Apple is completely rebuilding the widely used mapping application on its iPhones from the ground up with its own dataset, following a string of issues with the tool that has tarnished its quality over competitors.
The overhaul of the US company’s Maps app, which is the most frequently used app on its iOS phones, will use data gathered by its own fleet of sensor-equipped vans and with anonymous data from iPhone users that choose to share it.
With Apple’s announcement of the new product it stated the maps will be more responsive to changes in roads and construction and feature more detailed ground cover, foliage and pedestrian paths.
Every version of iOS will get the updated maps at some point, but it will first be available on the next iOS 12 beta and cover San Francisco, according to TechCrunch, with it eventually covering the rest of Northern California by fall.
The rest of the US will be upgraded region-by-region “over the next year”. No timeline for international roll-out has been shared. However, one of Apple’s vans was apparently spotted by a man leaving a pub in Yeovil, England on Thursday.
It will also deploy satellite imagery to improve accuracy further on the app.
Apple’s senior vice president Eddy Cue, who oversees Maps, said the new version of the system could have competitive advantages from it being able to build and update traffic data from the more than billion devices that are running iOS, rather than relying on partner data.
“We felt like because the shift to devices had happened, we could improve things significantly, and improve them in different ways,” he told TechCruch.
“One is more accuracy. Two is being able to update the map faster based on the data and the things that we’re seeing, as opposed to driving again or getting the information where the customer’s proactively telling us. What if we could actually see it before all of those things?”
The end-goal, as stated by Apple, is to remove the company’s reliance on data from third-party services, such Amsterdam-based mapping business TomTom.
TomTom will continue to be a data provider for Apple’s maps app in some form, but the announcement on Friday caused TomTom’s shares to fall by as much as 5 per cent from session highs that day.
Apple Maps was very poorly received when it was released in September 2012. Missing data and unreliable directions led to chief executive Tim Cook writing a letter of apology to customers.
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