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🧭 Good morning! Always head north.
February 10, 2021
What is Apple up to with its Maps?

So, I don’t know what this all means yet, but something is weird about Apple Maps. But it’s not Apple Maps that matters. Let me explain.

Apple Maps analyst/enthusiast/super-user Justin O’Beirne has a new super-detailed essay regarding maps and how Apple and Google are working on the same problems and how they compare. 

  • It focuses on Apple’s very slow rollout of Look Around, the macOS/iOS-only take on Google Maps Street View. 
  • O’Beirne tracks Look Around better than Apple itself, given Apple rarely updates its own site, and generally explains what’s going on better than anyone.
  • What’s happening is that despite Apple announcing back in June 2019 that its mapping vehicles had “driven over four million miles,” Apple’s attempt at Street View is not good. It’s incredibly limited.
  • Not because of the miles being covered — Apple is mapping roads faster than Google.
  • But Apple isn’t releasing what it’s seeing on its maps, at least in the US.
  • And what matters is the future: how does this play out into image recognition and AR efforts, because what we’re seeing is either Apple fumbling its work, or something else is going on.

Look at where Google Street View was at in the US in 2009, vs Apple in early December 2020 — a time when both companies had spent 1.5 years mapping:

First, Google Street View 1.5 years after the first image was published back in 2009:

apple google maps 2

And, here’s Apple’s coverage after the same time period:

apple google maps 1

Weird, huh?

O’Beirne seems to be unpacking one, or perhaps multiple insights, into the following reasons why Apple has been so much slower, despite newer technologies, more miles, and a closed software/hardware ecosystem it controls: 

  1. Apple just had problems taking images and turning them into useful views and points of interest as we get from Street View/Look Around. Problems happen.
  2. Apple has been mapping more for its future car ambitions than maps for people. From the TechCrunch story about rebuilding Apple Maps in 2018, it reported that Apple’s data collection vans were “capped with sensors and cameras”, including “beefed-up GPS rig on the roof, four LiDAR arrays mounted at the corners and eight cameras shooting overlapping high-resolution images, there’s also the standard physical measuring tool attached to a rear wheel that allows for precise tracking of distance and image capture”.
  3. Or, Apple has been mapping more for its AR ambitions, which it likely hopes will be exponentially more important in the future to its plans, and where society may be going. (Brilliant AR hardware and execution could be the next iPhone-sized business for Apple. Apple Maps mostly prevents Apple from sending more users to Google Maps.)

In any case, it’s a great read if you’re into maps, give it some time. Hit me back if you have thoughts; I’ll read all theories with great interest.

Bonus: Lyft is all about OpenStreetMaps, recently surveying the maps compared to ground truths, and finding the contributions to keep it fresh are pretty darn good (Lyft).

Roundup

(Android Authority).

🟨 Poco M3 review: Great entry-level handset, even if the cameras are average (Android Authority).

🔌 Leak: OnePlus 9 series battery details revealed, will have charger in box (Android Authority).

👀 This is our first proper look at the Redmi K40 series, something like a cut-down Mi 11? (Android Authority).

📶 Qualcomm announces Snapdragon X65 modem with 10Gbps download speeds, coming in 2022 (probably) (Android Authority).

📉 The original Barcode Scanner app, seemingly mistaken for malware, is getting review-bombed(The Verge).

🍎 Apple partners with TSMC to develop micro OLED display, likely for upcoming AR glasses (Nikkei).

🍏 Still no Google updates to its iOS apps to keep a lid on people knowing how much tracking is going on. Now beyond two months since an update. What an odd situation. (9to5Mac).

🔋 Audi reveals its Porsche-powered E-Tron GT and it looks sharp inside and out (The Verge).

🚗 Electric vehicles are improving so fast, data on using them may be obsolete (Gizmodo).

🤔 And lastly on EVs, Hyundai really wants to sell this crazy autonomous walking car: the Tiger X-1 (CNET).

📡 SpaceX Starlink opens public preorders but slots are limited in each region (Ars Technica).

🚀 NASA taps SpaceX to bring its Gateway station to the Moon (Engadget).

🌝 Guess before you read! “Which planet has the best “moonlight”?” (r/askreddit).

Wednesday Weirdness
one axel bus

Today, you have options!

Cheers,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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