Apple hopes ‘real-time’ maps will be a Google beater

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No longer is Big Ben frozen in time. Photo: Apple
No longer is Big Ben frozen in time. Photo: Apple

For a long time, Apple Maps was a laughing stock. Then it started getting better. Apple ironed out the glitches, began updating Apple Maps every day, and introduced Flyover, which gave you a 3-D view of major cities as they would look from the sky.

Now it’s taken that technology one step further in an effort to win the mapping war versus Google: Apple Maps is going real-time.

Thanks to a new update, London’s Big Ben clock tower will now show the real time, while the iconic London Eye will rotate. Those are the only real-time updates we’ve spotted so far, but Apple is reportedly looking to add more moving elements to cities over the following year.

 Of course, in a real sense, Apple Maps isn’t real-time in the true sense of the word. What it has done is to cleverly map on (no pun intended) moving, animated elements onto the static images used by Flyover’s wireframes. This is something Apple hinted at in its original patent for the Flyover 3-D camera, but which we’ve not had the pleasure of seeing up until now.

Compared to real-time traffic updates and the like, it’s certainly a gimmick, but it’s a great one. It also opens up tons of possibilities for future expansions: such as days shifting in real-time from day to night, weather effects, or even seasonal changes.

Hey, it’s not totally crazy to think that Apple could use the technology for useful features like the aforementioned traffic updates: giving you an idea of congestion from a single glance.

For now, we’ll have to “make do” with watching the London Eye spin, but given Apple’s recent efforts at improving its mapping services thanks to the mysterious minivans (plus the numerous patents the company holds in this area), it’s a promising start to what could be a fantastic new feature.

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  • http://jameschard.net/ James Chard

    Now this look like the beginning of something very awesome!

  • AAPL.To.Break.$130.Soon>:-)

    That’s nice but I’m more interested in an Apple Street View and maybe a nice Greenway System View. I’m glad Apple is steadily improving its maps. A company with that much money shouldn’t be trailing years behind both Google and Microsoft in mapping. However, I suppose one company can’t be pursuing everything at once.

  • http://www.specializedcomputing.com/ Geremy Heath

    I hope apple do it right this time

  • Lynn

    This is very OCD, but I don’t see any useful advantage here.

  • josephz2va

    Yet many cities are missing from any Apple Maps experience. Even the nation’s capital and white house remains flat.

  • http://www.rwanderman.wordpress.com Richard

    I wish Apple would put more energy into deep and accurate metadata in cities rather than eye-candy like this. There are still no subway line listings on subway stops in New York City. That should have been part of Apple Maps from day 1.

  • bIg hIlL

    Not happening on Maps Version 1.0 (1398.26.2) on 10.9.5. In fact that clock has 2 different times on it! On one face it says more or less 1 O’clock whilst on another more or less 12:30. Currently it is 13:30. The wheel was not revolving either, and no spokes in it.

  • MacAdvisor

    “London’s Big Ben clock tower”

    Big Ben is a nickname for the Great Bell, a bell inside the tower, not the name for the clock, nor the tower. The tower, as shown in the picture, is officially called the Elizabeth Tower, renamed as such to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II (prior to being renamed in 2012 it was known as simply “Clock Tower”).

  • Luis Tamayo

    How about improving the Apple maps in a more substantive way? I still use Google maps. It may be inconvenient to copy the address from Apple’s maps over to Google, but I find myself doing it because Google still offers a better product.

  • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

    Real time train departures out of stations would be clever.

    • http://www.rwanderman.wordpress.com Richard

      Google maps does this now. Apple should have had this a year ago. They’re blowing it.

      • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

        I meant seeing the actual trains on the tracks, leaving the stations.

      • Iain71

        It might show the right time (9pm), but why isn’t it dark outside?

      • http://www.rwanderman.wordpress.com Richard

        Wouldn’t you rather have a timetable of when the trains run? Who cares about watching them leave the station? I guess you do. Seems like misplaced energy to me.

      • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

        We don’t need Big Ben to tell the correct time, or the London Eye to spin either. It’s just a suggestion in the spirit of real time.

      • http://www.rwanderman.wordpress.com Richard

        You miss the point: Apple is weak on metadata, long on eye-candy.

        Maps aren’t slide shows, they’re used to get around places. Train time tables are much more important than the spirit of trains moving in and out of stations.

  • sanfordandsons

    I don’t know about you, but Apple Maps are horrible. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to switch to Google Maps to finish getting me to my destination. I rarely use Apple Maps much. And I hate Google!