Apple expected to leverage HopStop, Embark acquisitions for transit data in iOS 8 Maps

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2014
Apple's recent mapping-related acquisition spree is expected to bear fruit in the next generation of iOS as the company's mapping team is said to be preparing a new transit direction feature and significant improvements to the maps' underlying data.

Maps
Apple Maps as seen in OS X Mavericks.


Lack of built-in transit support is perhaps one of the most oft-cited failures of Apple's mapping efforts. Currently, in iOS 7, Apple's Maps application will recommend and link to third-party software, including competitors like Google Maps, when users seek public transportation data.

The company has made a number of moves toward filling that gap -- notably acquiring transit apps HopStop and Embark last year, signaling that the company plans to add its own built-in transit support in the future. But since the launch of Apple Maps in iOS 6 in 2012, transit data has continued to be a glaring omission.

iOS 7 Maps translucent chrome
iOS 7 Maps, translucent chrome


However, it's now expected that data from Apple acquisitions Embark and HopStop will be combined in a newly revamped version of Maps for iOS 8, according to a new report on Tuesday from 9to5Mac. Apple's transit directions system will reportedly support train, bus, and subway data in major North American cities at launch.

It's claimed that users will be able to get transit directions through Maps immediately, or use the system to plan travel at a later time, such as determining the fastest route to a meeting during rush hour.

Aside from its outside mapping purchases, which also include GIS firm BroadMap, Apple has been seen hiring internally for the new transit features. Job listings for a "Maps Public Transit Engineering Manager" and a "Maps C++ Software Engineer - Public Transit" appeared on the company's career portal last fall.

Supporting the new transit functionality will be a beefed-up data backend that will also serve to make manual way-finding and point-of-interest information more reliable based on new partnerships and data brought in-house as part of its other acquisitions. Apple will also introduce an updated labeling system and tweaked "cartography design" to make maps more readable.

Apple's mapping system launched to much fanfare but was widely panned by users as being less reliable than Google's offering, leading Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a public apology. The botched rollout cost former iOS chief Scott Forstall his job and responsibility for the system's improvement was given to Apple's internal "fixer," software and services boss Eddy Cue, under whose direction the service has made significant strides.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    darklitedarklite Posts: 229member

    Looks great, but...

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    However, it's now expected that data from Apple acquisitions Embark and HopStop will be combined in a newly revamped version of Maps for iOS 8, according to a new report on Tuesday from 9to5Mac. Apple's transit directions system will reportedly support train, bus, and subway data in major North American cities at launch.

    Only in selected NA cities? That would be pretty disappointing.

  • Reply 2 of 48
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Personally, I'm finding Apple Maps more accurate than Google's maps recently (with or without bus or walking data).
  • Reply 3 of 48
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DarkLite View Post

     

    Only in selected NA cities? That would be pretty disappointing.


    Really? Can the company do anything to please people like you? Google Maps' transit functionality did not support EVERY city in the world and work perfectly when it initially came out. It still does not. Now that Apple may enter the transit arena people like you will throw stones just to throw stones. Look for Google Maps' transit functionality to get a major overhaul before iOS 8 is made available to developers come WWDC in June.

  • Reply 4 of 48
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Really? Can the company do anything to please people like you? Google Maps' transit functionality did not support EVERY city in the world and work perfectly when it initially came out. It still does not. Now that Apple may enter the transit arena people like you will throw stones just to throw stones. Look for Google Maps' transit functionality to get a major overhaul before iOS 8 is made available to developers come WWDC in June.

    Google maps on the desktop has become a mystifying mess. Some previously usable features have either disappeared or the UI changes have rendered them invisible.
  • Reply 5 of 48
    chipsychipsy Posts: 287member
    Personally, I'm finding Apple Maps more accurate than Google's maps recently (with or without bus or walking data).

    It made great strides since launch but I have to say from my experience data accuracy is not yet on par with Google Maps, especially outside of the US (not that Google Maps is perfect by any means). But it's getting there one step at a time :). I would really like to see Apple launch a mapmaker of sorts to speed up data corrections (time between report and fix is still Apple Maps Achilles' heel in my opinion).

