Apple Maps for iPad and iPhone from iOS 6

Apple Maps

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 11-15, 2012, introduced one new feature in the Apple ecosystem that had both iPad and iPhone users particularly excited: Apple Maps!
Apple’s navigation apps have relied upon Google Maps since good old 2007. But now, with the release of the upcoming new iOS 6 and the more than 200 new features that comes with the OS upgrade, Apple Maps is one of those 200 new features introduced to Apple users who have wanted a more integrated map application on their Apple devices.

Scott Forstall, Senior VP of iOS at Apple Apple Maps Turn-by-Turn Navigation Demo
Scott Forstall, Senior VP of iOS, demonstrating Apple Maps Turn-by-Turn Navigation

Criticism and Complaints
As this BBC article from September 20 demonstrates, upon the release of the new iPhone, Apple has shockingly released a still immature mapping technology. Misplaced locations, terrible pictures, a shrinked Sears Tower, no world-covered satellite maps, are among some of the results so far. Fortunately there are plenty of Map and Navigation Apps available in the iTunes store, as you can see on the right here.

Features of Apple Maps
Apple Maps is vector based instead of bitmap based, which offers a somewhat smoother transition when you zoom in and out of maps or pan and tilt it, without having to wait for the maps to focus. Additionally, the map views can be very detailed in photo view.

Apple has been aiming for high-resolution to fit the Retina displays across their product line, and so you are expected to be served on Apple Maps as well. Apple wanted to offer the most detailed (as in high-resolution) international mapping service as of today. The interface offers the standard tilt, rotate, pan, zoom in and out functions, as well as flyover functionality. But Apple Maps goes further by offering turn-by-turn directions, traffic details, local search, and integration with Siri.

Turn By Turn Navigation
Her you can type in an address and choose which route to take.
Turn-by-turn directions can be spoken aloud by Siri. And you can follow your movement with 3D views, or through 2D overhead views as well. If there is a change in traffic conditions, Apple Maps offers alternative routes from real-time traffic information. Apple have made large signs and arrows superimposed over the image, to show you which way to go and how long it’s going to take to get there. As you approach a turn, the camera angle changes dynamically to show you where to go. If you miss a turn, Maps automatically reroutes and updates your ETA, a function that is promised to work much better than that of current GPS navigation companies.

Apple Maps App on iPad and iPhone
Apple Maps App on iPad and iPhone

Maps uses real-time traffic conditions to calculate your ETA with details about traffic jams caused by accidents, so you can tell if there’s a major accident ahead or just a temporary slowdown. This is where suggested alternative routes comes in handy. The day after introducing Maps, Apple revealed that it had signed an agreement with TomTom for the supply of such data as business listings and live traffic information.

Local Search in Apple Maps
Local Search in Apple Maps

If you are in your car and have both hands on the wheel, Siri can help users find their way by telling Siri where you want to go, and Maps should immediately guide you along the fastest route. During the route you can also integrate Search by asking Siri to look up the closest petrol station, ATM, or Apple Store, among other businesses, since Apple have integrated a little over 100 million businesses worldwide in their local search. This feature too is only available from iPhone 4S and The New iPad upwards.

Local Search
You can either use it by looking at business listing around you, based on where you are. Or search for particular business you need, and have Local Search find those businesses close to you. You can then get the address, tap to dial phone numbers, view photos of that place, lookup their website, see Yelp ratings and reviews. By tapping the Quick Route button, Maps will gives you turn-by-turn directions to that search result.

Maps is also giving users quite photo-realistic and interactive 3D views of major city areas. This is where zoom, pan, tilt, and rotate functions will be useful around the city landscape. The Flyover feature is available from iPhone 4S and iPad 2, and upwards.

Apple Maps Flyover on The New iPad
Apple Maps Flyover on The New iPad

The Apple Maps App came as no surprise, as Apple has made the acquisition of several cartography companies over the last couple of years. Starting in 2009, Apple first bought up Placebase, a mapping software company. In 2010 Apple bought Poly9, a technology studio founded in Quebec City in 2005 that were specializing in 2D & 3D web mapping applications. This Canadian company had already developed Poly9 FreeEarth, the first geographic 3D globe that worked in all browsers.

And then finally, in 2011 Apple acquired the 3D mapping company C3 Technologies from Sweden. C3 Technologies AB was a venture-backed spinoff from SAAB AB (the military aviation division of SAAB). The image processing technology their services were based upon has for the last 20 years been deployed in missiles and fighter aircrafts. C3 Technologies was founded in 2007, when they also completed their first pilot project by capturing Stockholm from the air and created a digital 3D model of the city in less than 3 days. This was considered sensationally fast, as it normally took 6–12 months with traditional technology for a similar production. Eventually, Apple relocated them all to Apple’s Maps lab and had them work together on Apple Maps.

A quick demo of C3 Technologies 3D maps in use.

Ludvig Emgård of C3 Technologies explaining what their mapping technology actually is.

How Apple Maps are made using SAAB Rapid 3D Mapping created by C3 Technologies.

Apple Maps in map mode
Apple Maps in map mode
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