Apple mapping a future without Google in iOS 6?


Apple surprised some earlier this year when it debuted a new iPhoto app for iOS devices that featured maps from a source that was not Google. Now a new report indicates Apple may be on the verge of replacing Google Maps altogether in the next version of iOS.

9to5Mac cites “trusted sources” who say that iOS 6, the next version of the software to power the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, will ditch Google Maps as the source for the Maps app in favor of an Apple-built solution: a maps app whose technology is derived from several companies Apple has acquired over the past few years. It too will be called Maps:

The application design is said to be fairly similar to the current Google Maps program on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, but it is described as a much cleaner, faster, and more reliable experience.

According to the report, the app icon itself is also getting a slightly new look. It will still be a map view of Apple headquarters in Cupertino, but will have “a new color scheme.”

One of the features that Apple plans to highlight is its own version of Google’s Street View, a 3D-mapping mode. Here’s how it’s described:

The 3D mode does not come enabled by default, but users simply need to click a 3D button that is conveniently and visibly stored in the app. Perhaps under the fold like the current traffic, pin, and map view buttons. This 3D mode is said to essentially be technology straight from C3 Technologies: beautiful, realisitic graphics based on de-classified missile target algorithms.

Here’s why this report isn’t at all implausible:

  • Apple did quietly buy up a bunch of mapping technology companies several years ago: PlaceBase in July 2009, Poly 9 in 2010 and C3 late last year. It’s reasonable to think that this would follow a similar pattern to what Apple did with Siri: buy an outside company for its technology and a few years down the line incorporate it into iOS.
  • Apple always prefers not to be dependent on third-party technologies. It is at a place where it designs its own software and hardware, even down to the chips and battery and almost all of the key apps that come with iOS devices — with the exception of the Maps app and YouTube. In other words, moving from a third-party solution to an in-house one eventually would be very much in line with Apple’s philosophy and history.
  • In particular, Apple probably would like to have as little to do with Google as possible. This is the same company that Steve Jobs promised to go “thermonuclear” on and accusing it of “grand theft” in designing Android. It makes sense not to incorporate product from one of your chief rivals in mobile into your most important product.

The report also claims that iOS 6 will be introduced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference scheduled for the second week of June. Be sure to head to 9to5Mac for videos and photos of what the 3D mapping product could look like.

Update: AllThingsD says it’s independently confirmed this news and hears that the new Maps app will “blow your head off.”

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