After a rocky start, Apple has decided to give its Maps app a complete overhaul, and it appears they’ve learned quite a lot from the previous version’s failings.

Using first-party data that has been collected through iPhones and a fleet of cars equipped with cameras and sensors, Apple is breathing new life into the much-maligned map program. The new version is expected to debut in San Francisco this autumn when the next iOS beta is released. It will eventually be expanded and released to every iOS version.

One of the updated app’s biggest selling points will be how responsive it is to construction and roadway changes. Depending on the viewing context, the graphics will be far more detailed, especially when it comes to pedestrian pathways, foliage and ground cover.

The previous iteration of Apple Maps left a lot to be desired. Its launch in September 2012 was underwhelming, and many users favoured Google Maps. It was so bad, in fact, that Apple CEO Tim Cook apologised for it in an open letter on the Apple website.

In the past six years, Apple has invested a significant sum in improving Maps. They’ve added millions of locations and made countless other changes, and they’re no longer depending on third-party data, which was long believed to be one of the old version’s biggest drawbacks.

New Maps gains from being fully owned by Apple

The new version is entirely owned by Apple, which should make corrections and updates far easier to enact. In the past, these changes could take a long time to implement given the external partners and procedures involved. Now, they should be able to put such changes in place in a matter of days rather than months. Moreover, they stand to gain a competitive edge from the traffic and building data they can get from the hundreds of millions of iPhones that are in use.

Speaking to Tech Crunch, Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue identified two big opportunities that drove their efforts. “One is more accuracy. Two is being able to update the map faster based on the data and the things that we’re seeing, as opposed to driving again or getting the information where the customer’s proactively telling us. What if we could actually see it before all of those things?”

Privacy features prominently in new Maps

For Apple, the usefulness of mapping features extends far beyond the app itself. A solid mapping foundation is needed for features like app location services and photos, to name just a few. In light of the growing concern among consumers over privacy, Apple is anonymizing every mapping interaction with users. Moreover, the first and final sections of each journey will not be included in any data to avoid tracking people’s personal movements.

It remains to be seen, however, if their latest efforts will be enough to nab the crown from Google Maps.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews


Writer at Fourth Source.