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Job Listing Shows Apple Wants to iPhone Maps App "to the Next Level"

A new job listing shows Apple is looking for an iPhone Software Engineer to work on the Map and MapKit framework team, which is also responsible for the Compass app and other location-based services on the iPhone and iPod touch:

The iPhone has revolutionized the mobile industry and has changed people's lives and we want to continue to do so. We want to take Maps to the next level, rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things. We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way. We've only just started.

While Google's massive data hose currently powers the iPhone and iPod touch Maps.app, it was Apple who wrote the interface, and in classic Apple fashion, to end users the interface is the app. This means Apple is also free to modify not only that interface, but add, remove, and swap around data hoses in the background.

Add this job listing to previous news that Apple quietly acquired Placebase, a would-be Google Maps competitor, back in July, and it certainly looks like Apple is planning something interesting (and less dependent on Google?) for future Maps.app updates.

iPhone 4.0 speculation anyone?

[Apple (opens in new tab) via MacRumors]

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

32 Comments
  • All we can do now is wait and see...
  • I like your TAKE on this Rene.
  • Calling iPhone Maps the best map application on any mobile platform tells me that Apple has never even seen Maps on Android 2.
    I have both and iPhone Maps falls on it's face compared to Android 2 Maps. Apple would do well to cozy up to Google IMHO. Navagation is the real game changer andgiven how long it has taken Google to get to this point I would doubt that Apple could get Placebase up to speed quickly enough to make it truly competitive.
  • @Randy A
    It is the best map, only it does not do real time navgation... yet.
    Personally I like TomTom's navigation better than Android's, Android can do voice command though I'll give them that.
  • Wait...! Where is iPhone OS 3.2?
  • The current setup is just fine for me, thanks. Apple has a good grasp of user interfaces, but Google's datasets (and, more importantly, its features dependent on creative mixing of this extended information) are second to none -- and far better than anything Placebase has offered. Swapping to an inferior data hose because you do not like the provider smacks of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
  • Not using googlemaps and all the info that is associated therewith, especially now that android 2 has given their maps a massive jump in ability, is just plain stupid. It almost feels like jobs is going to change maps sources almost out of spite.
    I hope they don't and if they do and it's better or equal to the droid 2 maps then I will take it all back but I can't see it.
  • I haven't seen Android Maps. Google Maps is the best app on the iPhone (if you exclude Mobile Safari). I'm curious to see what Apple will come up with. I don't think they can pull off anything like Street View, so Apple will have to do without that data.
    I suppose Apple doesn't want to pay Google for a service and not have any control over the layout (i.e., the presence of ads and sponsored content).
  • I think there is a lot of misunderstanding on what Placebase/Pushpin is/does.
    If you look at all their examples, usages, it's quite clear that they are not a map company, they are an overlay company, i.e. provide information base on a map.
    They use Navteq (see the © on their maps) as map provider.
    So there is no way they can supplant Google as the underline map provider. What they can do is exactly what the job ad seems to ask. They can take it to the next level and add useful info, new uses to the Google maps.
  • hey any1 remember that google said it would make navigation software for free on the iphone? Well this is it! Just like android! Hopefully the touch can get in on this. Maybe utilize compass???
  • Looks like the new google maps features of turn by turn will built up. Can't wait to see it. It's a much better deal than Tom Tom or navigon for the iPhone. I would be willing to pay 39.99 for a navigation app but seriously 99.99 range it too high I might as well get a stand alone unit in my car.
  • @websyndicate
    it's 69.99 currently on sale
  • I read this and I thought of one thing.
    Turn by turn, compass-aware navigation powered by VoiceOver and Voice Control, with offline caching.
    a.k.a. EPICNESS.
  • Maybe we can get information about buildings and so on by pointing the camera (or no camera with compass) at a building. This kind of info has been talked about before but I'd still love to see it.
  • Also, have it run in the background. That way, if you're in the passenger seat, you can just do whatever you want, and VoiceOver will tell you when it's time to turn.
  • @Dev:
    Swapping to an inferior data hose because you do not like the provider smacks of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
    Exactly so. Apple can't afford to swap out Google data for their own 3rd rate mapping service.
