privacy to end-customers, make sure that your vendor supports such an option. Note that privacy is most easily accomplished with on-premises hosting.
The support level isn't just limited to Service Level Agreements and response times in handling priority-level issues. A dedicated support engineer in charge of handling issues and feature requests is crucial if your needs are remotely specific. Support plans are usually charged as a minimum spend fee or as a percentage of a monthly fee.
While the majority of vendors have developed JS SDKs, but native SDKs are a little less common. Fortunately, there are quality open-source SDKs available, but make sure to check the Terms and Conditions because usage of 3rd-party APIs is usually forbidden.
Government organizations usually have either proprietary or confidential map data, which they want to utilize for urban planning, maintenance, etc.
Due to the complexity of building and processing map data and, not many Map API vendors offer this possibility.
Quarterly map updates are industry standard. Global map data providers don't supply more than 4 updates yearly. However, local map data providers are more flexible and able to produce urgent updates. OpenStreetMap data can be updated on a daily basis.
Map matching is a crucial part of any eminent fleet tracking business. In conventional fleet tracking solutions, maps are used only as an overlay to display the vehicle positions. However, to accurately provide relevant insights, e.g., to determine the mileage is driven or fuel consumption, GPS positions map matching is essential.
Mid-sized Map API vendors can typically react faster to changes and features in customers' requests. Large companies provide out-of-the-box solutions and aren't necessarily willing to introduce new features or make adjustments if the interest is small.
Some examples of custom use cases are automotive, truck routing, exceptional transport logistics, environmental zones routing, computer-aided dispatching, etc.
Read more about how to choose the best Map API platform:
Check how Compact Maps ticks the boxes of your Map API buying checklist!