Jim Probasco, Benzinga Staff Writer
According to sources who spoke with 9TO5Mac, Apple (AAPL) is finishing up work on a completely upgraded version of its iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch Maps app, set to come out with the next major iOS release.
Sources indicated that the new Maps product would be designed to compete head to head with mapping leader, Google (GOOG), in the mobile space. It was all part of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s desire to make good on a promise to customers that Apple Maps would eventually live up to the “incredibly high standard” customers expect from Apple products.
When it comes to setting those high standards, Apple’s track record with its in-house mapping program has not been impressive. The company stopped supporting Google’s mapping database in 2012 and released its, now infamous, in-house Maps app.
That software was a disaster. Although the app had some unique new features, such as 3D imagery and a better interface, the turn-by-turn navigation frequently pointed users in the wrong direction, which is never a good thing. In addition, a phantom airport appeared in one location and Aukland’s main train station showed up in the middle of a large body of water.
To be fair, the Maps app has improved. The iOS 7 version, however, mostly reflected improvements to the interface. The new version is supposed to be a nearly complete makeover.
On the way to this makeover, Apple acquired a number of mapping or mapping-related companies in 2013. In July, the company acquired Locationary and HopStop. Then in August it bought Embark and its 10 different iOS navigation-related apps.
Overall, about a third of Apple’s acquisitions in 2013 were for mapping-related companies. The net result, according to sources, is that the next version of Apple Maps will have new points of interest, new labels designed to make locations stand out and streets more visible. And that’s just the beginning.
One major upgrade is the addition of public transit, including access to train, subway, and bus data for several major U.S. cities with more – including other countries - to follow. In addition to embedded transit directions, Maps would also point users to App Store apps that provide additional transit-based information.
Also to be included – eventually – integration with indoor mapping views and an upgrade to automobile integration in the Maps application. According to sources, Apple wants to beef up the augmented reality function that utilizes the iPhone’s compass to visualize nearby points of interest. That would not come immediately, but would be developed over time.
Since the new Maps app will be tied to the next OS, the exact launch date isn't known although indications were that it could be premiered as early as June with release in September.
At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.