Apple is improving Apple Maps. Again. Starting on October 15, Apple will begin conducting ground surveys in New Zealand to collect image data in what appears to be a complete overhaul of its existing mapping data.
The survey, conducted by a team of modified vehicles featuring LIDAR data collection equipment, is expected to take six months, finishing sometime in May 2021.
As well as improving on the existing Apple Maps app, by delivering more comprehensive road network coverage, better pedestrian data and more accurate addresses, New Zealand will also gain Apple’s new Look Around feature. This, as you can probably guess by its name, is a feature similar to Google Maps’ Street View mode, where users can use the app to “look around” from a specific point.
While this is perhaps not the most innovative feature from Apple; Google Street View has been around for 13 years already. It does represent an important moment for Apple, as its mapping app has long been considered as second best to Google Maps – by some margin. This closes that gap. A bit.
Apple first introduced its Maps app in 2012 with the launch of iOS 6, and it was plagued with mishaps from the get-go. Landmarks weren’t where Apple Maps said they were (Auckland, not Sydney, was home to Bondi Beach for a while) and its then-flagship new “Flyover” feature was often a pixelated mess.
Technical issues were compounded by Apple’s decision to remove (the then standard) Google Maps from iOS 6, forcing iPhone users to use its substandard mapping app against their will.
A workaround – allowing users to open Google Maps via the web browser – was widely used shortly after the launch, until Apple backtracked further by allowing users to make Google Maps the default mapping app once again. But for a week or two, the chaos created by Apple Maps was the biggest story in tech.
Apple’s persistence with Apple Maps is something we should all be enthusiastic about, though. Especially the more privacy-conscious amongst us. As you probably know, Apple is big on privacy, and giving users more control over if, and how, their data is processed is clearly important to Tim Cook and Co.
Maps, and specifically Google Maps, has been Apple’s virtual Achilles Heel on the privacy front. Lots of users have (rightly) chosen to continue to use Google Maps over Apple Maps for the simple reason that it is a better service.
This causes obvious problems from a privacy standpoint as Google is a company that literally makes its money from collecting and selling your data. Which, in turn, causes problems for the narrative that Apple is trying to create: that Apple devices will keep your private data, exactly that, private.
If the latest rollout of Apple Maps is a success and users don’t feel the need to turn to Google for navigation, then Apple can aggressively accelerate the narrative around the importance of data privacy.
And, importantly, why Apple devices are the best devices to protect your data.
Additional features in Maps include:
- Real-time transit information gives detailed transit schedules, live departure times, arrival times, the current location of a bus or train en route, and system connections to help plan a journey. Maps also includes important real-time information like outages. Real-time transit is available in many cities across the world including the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles and, starting today, in Miami, with many more cities to come.
- Share ETA sends an estimated time of arrival to family, friends or coworkers with a simple tap. The receiver can follow along on the journey, and Maps will even update them with a revised estimate for when the traveller is arriving if a significant delay occurs.
- Flight status uses on-device Siri intelligence to scan for information stored in Mail, Calendar or Wallet and proactively serves flight information for terminals, gate locations and departure times, as well as flight changes or cancellations for upcoming travel.
- Indoor Maps for airports and malls makes it possible for users to get the most out of their next trip or shopping excursion. By simply opening the Maps app, users can see what level they’re on, restroom locations and even which stores and restaurants are open.
- Siri Natural Language Guidance provides more natural-sounding directions that are even easier to follow, such as “At the next traffic light, turn left.” Siri Natural Language Guidance is available across the United States.
- Flyover offers a way to see select major metro areas with photo-realistic, immersive 3D views. Users can move their device through space to experience a city from above, or explore in high resolution as they zoom, pan, tilt and rotate around the city and its landmarks. Flyover is available in more than 350 cities.