Rough mockup showing the user-enabled 3D mode (on the right)
According to trusted sources, Apple has an incredible headline feature in development for iOS 6: a completely in-house maps application. Apple will drop the Google Maps program running on iOS since 2007 in favor for a new Maps app with an Apple backend. The application design is said to be fairly similar to the current Google Maps program on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, but it is described as a much cleaner, faster, and more reliable experience.
Read on after the break for all of the details!
While Apple has always had full control of the actual iOS Maps application design, the backend has belonged to Google. That will change with iOS 6 thanks to their purchases of Placebase, C3 Technologies, and Poly9; acquisitions that Apple has used to create a complete mapping database. Now that the application is fully in-house, it is being referred to simply as “Maps” (some people call the current version Google Maps because of the backend). We reported prior to the launch of iOS 5 that Apple and Google had extended their Maps deal, and now it is obvious when that deal ends.
Signifying the application’s complete re-write is a new logo for iOS Maps: it is basically a redesigned version of the current iOS Maps icon with a view of Apple’s 1 Infinite Loop Campus, but redrawn with a new color scheme. Apple’s replacement for Google Street View will likely also be an in-house solution. C3 Technologies worked on street view capability as shown in the image above.
The most important aspect of the new Maps application is a powerful new 3D mode. The 3D mode does not come enabled by default, but users simply need to click a 3D button that is conveniently and visibly stored in the app. Perhaps under the fold like the current traffic, pin, and map view buttons. This 3D mode is said to essentially be technology straight from C3 Technologies: beautiful, realisitic graphics based on de-classified missile target algorithms. This is how the Apple acquired company C3 Technologies described their technology:
C3 Technologies is the leading provider of 3D mapping solutions, offering photo-realistic models of the world for search, navigation and geographic information systems. Since 2007 when it was spun out of the aerospace and defense company Saab AB, venture-backed C3 has redefined mapping by applying previously classified image processing technology to the development of 3D maps as a platform for new social and commercial applications. The Sweden-based company’s automated software and advanced algorithms enable C3 to rapidly assemble extremely precise 3D models, and seamlessly integrate them with traditional 2D maps, satellite images, street level photography and user generated images, that together are forever changing how people use maps and explore the world.
Video: What the Hoover Dam will look like on the iOS 6 3D Map mode
On the topic of C3 technologies, a few weeks ago we heard that most of the C3 Technologies top executives that came to Apple as a part of the acquisition have left for new opportunities. It is common sight in the Silicon Valley to see acquired team members leave companies once their “job is done.” The C3 Technologies team leaving just ahead of iOS integration would be similar to Siri co-founder Dag Kittlaus leaving following Siri’s launch on the iPhone 4S late last year.
iOS 6 will likely be introduced at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in mid-June. We’ve heard that many versions of what will become a final iOS 6 product have been floating around Apple’s Cupertino labs (the iOS team likes to work on many projects and then pull them all together at the end of a development cycle), but those expecting major home screen changes or Android-like widgets might be disappointed… briefly, anyway.