    Must say I like the addition of advanced route planning, I regularly use it on Google Maps so it will be nice to have on Apple Maps as well.
  • Reply 6 of 48
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    chipsy wrote: »
    It made great strides since launch but I have to say from my experience data accuracy is not yet on par with Google Maps, especially outside of the US (not that Google Maps is perfect by any means). But it's getting there one step at a time :). I would really like to see Apple launch a mapmaker of sorts to speed up data corrections (time between report and fix is still Apple Maps Achilles' heel in my opinion).

    Must say I like the addition of advanced route planning, I regularly use it on Google Maps so it will be nice to have on Apple Maps as well.

    Multi-stop route planning would be a great feature for all maps.
  • Reply 7 of 48
    gtbuzzgtbuzz Posts: 129member
    I also look forward to Advance Route Planning on Apple Maps. This is needed so we can plan our trips on our Mac's and navigate them with our iPhones or iPads.

    Unfortunately, I think the new Google Maps User Interface is also confusing to me also. I am constantly finding myself lost on the desktop, which should not be the case.
  • Reply 8 of 48
    jpellinojpellino Posts: 660member
    Do it in 7.x Make it a Garmin killer, not a Google killer.
  • Reply 9 of 48
    jlanddjlandd Posts: 873member

    Missed the news months ago that Apple had acquired Embark.  I started using Embark NYC after it won the MTA contest for best subway navigation app.  It was unimpressive then and pretty terrible still.  OK map (like many others) but there are much better ways to get alerts and train arrivals at specific stations without spending minutes going through such hoops.  Not the app to use when you're in a rush, which goes without saying half the time on the subway.  I can't imagine there's anything in it Apple is attracted by.  I'm thinking they bought it to get one or two of its team, and possibly to kill it and take its place with its own app as subway navigator in major areas.

  • Reply 10 of 48
    darklitedarklite Posts: 229member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by leavingthebigG View Post

     

    Really? Can the company do anything to please people like you? Google Maps' transit functionality did not support EVERY city in the world and work perfectly when it initially came out. It still does not. Now that Apple may enter the transit arena people like you will throw stones just to throw stones. 


    I didn't post that to get knee-jerk angsty responses 'throw stones', I posted that because as one of the 95% of people who don't live in the US, this feature in its current form is useless to me. A feature I can't access is not something I will cheer about, nor is it something I'll view as a reason to buy or use the product. At some point down the line, the coverage will expand and at that point I'll be happy about it, but at the moment it might as well not exist as far as I'm concerned. That's why I'm disappointed with it, not because I'm part of ~you people~.

     

    Quote:

     Look for Google Maps' transit functionality to get a major overhaul before iOS 8 is made available to developers come WWDC in June.


    Whether they overhaul it or not makes little difference to me: the fact is, Google provides transit directions in the UK while Apple does not. As far as I'm concerned, non-zero functionality is going to beat zero functionality every time.

  • Reply 11 of 48
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member
    Why is this reported as ipso-facto being part of iOS 8, and not, let's say, iOS 7.5? Wouldn't it be more journalistic to say "a future version of iOS"?

    Otherwise, articles on AI have as much credence as the laughable analyst reports we read everyday, written by people who presumably don't know anything about Apple.
  • Reply 12 of 48

    I want the ability to avoid highways in driving directions. 

  • Reply 13 of 48
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by macinthe408 View Post

    Why is this reported as ipso-facto being part of iOS 8, and not, let's say, iOS 7.5?

     

    Because we’ll be lucky if we see iOS 7.1.3.

  • Reply 14 of 48
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Why is this reported as ipso-facto being part of iOS 8, and not, let's say, iOS 7.5? Wouldn't it be more journalistic to say "a future version of iOS"?

    Otherwise, articles on AI have as much credence as the laughable analyst reports we read everyday, written by people who presumably don't know anything about Apple.

    You're right, it could be added as point update. However, these additions are probably seen as begin too substantial for a point update. I could see Apple demoing as a new addition to iOS 8 at WWDC.
  • Reply 15 of 48
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleZilla View Post

     

    I want the ability to avoid highways in driving directions. 


     

    A feature commonly found on GPS units, perhaps there are patents that prevent Apple or Google from implementing this feature.

