Apple rebuilds mapping app, but will still tap TomTom

Donna Miller
June 30, 2018

Apple is apparently aware of this, thankfully, and, as reported by TechCrunch on Friday, the company has decided to make some major changes to address the complaints for its mapping service.

Earlier this week, when I wanted to find the nearest Joe Coffee shop to our NY office, I made the mistake of allowing Apple Maps to help me find it. and found myself getting directions to the Joensuu Airport, in Finland. However, it's also counting on big Apple Maps improvements to many dissuade you from doing that. While the United States will be updated over the next year, Apple apparently has not committed to launch dates for the map enhancements outside of its own home country, though it's fair to assume that Maps' global updates will overlap at least somewhat with the domestic ones.

For starters, TechCrunch reports that Apple made a decision to establish its own in-house mapping data; Maps had previously used data from TomTom and Open Street Maps.

In addition to the mapping vans, Apple will use anonymised data from iPhone users already using Maps. Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, says that Apple wants more accuracy in its mapping app. These changes sound great, but that's a long time to wait.

Apple Maps is finally getting the redesign it needs.

By the sound of it, the service is on track to become a much more formidable rival to Alphabet Inc.'s Google Maps than before.

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Apple got its data from sensor-equipped vans that's been driving all over the country for several years and iPhones.

Other data collection techniques will reportedly help improve live road and traffic information, as well as details on pedestrian routes. A higher-accuracy Global Positioning System receiver and a physical distance measuring sensor are also included.

This set of tools will enable address correction, and allow for the human editors at Apple to overlay images captured by devices with 3D maps, so they can figure out if their database maps to reality correctly. That array gets shipped off to a data center, where personally identifiable information - like license plates and faces - are obscured. I like the layout better than Google Maps - even if I can admit that Google's offering is still better at most things. Apple says that its approach has placed a premium on user privacy and that it's effectively anonymizing data by not gathering start and endpoint data for individual users - just segments of what's in the middle, so that a specific person's overall trip and destinations can't be viewed.

It's nothing more than direction and speed, and with no way to link it to an individual user's movements, but it's still potent stuff.

This will be evident in the look of the app itself - Apple Maps will now better reflect the actual geography in an area, for instance - but also in features like search and navigation.

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