    Further the fact that they are advertising for mapping people shows just how LITTLE THEY GOT for their purchase of Placebase and it gives the LIE to the persistent claims that Apple wrote the Map app.
    The map app is pure Google, with Apple doing NOTHING but displaying Jpeg segments passed to them by google over http. There is absolutely nothing there that could not have been done by safari. (I rather suspect it IS just safari).
    Apple insisting that they wrote the Map App is like Apple insisting they wrote the Notes app. (And a lot like Steve Jobs having a hormonal imbalance that resulted in a liver transplant).
  • Can't wait to get this - luckily I enjoy all the latest gadgets through http://www.freeiphoneinitiative.co.uk!
  • @GCesare
    The actual maps themselves are not that interesting or lucrative -- just commodity data purchased from the same handful of providers. The overlaying of additional data is where the data mining and revenue opportunities exist, which likely drove the Placebase purchase. Yes, Google allows overlays as well, but, with Google powering their back end, Apple has limited ability to place their own private datasets, and almost assuredly has to share any of the information and/or revenues that would result.
    I could easily understand why Apple wants to control that end of the stack, but Placebase's strength has always been client customization (think: corporations putting in their own overlays for trucking fleets), not deep, broad, general purpose data like Google has, and which is of the most use for maps and geolocal searches. Unless Apple has been purchasing and/or ramping up general purpose data at Google levels (certainly a possibility, but if so, they've hidden it well), cutting off the Google data hose would be a step back for users.
  • Yeh. I thought Apple would just take what google recently updated Android with and implement it into the Maps app but I guess they want to become more dependent like you said.
    I honestly would much rather Apple to make their own interface and own turn by turn features. etc.
  • I'm thinking aobut buying an iPhone or should I buy Nika's N97 mini instead?
  • @Dev
    way too much assumptions/speculations with too little known facts, don't u think?
    All we know for sure is that Apple is looking to improve the maps app greatly, beyond that we have little info about the how and the what.
  • Just today I used Maps on my iPhone to find the distance from my current location to the next street in which I needed to turn, so I could set the tripometer on my motorcycle. It said the distance was 3.0 miles and travel time was 3.0 minutes...? That's a mile a minute aka 60 miles an hour.
    I was on a business / residential road and the speed limit was between 25 and 35 mph.
    You would think Maps would know what street I was on...right ?
  • @Melwan
    Well, no...we know more than that. We know that Apple bought a company whose core competency overlaps substantially with that of Google Maps, and separately, that Apple's relations with Google appear to have soured. We know that Placebase's public-facing products have disappeared, and that their business and engineering teams have been absorbed as part of a "Geo Team" inside Apple. We know that, despite the above time and monetary expenses, Apple has yet to release any public-facing technologies based on this aquisition. We know that Apple has UI experience, and in Placebase they have bought solid mapping technology, but that they are missing large-scale data harvesting to go head-to-head with (or replacing) Google. We know that Apple has been investing heavily in a large data center, purposes unknown. That might fit in with a strategy of replacing Google for maps, or might not. So no, we do not know exactly a "what" and "how," but we do have an awful lot more than that single job posting upon which to base speculation.
    Besides, that is 90% of the purpose of blogs like these (and about 99.4% of the comments) -- idle opinions and speculation. If all we wanted was to read an exploration of the facts after they ocurred, we'd all be reading The Economist. (An excellent mag, btw, but for different purposes that tIPB.)
  • @icebike
    The map data is google, the interface is Apple
    If I had to guess, Placebase would be used to customize the existing google maps... I dont think Apple is trying to get away from Google but more they want more customized data so they can offer maps solutions which Google and android do not offer. Why follow suit, Apple likes to innovate and with placebase they may be able to...
  • This would be nice thought and dreams...but lets face it. Apple relies a lot on Google services (Search, YouTube, Maps) for the big features outside of App Store.
    Lets say they went crazy and did rid themselves of Maps. Google will forever be on Apple because if they let go of YouTube...that just will be unforgivable...
    And to the comment of the VoiceControl being utilized in Maps...they would need to get that MUCH better than it is now. So far Google Voice Command is unmatched on a phone. It is superior to every voice command around right no
  • I see the Google fanboys are out in full-force tonight...