  • Reply 16 of 48
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    darklite wrote: »
    I didn't post that to get knee-jerk angsty responses 'throw stones', I posted that because as one of the 95% of people who don't live in the US, this feature in its current form is useless to me. A<span style="line-height:1.4em;"> feature I can't access is not something I will cheer about, nor is it something I'll view as a reason to buy or use the product. At some point down the line, the coverage will expand and at that point I'll be happy about it, but at the moment it might as well not exist as far as I'm concerned. That's why I'm disappointed with it, not because I'm part of ~you people~.</span>


    Whether they overhaul it or not makes little difference to me: the fact is, Google provides transit directions in the UK while Apple does not. As far as I'm concerned, non-zero functionality is going to beat zero functionality every time.

    Notably, HopStop offers directions for cities in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States which I find very encouraging even if transit directions for all these countries isn't available at initial release.
  • Reply 17 of 48
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,512member
    I can't even find local shops with Apple maps. That's the main problem for me. It doesn't understand landmarks well either. And even with the many comprehensive suggestions I've give, there hasn't been a single change. It would be a great surprise if with iOS8 Apple introduced not only transit data, but also a sudden increase in quality.

    My reference for how bad satellite images are is still Kyoto. I'm waiting until that town stops looking like a checker of B&B tiles and blurred colored tiles.

    I would also love to be able to draw my own lines, areas, landmarks, like I can on google maps. How many times did I plan for a precise itinerary while visiting foreign cities. And why not even add the option to print in a map format :) ?
  • Reply 18 of 48
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jlandd View Post

     

    Missed the news months ago that Apple had acquired Embark.  I started using Embark NYC after it won the MTA contest for best subway navigation app.  It was unimpressive then and pretty terrible still.  OK map (like many others) but there are much better ways to get alerts and train arrivals at specific stations without spending minutes going through such hoops.  Not the app to use when you're in a rush, which goes without saying half the time on the subway.  I can't imagine there's anything in it Apple is attracted by.  I'm thinking they bought it to get one or two of its team, and possibly to kill it and take its place with its own app as subway navigator in major areas.


    Agreed. Apple probably sees their app more as a distraction in the potential user experience, and hopefully their developers are the primary asset. MTA actually is at a point where the data available is very thorough if only someone could wrap it into a user-friendly experience.

  • Reply 19 of 48
    darklite wrote: »
     
    Only in selected NA cities? That would be pretty disappointing.
    Really? Can the company do anything to please people like you? Google Maps' transit functionality did not support EVERY city in the world and work perfectly when it initially came out. It still does not. Now that Apple may enter the transit arena people like you will throw stones just to throw stones. Look for Google Maps' transit functionality to get a major overhaul before iOS 8 is made available to developers come WWDC in June.

    The OP has a point!

    European cities, for example, rely on public transit more than the few NA cities [with good public transit systems] do.

    It was a while ago, but I stayed in Paris for a few weeks while attending a class in Vincennes. We were able to get around, see all the sights using the Metro and Trains -- never rented a car or hired a taxi.

    These transit systems were quite well integrated -- so you could easily and reliably plan a trip using several modes of public transit.

    There may be licensing requirements for the data, but I suspect Apple could much more easily implement comprehensive public transit for major world cities/regions than they can implement 3D Flyover (Washington, DC?).

    I would like to see data for things like Cruise Schedules, Ferry Schedules, Flight Schedules, Train Schedules, etc. accessible from within the Maps app so that these could be incorporated along with metropolitan transit, driving, and walking -- for trip planning!
  • Reply 20 of 48
    The OP has a point!

    European cities, for example, rely on public transit more than the few NA cities [with good public transit systems] do.

    It was a while ago, but I stayed in Paris for a few weeks while attending a class in Vincennes. We were able to get around, see all the sights using the Metro and Trains -- never rented a car or hired a taxi.

    These transit systems were quite well integrated -- so you could easily and reliably plan a trip using several modes of public transit.

    There may be licensing requirements for the data, but I suspect Apple could much more easily implement comprehensive public transit for major world cities/regions than they can implement 3D Flyover (Washington, DC?).

    I would like to see data for things like Cruise Schedules, Ferry Schedules, Flight Schedules, Train Schedules, etc. accessible from within the Maps app so that these could be incorporated along with metropolitan transit, driving, and walking -- for trip planning!

    Well I visited Chicago and New York and I got around the same way... Even here in Miami if you stay downtown you can get around using public transportation. I'm sure all big cities are the same
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