An interesting bit of information has come out from Apple's announcement today addressing the location-tracking controversy. Apparently Apple is working on a crowd-sourced traffic service for iPhone users. From the press release:
What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.
For a few years now, Apple has been rumored to be beefing up its maps offerings in iOS. In 2009 and 2010 Apple bought both Placebase and Poly9, two companies with map and navigation-oriented products. Then in December of last year, Apple posted job placement openings looking for engineers with "experience developing navigation software" to "deliver the next generation of Apple products."
While today's news of a crowd-sourced traffic database tells us nothing too concrete about Apple's maps plans, it does appear that Apple is gearing up to add turn-by-turn direction and increased real-time accuracy to its future map offerings on iOS. The third-party market for navigation apps is certainly hopping, so it makes sense for Apple to match up with Google's turn-by-turn support, which is baked into Android. (Apple can't do turn-by-turn directions on the existing Maps app, because it uses Google's data, and the licensing agreements covering that data don't permit it.)