Weeks after iOS 5 beta was first released, a user has noticed a fun addition to operating system’s legal disclaimers (found under Preferences > General > About > Legal). A new section makes references to several mapping companies, such as TomTom, which could mean that Apple might be developing its own mapping service instead of using Google Maps, like it has since the iPhone’s inception.
When the iPhone, and therefore iOS, were first introduced, many of the operating system’s online services relied on Google, such as the built-in Maps App, which almost literally pulled data from Google Maps. Since then, Google and Apple have parted ways, when the former began developing its Android operating system, which now happens to be iOS’ main competitor. This caused Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google at the time, to be forced to step down from Apple’s board of directors back in 2009.
According to the new legal wording, Apple has partnered with several companies to develop its new Maps system, such as CoreLogic, Increment P Corp and Urban Mapping. That last one is known to go way beyond what one would expect from traditional mapping services, such as in-depth local data such as crime rates and even school performance.
This changeover is backed up by several job postings made over the last few years. One in made in December of last year, for example, called for someone with “Experience developing navigation software” and “Deep knowledge of Computational Geometry or Graph Theory”. That can be summed up by only one world: maps!
This comes quite as a surprise, since Eric Schmidt had recently alleged that Apple has agreed to renew its agreement to remain using Google Maps on iOS devices:
We just renewed our Map and Search agreements with Apple, and we hope those continue for a long time.
This changeover should have little impact on the user experience of the Maps application, since the change will only impact the back end, at least initially. It’s unclear why Apple has chosen to move away from Google, which is an extremely credible provider of online maps, but the Cupertino company might be trying to innovate in this field. How the Maps experience will change down the road is not yet known, but Apple definitely has something up its sleeve.