Many thought that Apple had lost its way when it released the Apple Maps back in 2012 – just like many of their users did when they had to use the terrible software. Rumours are abound though that iOS 8 – the next incarnation of Apple’s mobile operating system – could see a major revamp, with a lot of the problems hopefully sorted out.
Just yesterday, Apple launched iOS 7.1, which apart from a few minor visual tweaks added support for “Carplay” – Cupertino’s attempt to make your phone your in-car computer too. As you might expect, this has a big mapping component so suggestions that Apple are refocusing on getting navigation right.
According to 9to5Mac, most of the changes will be under the hood – with improvements sought to the Apple Maps database. This means things like improving the labels on key places (train stations, big buildings, etc) and adding more points of interest, so searches won’t turn up blank.
To get this done, Apple have spent the last year shopping around and buying up a number of different mapping companies. Broadmap, for example, apparently focuses on transport and indoor mapping. Similarly, they’ve snapped up Embark, who have made popular public transport apps for the iPhone in the past and Hopstop who have done similar.
So I think it is fair to say we can expect improvements to Apple Maps’ public transport directions.
Intriguingly, 9to5Mac also reckon Apple are working on an augmented reality component to Maps – so users will be able to hold up their phone and have directions superimposed over the live camera image of where to go. This all stems from the above patent. We’ll believe it when we see it.
The elephant in the room of course, is mapping kings Google – who are known to employ hundreds of people just to work on maps – and who repeatedly scour satellite photos and make sure the maps match the reality. Whether Apple have the manpower to compete with this is unknown, but let’s face it – if anyone can stare down Google, it’s Apple.