Maps: Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux… Apple’s curious population figures

If we were to rely on Maps to compare the demography of French cities, then Marseille would be far less populated than Strasbourg and Nantes, while Valence would yield only a few thousand inhabitants..

It is a curiosity of the figures reassembled by Plans when looking for a city. Among the general information given are area, altitude, distance and population as well. As one reader pointed out to us, it is not uncommon to see completely fanciful numbers for this criterion.

Thus, Plans announces a population of around 46,000 souls in Bordeaux, while INSEE, on the basis of the census published in 2019, indicates almost 261,000. Not quite the same scale…

For Toulouse, Apple sees 59,574 inhabitants, Insse has counted 493,465. And so on in other cities:

  • Strasbourg: 47,352 for Plans against 287,728 for INSEE
  • Valencia: 32,290 vs 64,749
  • Marseilles: 72,408 vs. 870,731

Sometimes it’s almost right, with Paris for example and its 2,175,601 inhabitants in Plans against 2,165,423 for INSEE. In Lyon it’s something else again, the city had 522,969 inhabitants in 2019, Plans shows 1,607,117. Which is not so far from the figure for the whole of the Lyon metropolitan area (1,685,494).

Seen from Plans, Nantes far exceeds Marseille in number of inhabitants

Another crossover quirk, that of surface area. They were a priori correct for all these cities, except for Strasbourg which covers 78.6 km2 in Maps instead of 338 in reality.

Finally, for the French population as a whole, the two indicators are close to 400,000 people, to the disadvantage of Plans.

The most curious thing about this presentation of figures is that they are available from one of the sources used by Apple. Maps displays an extract from Wikipedia for each of these cities and the encyclopedia refers precisely to the figures from INSEE for the population indicator.

And how is Google’s Maps competitor doing? Neither better nor bad, it does not display this information.


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