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Apple launches improved Maps app

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The new Apple Maps in CarPlay on iOS 13.

Apple

Apple announced on Thursday that it had completed deployment of its new and improved maps software in the United States.

Users of the Maps app, which comes preinstalled on iPhones, now see more detailed roads, buildings, parks and other landmarks when looking at maps in the United States. Navigation is also more accurate, Apple said.

Other new features that the more detailed maps enable include a “look around” mode, which appears as a binoculars icon on the upper right-hand corner of the app. It enables users to explore and look around 360-degree streetscapes, similar to Google Maps’ Street View, in places including New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Apple said it also added real-time transit schedules, so that in certain cities, users can see exactly when a train or bus is arriving or its exact location.

Apple first announced that it planned to drastically improve its maps in 2018 using a process that involved fleets of Apple Maps vans equipped with cameras and sensors to collect images and distance, as well as anonymized data from iPhones.

“With Maps, no sign-in is required and it is not connected to an Apple ID in any way,” Apple said in a privacy notice.

Last summer, Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi presented a demo of the new software at Apple’s annual developers conference.

“Now, we have outfitted literally hundreds of planes and cars with custom sensors and lidar and driven over 4 million miles to rebuild our map from the ground up,” Federighi said at the conference.

Apple said it had invested “billions of dollars in Apple Maps” in a letter sent to Congress last November.

One reason for the large investment in its maps software is Apple would rather rely more on data that it collects and owns, as opposed to licensing from companies such as OpenStreetMap and TomTom. By building its own maps, Apple can push out faster updates, as well as improve location on the iPhone overall in programs such as Photos, iMessage and Siri.

The investment in its mapping software comes years after Apple CEO Tim Cook said he was “extremely sorry” for a buggy launch of Apple Maps in 2012. Before Apple Maps launched, iPhones used Google Maps data, and after Google was replaced as the default, Apple’s maps were seen as inferior. Google, Apple’s main rival that builds large-scale web maps, launched Google Maps as an iPhone app three months later.

Apple said it would start rolling out its improved maps to Europe later this year.



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