Earlier this month, when Apple announced at WWDC that iOS 12 would include an augmented reality tape measure called Measure, the iPhone watcher seemed impressed by the company's recent addition to its AR arsenal. Well, just a few weeks later, on June 19th, Google seems to have remembered that it also had its own Measure app.
The app was created on tango and is in purgatory since Google sent the platform to pasture. Called from the bank, the app now works with ARCore-compatible devices with a recent update.
So, now every tech giant with identical apps has been on the plate, which one is better? We decided to find out …
User Experience & Interface
Along with his new life on ARCore, Google's app has a refreshed and simplified interface. In the Tango version, the app looked very much like Apple's version, where users set a point to an origin point and proceed to an end point. Now users in the ARCore version either draw a length or height line to the camera view and stretch the line between the points to be measured.
The ease of use of Apple's new app (and Google's older version of the app) uses the better way to define measurement points. In Google's new ARCore-based Measure app, it was harder for me to stretch the virtual line between the points with gestures on the screen. In my view, Google has taken a step back with this feature.
Apple's ARKit 2.0 also gives its app an edge. Gone are the usual speckle indicators that show that the app scans surfaces. Instead, the users are prompted to move the phone, and then a brief animation of the spins appears on the screen.
The measurement point indicators also pulse when they have found a surface, and users can observe how the target shifts between horizontal and vertical surface detection. Google's app continues to display the spatial mapping indicators.
And then there's the bells and whistles. Both apps measure length and height, annotate the results on the screen and capture the readings in a picture.
However, with Apple's app, users can also copy test results to paste elsewhere, while users using the Google app need to do this. Capture an image and then scan it with Google Lens to copy the measurement. Apple's app can also detect rectangles and output the area that users can copy for later use.
Oh, and Apple's Measure app includes a leveler tool. Simply place the device on a surface and the screen will confirm if a surface is really flat and the displayed level data is displayed in degrees.
But ultimately, the measure (no pun intended) for these apps is accuracy and precision. Are they good enough to make tape measures and rulers superfluous? I'll test them with a bunch of household items to find out.
First I started with an object with a known measurement – the width of 14 x 10 inch mailer. Apple and Google both measured the width of the mailer at 10.5 inches. Failure, straight away! So, just for confirmation, I measured the mailer with a ruler and discovered that the width was actually 10.5 inches. Both apps were redeemed immediately.
Next, I looked at the width of my front door. Apple measured the door at 35.5 inches. Google was less accurate and returned a dimension of 3 feet or 36 inches with an error margin of +/- 1 inch. According to my tape measure, the width was actually a few hairs over 35 inches, which makes Apple's app a little more accurate than the Google app.
Finally I went into my hall with another door frame. Apple measured the door at 6 feet, 8 inches tall. Google measured it at 6 feet, 11 inches tall, with an error margin of +/- 2 inches. The measuring tape comes at 6 feet, 10.5 inches. A pretty shattering miss for Apple.
In general, the measurements you get with these apps are a mixed affair. How does the original Google work with a tango device? It measured the mailers at 10 inches and the front door width at 34 inches, so it ran worse, even with the added benefit of a depth sensor. However, the height of the inner door was measured at 6 feet and 11 inches, just like the ARCore version of the app.
To sum up, a relatively small sample makes it difficult to recommend both apps in terms of precision. Nonetheless, one of the two options will suffice when accuracy is a goal, but you're better off looking for a traditional ruler or tape measure when pure accuracy is critical.
If you want to try the app yourself, try Google's available in the Play Store for ARCore-enabled devices. You also need to install ARCore if you have not already done so.
And while Apple's Measure App was released on the App Store, it's only available for iOS 12 devices that are not officially open until fall. However, if you're up to date and decide to release the recently released public beta version of iOS 12, you can try it right now.