Apple has been busy scooping up mapping companies over the past three years. So it was only a matter of time before Cupertino decided it would replace Google Maps with its own product. That’s apparently what’s going to happen when Apple releases iOS 6 later this year, according to the 9to5Mac blog.
“Trusted sources” cited
Citing “trusted sources” the blog says that Apple will completely control the back end and that the new mapping experience will be “much cleaner, faster, and [a] more reliable experience” than what currently exists. Google has been steadily improving Maps for Android but Google Maps on the iPhone has languished and is very anemic by comparison.
Perhaps Google knew that one day its Maps would be booted off the iPhone (see Steve Jobs’ “thermonuclear war” comment). Accordingly it may have decided not to invest further in iOS maps. Yet the company also regards its advanced mapping capabilities on Android, including Google Navigation and indoor maps, as differentiators vs the iPhone.
That competitive advantage also operates as a disincentive to make Google Maps for iOS too much like the Android product. (See the postscript and companion story below for a different perspective on this issue.)
“Powerful 3D” mapping
The new Apple maps is supposed to offer “a powerful new 3D mode” arising from its acquisition of Sweden-based C3 Technologies last October. In addition to C3 Apple acquired Placebase in 2009 and Quebec-based Poly9, a Google Earth-like product in 2010.
As I’m sure others will be doing later today, we will attempt to independently confirm this rumor. Neither Google nor Apple are likely to offer any official comment however. Yet the very public and methodical acquisition and development of mapping capabilities by Apple, as well as some high profile job postings, all but guarantee that the rumor is substantially if not completely accurate.
Last June Apple renewed its iOS mapping deal with Google; however the term of the renewal was not disclosed. I would be surprised if it was a multi-year agreement. If so Apple would probably have to buy out the term of the contract. And if it were only a one-year term, that would probably have signaled to Google that its days as the maps provider on iOS were numbered.
Shift away from Google Maps had started
In March, Apple had started using OpenStreetMap data with Apple’s own map tiles in a couple of limited circumstances. But OpenStreetMap would also probably be replaced by a more fully developed Apple mapping capability.
If or when this all happens it will be a potentially major change for Apple users. Google has invested millions and millions of dollars in Google Maps and associated capabilities. It’s not clear that Apple’s product will be able to make the transition without any awkwardness or hiccups. We’ll see I suppose.
Google Maps is one of the two most popular apps on iOS and it’s the most popular local search app according to comScore survey data (see chart above).
Postscript: See the companion story “Will Apple’s Move Bring A Real & Perhaps Better Google Maps To iOS?”
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- Apple Moving To Close Gap With Android On Speech, Navigation