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Apple puts itself back on the map.

Byline: tech now With Justin Connolly

T'S six years now since Apple first tried to put itself on the map - with less than spectacular results.

IAnd even though the Maps app on iOS and macOS has improved in that time - how could it not? - it remains second in a market dominated by Google.

Now Apple plans to do something about that.

In a wide-ranging reveal to the website Techcrunch, Apple lifted the lid on a four-year project to start doing maps right - and not just as well as Google does either. They want to be better.

Google Maps was, you may recall, the default maps app on the iPhone for the first few years of its existence. But that was a situation that could not continue for two reasons - Apple's licence with Google was limited (it couldn't do turn-by-turn directions, for example), and secondly, Google was keen for Apple to allow it to harvest more data about its users. That was something Apple never would allow.

So Apple was more or less forced into baking its own maps app quickly. And it wasn't very good.

It used mapping data from a variety of sources (SatNav company TomTom principally), which meant updates to maps were slow.

And its turn-by-turn directions were sometimes way off the mark, in one famous incident inadvertently guiding drivers into the ocean.

Four years ago Apple decided enough was enough - it needed to either get out of maps altogether, or gather its own data.

They decided on the latter, and the results are now available for public consumption - albeit in a very small area.

Apple has built a fleet of mapping cars that have been steadily gathering data that, it says, surpasses that held by Google - the Apple Maps cars are not just taking photos of streets around the world, but they are also using hi-tech sensors to build a 3D map of all the surfaces they encounter - so buildings should be rendered much more accurately when the new data rolls out.

This will include making sure the "last 50 yards" of any journey you take will be better - you won't just be taken to the building you want to visit, but also be guided to the right entrance (which may well be on a different street to the building's address).

And, along with a whole new set of high-resolution satellite images that Apple is gathering, there is also an element of crowd-sourcing going on.

Apple is using anonymous data from segments of journeys people take using their iPhone for guidance (never tracking start or end points) to increase the accuracy of directions, both in terms of real-time traffic data, and in terms of making sure details, like guiding you into the right lane when driving, are spot on.

Apple also says that once it has its own mapping data, built with its own tools, it will be much better placed to update maps - new roads, new buildings, and, of course, any mistakes, will be quickly rectified.

Unfortunately, the new mapping data is only rolling out to cover Northern California in the first instance, and will go live when iOS 12 launches in the autumn.

But Apple is at pains to point out that its mapping team is global, and that we should expect the new, better, more accurate, and more useful data to head our way eventually, if not soon.

MAPPING ALTERNATIVES WAZE (iOS and Android, free) Waze is the original crowdsourced map app - boasting a healthy community of real travellers that help inform the app of issues on the road, so that other drivers can be warned and re-routed - and all this happens in real time.

GOOGLE MAPS (iOS and Android, free) Google's mapping app is far and away the most popular, the most accurate, and the most useful of all the mapping apps out there - it's a real success story for Google. So, why shouldn't you just use that, and forget about the competition? Privacy is the word you need - as with all the free products Google provides, Google expects you to pay by allowing it to gather data about what you are up to. Some people do not like that.

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The Apple iPad app collecting mapping data inside the Apple Maps car, below
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 9, 2018
Words:714
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