    Apple sees what makers of music players are doing, and out-does all of them. Apple sees what smartphone makers are doing and out-does all of them. Ohh, but they couldn't possibly compete with the almighty Google and their maps...
    Please. :roll:
  • exactly fastlane
    I agree Google has better data, but UI design and extra features Apple will beat them
  • Ah yes -- the typical lazy accusation of fanboy always surfaces when people cannot address the topic at hand. News flash -- Apple may be a fantastically well-run company, but they ain't perfect, even when they "out-do" everybody. Or did the technically superior eWorld kill AOL, the technically superior Newton kill all PDAs from the Zaurus to the PalmPilot, and the (ok, not superior) Pippin crush Sega and Nintendo?
    Of course not. Apple is an innovator and media darling not just because they succeed big; they dare big, and yes, they sometimes fail big.
    Does that mean that Apple will fail if they (as speculated) "dare" to replace Google with a home-grown solution? Of course not -- they might succeed wildly, and that would be fine with me. An extra player in any market only sharpens competition, improving it for all consumers.
    However, large scale data centers (on the order of supplying maps and updated realtime geocoded data for every market on the planet) are far more out of Apple's core competency than music players were in 1999 or phones in 2007. Since they already profit working with an entrenched player, going up against that player on their turf seems a bigger technical risk, and for a smaller monetary payoff. It is not a "fanboy" position to suggest as much, and try to start some discussion about it.
    It is also not necessarily a "fanboy" position to say that Apple will take on Google and win -- but you might find it more fun to continue the discussion with facts or speculation of your own rather than just trying to shut down all talk with an OMG Apple ROCKS U R FANBOI.
  • @icebike
    I would agree that the Maps app is Google driven with an Apple face on top, but I think that could be why Apple would want to roll their own. Apple already gets as much money per device as they are going to get from the UI side of things; perhaps now they want more/sole control over the data mining and advertising dollars that can flow from running the back end. Yes, the risk is that if they do a 3rd rate job of it, people might look harder at Android phones.
    However, Apple rarely does things 3rd-rate, but they would have to be damn sure of a first-rate implementation before dropping what they have, because otherwise you would be risking some lost iPhone sales or defections. If I had to bet, I would not say Apple is planning a switch right now, but it would not surprise me if Apple was eyeing that backend pie, and maneuvering to take it on some day when they are sure they can handle it. I just doubt that day will occur this generation.
    @earless
    If Apple currently has the best UI, and Google has the best data, it would seem that we iPhone users already enjoy the best of both worlds, and leaving Google would only be a step down. Of course, if dropping/supplementing Google on the backend allowed Apple to add more/better features, that could offset a data loss. What would you want (or expect) Apple to put in a new Maps App to offset any such loss and allow it to "beat them" as you put it?
  • @Dev:
    I apologize.
    I dislike the term 'fanboy' as much as you do, which is why I (carelessly out of frustration) used it sarcastically. I'm tired of hearing how those favoring Apple, in any given situation, are always 'fanboys', but those favoring Google and Microsoft (when not even justified) somehow feel validated just because those companies are the 'geek' companies, while Apple is just the hip "creative" company. I admit, using the term 'fanboy' just to show how ridiculous it sounds was probably not the best approach, and unlike me to even do so. But the Google favoritism definitely exists around here as much as the Apple favoritism does.
    However, I stand by my comment. Suggesting Apple can't compete (not necessarily 'beat') Google with maps is just plain absurd and laughable. Google has absolutely no sense of style, whatsoever. And despite what techies think, people respond to style and always will.
    Like you said, we don't know what Apple is doing. But one thing is for sure — when Apple decides to delve into anyones market, watch out... even the almighty Google.
  • @Dev:
    And by the way, I believe I did "address the topic at hand" in my first post. ;)
  • @Dev
    As I said I see Apple using their new company not to replace the current maps but to customize the current ones. Adding information on top of the maps could easily turn Apples Map app into a powerful augmented reality interface. Although cute, so far augmented reality serves no purpose for me, let's let Apple redefine and and re-innovate augment reality so it is essential on a mobile platform, and gives the other handsets another 1 year catch up hurdle...
    1) Apple buys a huge server farm (I'm sure this is for MobileMe, push, and cloud services also)
    2) Apple adds Augmented reality to the API's
    3) Apple buys a company known for customizing maps
    4) Apple looks to hire someone for a map related project
    Do the math