Nicholas Pell
May 15, 2012

iPhone maps: Google is out, Apple is in

A thing of the past: Steve Jobs demonstrates Google mapping software on the "new" iPhone back in 2008.Google-maps-loving iPhone users get ready: starting with iOS 6, you won’t be able to open your iPhone fresh out of the box and start up Google Maps. After months of carefully purchasing mapping companies, Apple is ready to unveil its own mapping application. While it won’t change the way you drive, the new mystery app promises to be the next “wow!” gadget.

Apple’s been snapping up mapping application companies for the last several years. It started in 2009 when One Infinity Loop got Placebace, followed by Poly9 in 2010 and the purchase of C3 Technologies toward the end of 2011. Still, Apple hadn’t yet rolled out its mapping application, leaving industry insiders and fanboys alike in rap speculation about what the House of Jobs was preparing for the post-Jobs era.

Of course, the consumer electronics market expects big things from Apple. Aware of high expectations, Apple will settle for nothing more than the next buzz application when iOS 6 hits the streets. The new Apple app will get you where you’re going and provide business information, but it will also do something that is quickly becoming a must have in the more forward-thinking and innovation-oriented areas of the consumer tech market: 3D mapping.

3D mapping doesn’t have a lot of applications at the consumer level. For medical and engineering professionals, 3D mapping is a godsend, allowing them to carry around something in their pocket that gives a truer map. But while the consumer electronics market certainly cares about functionality and specs, there’s one thing that trumps all: coolness. Look for a whole new round of converts pledging fealty to the House of Jobs when iOS 6 hits the streets with its new 3D mapping software. There won’t be many applications other than turning to the guy next to you and conspiratorially saying “check this out.”

In fairness, being able to see a 3D representation what's around you will be able to get you Google maps has already implemented some 3D mapping capabilities for more than one hundred cities worldwide.where you’re going with fewer headaches. Still, it doesn’t seem like a marked improvement in the world of consumer tech beyond offering users something “cool.” That’s fine. In fact, it might just be enough. Of course, you can already get a 3D mapping application for your iPhone. UpNext Maps is one of the more popular ones. However, having one baked right into the firmware, made by Apple, certainly provides a boost.

Apple and Google are two companies that couldn’t be more dissimilar. Apple prefers to do everything in house, building everything about their computers from the ground up. On the other hand, Google likes to let other people do the heavy lifting, buy them or let third-party developers take care of things. At least in the smartphone market, consumers seem to prefer the Apple model. The iPhone is currently the most popular phone in the world.

The new move by Apple comes after a particularly bizarre and strange relationship between Google and Apple with regards to mapping. Apple refused to allow the Google Latitude app on the iPhone, claiming that users would be confused by it. Further, Google didn’t just allow Apple to use its mapping data, but actually designed the app specifically for the iPhone. This is a bit like painting your friend’s house and having him paint over it a couple of weeks after you’re done.
While this will certainly further strained relations between Google and Apple, that’s not much of a game changer. Apple and Google are in fierce competition over what will be the VHS and what will be the Betamax of the smartphone market. The biggest change made to the consumer electronics market is that people will soon not be able to do without 3D mapping software. While Apple certainly hasn’t invented the concept, look for them to give it a slick, shiny makeover right before iOS 6 rolls out.

One of the advantages of the kind of integrated marketing and production that Apple offers is the ability to create buzz. 3D mapping software already exists for Android and iOS-based phones. The big difference is that we’re (presumably) about to see is massive marketing campaign that will have the general public thinking that Steve Jobs communicated the idea from beyond the grave.