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Whether you’re head­ing to a meet­ing or look­ing for a place to eat with friends in town, map­ping apps are an es­sen­tial part of ev­ery­day life. While Google Maps con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate, Ap­ple Maps is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, with new changes set to make the soft­ware even more ad­vanced.

In an in­ter­view with TechCrunch, Ap­ple’s SVP Eddy Cue re­vealed that the Cu­per­tino firm was work­ing on a brand new Ap­ple Maps app “from the ground up”, de­signed to ad­dress some of the most com­mon pain points that iPhone users faced when nav­i­gat­ing. With an early roll­out ex­pected in San Fran­cisco in the com­ing weeks and a US-wide re­lease within the next year, we take a look at the his­tory of Ap­ple Maps and re­veal what you can ex­pect from the over­hauled app.


Since the re­lease of the first-gen­er­a­tion iPhone in 2007, Google had served as the de­fault Maps provider on iOS. It was only in late2009 when ten­sions be­tween Google and the Cu­per­tino firm be­gan to grow after an An­droid ver­sion of Google Maps fea­tured turned-by­turn nav­i­ga­tion - a fea­ture that didn’t come pack­aged as stan­dard with iOS. On top of that, Ap­ple ar­gued that tech­nol­ogy gi­ant Google had been col­lect­ing too much data about users on iOS, and so in 2012 at the World­wide De­vel­op­ers Con­fer­ence, Ap­ple un­veiled its own Maps apps for iOS. The an­nounce­ment was cou­pled with news that Ap­ple Maps would in­clude turn-by-turn nav­i­ga­tion, 3D Maps, Fly­overs, and the com­pany’s vir­tual

as­sis­tant Siri, which would make nav­i­gat­ing eas­ier than ever be­fore.

While ini­tial news of an Ap­ple-pow­ered maps app went down well, when iOS 6 was re­leased to the pub­lic in Sep­tem­ber of 2012, the com­pany re­ceived nu­mer­ous com­plaints. Ap­ple was forced to apol­o­gize for re­mov­ing Google Maps as the de­fault iOS map­ping app, as, at the time, Google was yet to re­lease its own third-party re­place­ment app through the App Store. In an apol­ogy posted on Ap­ple’s web­site, Tim Cook said that the com­pany had “fell short” on its com­mit­ment to mak­ing “world-class prod­ucts that de­liver the best ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble to our cus­tomers”. In an un­prece­dented move, the firm shared de­tails on how to use Google Maps on the web by cre­at­ing a cus­tom icon on iOS home screens un­til the stock Ap­ple Maps app was im­proved for bet­ter user ex­pe­ri­ence.

When Maps was re­leased, crit­ics and con­sumers alike shared their frus­tra­tions with the soft­ware. The Verge said Maps was a “change borne not of de­mand, but of cor­po­rate pol­i­tics”, adding that “Ap­ple isn’t do­ing it­self any fa­vors” after dis­cov­er­ing it was im­pos­si­ble to find Ap­ple’s iconic Fifth Av­enue store in New York us­ing its maps. BBC News added that the new soft­ware was packed with “in­ac­cu­ra­cies and mis­placed towns and cities”, while Mash­able thought that im­ages looked “pretty bad” and that tran­sit direc­tions “didn’t work as we ex­pected”.

It was clear that the firm would have its work cut out in cre­at­ing a gen­uine Google Maps al­ter­na­tive, an off­shoot that alone is es­ti­mated to be worth an in­cred­i­ble $5 bil­lion to Google.


In the years fol­low­ing Maps’ re­lease, the com­pany has made strides to im­prove its map­ping ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ap­ple added more satel­lite im­agery to the app and al­lowed nav­i­ga­tion to be used in more cities, ac­quired apps such as HopS­top for $1 bil­lion, and the tech­nol­ogy be­hind Broad­Map to im­prove its map­ping data and ac­cu­racy.

And one year on from the orig­i­nal Ap­ple Maps re­lease, Ap­ple an­nounced at WWDC 2013 that

a new ver­sion of Ap­ple Maps would be re­leased with iOS 7. The ver­sion came pack­aged with a re­designed user-in­ter­face and a new app icon, and brought changes such as a full-screen mode, a night mode, nav­i­ga­tion for pedes­tri­ans, real-time traf­fic in­for­ma­tion in some cities, and much more. The com­pany also added more satel­lite im­agery and tech­nol­ogy to de­ter­mine whether a map user was walk­ing or driv­ing to ad­just the nav­i­ga­tional in­struc­tions. The re­lease also ported Ap­ple Maps over to macOS (known as OS X Mav­er­icks at the time). Two years later, Ap­ple again made sig­nif­i­cant changes to its Maps app, of­fer­ing de­tails on pub­lic trans­port in a num­ber of cities around the world. Nearby points of in­ter­est were also added, as well as traf­fic de­lay man­age­ment to sug­gest faster routes dur­ing rush hour. The com­pany also ac­quired Co­her­ent Nav­i­ga­tion, a GPS startup that of­fers pre­cise lo­ca­tion track­ing, and added Maps to its Ap­ple Watch, al­low­ing for nav­i­ga­tion on the wrist for the first time.


