The rumors were true. Among a boatload of announcements today Apple is introducing its own mapping product as part of the iOS 6 update, which is available to developers today and will be available to the rest of the iOS-using public “this Fall.”
Here’s the short version of what Apple announced:
- Maps with local search
- Crowd-sourced real-time traffic
- Navigation and turn-by-turn directions
- 3D mapping with “flyover” animation
- Siri integration (both on the search front-end and as the voice for turn-by-turn)
The basic maps UI looks similar to the old Google Maps UI but it’s not identical. However the 3D mapping looks almost identical to what Google demo’d last week.
Here’s what Apple just put out in a press release on Maps:
iOS 6 includes an all new Maps app with vector-based map elements that make graphics and text smooth, and panning, tilting and zooming incredibly fluid. New turn-by-turn navigation guides you to your destination with spoken directions, and the amazing Flyover feature has photo-realistic interactive 3D views. Real-time traffic information keeps you updated on how long it will take to get to your destination and offers alternate time-saving routes if traffic conditions change significantly. Additionally, local search includes information for over 100 million businesses with info cards that offer Yelp ratings, reviews, available deals and photos.
During the keynote and in the press release said that local business ratings and reviews were from Yelp. However there are also “deals” and “photos.” Those may be coming from unidentified third parties. They might also be from Yelp (if so, what a boon to Yelp). We also know, though this was not formally announced, that Localeze is providing local business data.
Apple Maps will extend as well to the iPad and iPod Touch. There’s no Google Street View equivalent however.
Apple also said something at the end of the keynote that was very interesting. It said that it was going to integrate third party maps (map apps?) into Apple Maps because it wouldn’t be able to build maps for every scenario. It will be interesting to see how that’s implemented and what it looks like.
Will we have something like an app store for maps within Apple Maps? Or will there be a more “organic” integration of third party maps into Apple’s product? We’ll have to see what it means.
Right now we’re speaking in abstractions based on demos. We’ll have to get Apple Maps into our hands and use it in real world circumstances before we can truly compare it to Google Maps. From afar, however, it appears to be a very competitive product.
We’ll update this story as we discover more. But make no mistake, with Maps and some expanded Siri capabilities (or restored as the case may be) Apple is now in the search business.
Postscript: There’s no indication that there will be any ads or other promotional opportunities directly coming from Apple in local search/Maps. However the third parties that Apple is working with may be the onramps into Apple’s local results. There may also be some interesting and new SEO angles for Siri and Apple Maps that we’ll start to see over the coming weeks and months.
TomTom appears to be a major international data provider for the new Apple Maps, as well as Acxiom, Localeze and Waze among others.