Apple 2.0

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Apple's new suburban map app: Not for city dwellers

June 12, 2012: 9:34 AM ET

Memo to Scott Forstall: Not everyone gets everywhere by automobile

Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- "Here's the thing," Daring Fireball's John Gruber wrote last month when 9to5Mac first reported that Apple (AAPL) was about to replace Google's (GOOG) iOS Map app with its own. "Apple's homegrown mapping data has to be great. Mapping is an essential phone feature. It's one of those handful of features that almost everyone with an iPhone uses, and often relies upon."

As predicted, Apple's new mapping feature was one of the tentpoles of its developer's conference keynote Monday -- the "one last thing" (although he didn't use those words) in senior vice president Scott Forstall's iOS 6 presentation. And the application's 3-D views of selected cities -- shot from helicopters with military-grade technology -- are as stunning as we were led to expect.

But here's the thing: If you live in one of those cities, rather that fly over them, Apple's map app doesn't cut it.

Google's iPhone Map, which had a seven-year head start, can tell you not just how to drive a car to where you want to go, but how to get there by public transportation or on foot -- essential information for city dwellers.

From Apple and the Environment

Apple may yet add those features. iOS 6 is not scheduled to be released before next fall. But from what we saw on Monday, the company has made its priorities clear.

It demonstrated turn-by-turn directions. It explained how the app gathers traffic condition data. It rerouted drivers around road repairs and traffic jams. It announced agreements with car manufacturers that will be putting hands-free iOS 6 control into automobile steering wheels.

But not a word about buses, subways or feet.

Meanwhile, we can only hope that Google doesn't have plans to pull its apps from iPhone.

UPDATE: See AppleInsider here for how Apple plans to hand off walking and public transport directions to third party developers.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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