As Ap­ple con­tin­ues to in­vest in its Maps divi­sion, tak­ing on Google’s im­pres­sive fleet of ve­hi­cles doesn’t come cheap. Back in 2015, the com­pany un­veiled a new Ve­hi­cles tab on its Maps site, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that a Street View mode was hap­pen­ing.

The com­pany in­vested in fifth-gen­er­a­tion Dodge Car­a­vans, equipped with Li­DAR cam­eras to gen­er­ate high-qual­ity street view map­ping across the United States. After the first sight­ing in New York City in Au­gust 2014, the ve­hi­cles had been spot­ted in At­lanta, Chicago, Dal­las, Los An­ge­les, Phoenix, San Fran­cisco and oth­ers be­fore the street view was of­fi­cially con­firmed by Ap­ple.

Three years later, in April of this year, the com­pany con­firmed its ve­hi­cles had col­lected street view data from over 40 states within the United States, and in ten coun­tries around the world. Ap­ple also con­firmed that, when Street View would be made avail­able, it would blur faces and li­cense plates to pro­tect the con­fi­den­tial­ity of passersby.

How­ever, the com­pany has yet to of­fi­cially con­firm a re­lease date for its street view fea­ture a tool that ri­val Google has been of­fer­ing for more than ten years. With more than three years of plan­ning and street view data, Ap­ple’s al­ter­na­tive could, the­o­ret­i­cally, be just around the cor­ner.


While ru­mors of a Street View al­ter­na­tive are yet to ma­te­ri­al­ize, con­crete news of Ap­ple Maps changes was con­firmed last week when Ap­ple an­nounced it was plan­ning to re­build its Maps

app “from the ground up”. Speak­ing in an in­ter­view with TechCrunch, Ap­ple’s SVP Eddy Cue con­firmed that he wanted to take Ap­ple Maps to the next level, and that the com­pany had been “work­ing on try­ing to cre­ate what we hope is go­ing to be the best map app in the world, tak­ing it to the next step. That is build­ing all of our own map data from the ground up”.

“We don’t think there’s any­body do­ing this level of work that we’re do­ing,” Cue added dur­ing the in­ter­view. “We haven’t an­nounced this. We haven’t told any­body about this. It’s one of those things that we’ve been able to keep pretty much a se­cret. No­body re­ally knows about it. We’re ex­cited to get it out there. Over the next year, we’ll be rolling it out, sec­tion by sec­tion in the US.”

TechCrunch’s in-depth over­view of the new changes com­ing to Ap­ple Maps, re­vealed by jour­nal­ist Matthew Pan­zarino, brought con­fir­ma­tion that San Fran­cisco would be the first city to ex­pe­ri­ence an up­graded Maps, with roll­outs com­ing with the iOS 12 beta in July. Pan­zarino also con­firmed Ap­ple would ex­pand Maps to Cal­i­for­nia by fall, and across the US over the next year.

One of the big­gest changes ex­pected with the new Ap­ple Maps is a switch to its own base map, al­low­ing Ap­ple to move away from its re­liance on third-party map­ping providers such as TomTom. Hav­ing an in-house map will al­low Ap­ple to make im­prove­ments to traf­fic, walk­ways, road­works, and con­di­tions in re­al­time, along with more rel­e­vant search re­sults. At present, Ap­ple’s map­ping is pow­ered by sev­eral in-house and third-party so­lu­tions, mak­ing it

hard to im­ple­ment new fea­tures around the world con­sis­tently.

When Pan­zarino was quizzed fur­ther on the changes to Ap­ple Maps, he re­vealed that Maps would in­clude more ac­cu­rate data of fo­liage, such as grass, trees, pools, park­ing lots and much more - ares where pedes­tri­ans com­monly walk, where cars can’t reach. These changes will no doubt si­lence cri­tique from users who com­plained Ap­ple Maps was lag­ging be­hind Google’s in­ter­ac­tive Maps, which has in­cluded pedes­trian maps for sev­eral years.


While we only know so much about the changes com­ing to Ap­ple Maps, the an­nounce­ments so far have been met with a pos­i­tive re­sponse. Tech­nol­ogy crit­ics and Ap­ple fans alike can agree that Ap­ple Maps was fall­ing be­hind its com­peti­tors Google Maps and Waze. Should Ap­ple roll out these changes smoothly around the world in the com­ing years, and in­cor­po­rate some of Google and Waze’s pop­u­lar fea­tures such as off­line down­load­ing, so­cial re­port­ing, speed limit no­ti­fi­ca­tions, Ap­ple Mu­sic in­te­gra­tion and gas sta­tion pric­ing, it should be able to take a lead with­out break­ing a sweat.

com­Score sug­gests that Google Maps now holds 50% of the maps mar­ket, with Ap­ple Maps be­hind on 28%. But with Ap­ple Maps in­stalled on more than 700 mil­lion iPads and iPhones around the world, the com­pany could very quickly dom­i­nate smart­phone map­ping. Only time will tell whether Ap­ple has the tools, and the will­ing­ness, to take Ap­ple Maps in the right di­rec­tion.

Im­age: Adrian Hancu

Im­age: Justin Sul­li­van

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