Apple Takes Closer Aim at Google Maps

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In December of last year, Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) Maps program passed Google Maps from Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) as the most used mapping program on Apple’s iPhones and iPads. Now the company wants to make its Maps program even better by using drones to collect and update new mapping information more quickly and by adding interior views of buildings.

According to a report from Bloomberg, unnamed sources also said that Apple’s goal is to catch up with Google Maps, long the leading mapping program on mobile devices, primarily because it is available on both iOS devices and Android devices. Apple Maps is not available on mobile devices powered by Google’s Android platform, and those far outnumber Apple devices.

While it may not seem like a big deal which map program a consumer uses, it matters to Apple and Google because developers building apps that use a mapping program indirectly affect the quantity of ads delivered by either an iOS or Android map program.

Apple’s first go at its Maps program in 2012 was a near-total failure that resulted in CEO Tim Cook delivering an apology for the program’s failure. Bloomberg cited a statement by Apple executive Craig Federighi:

There’s a huge data-quality issue [with maps], and I don’t think we initially appreciated all the kinds of technology we would need to do that on an ongoing basis.

Collecting accurate information is critical to a map program and by using drones Apple hopes to speed up both the collection and dissemination of changes. Bloomberg reported that Apple received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in March to use drones to collect data and the company agreed to abide by FAA guidelines promulgated in August that restrict flying time to daylight hours and require a licensed pilot to keep the drone with the line of sight.

Apple also acquired an indoor mapping company, Indoor.io, last year that would enable users to find their way around high-traffic buildings like airports and museums.