Missing directions: Will Apple's old maps app live on forever?

Google Maps on iOS has been replaced with Apple's own technology, but that doesn't mean it's disappearing entirely.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET, PhotoToaster

For those who haven't yet upgraded to Apple's iOS 6, or who can't upgrade because they're using an older device, there's an air of uncertainty about just how long they'll get to be able to use one of its most useful features.

That feature is maps, something that used to be powered by Google in iOS versions 1 to 5, but which now uses data from Apple in iOS 6.

Love it or hate it, Apple Maps are here to stay. But can you say the same about the old version?

Neither company is willing to say. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the terms or expiration of the deal between it and Google. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Still, there's reason for users to believe that Google will continue serving the iOS 5 version of maps for the foreseeable future.

"I would be surprised if they have the contractual right to stop," said Scott Rafer, CEO of mapping company Lumatic.

Lumatic is the maker of City Maps, a provider of free transit directions inside the new Apple Maps app. It licenses data from Nokia and OpenStreetMap.

"Normally the ways those contracts are written are, hey, this covers support of new versions of the software through X date," Rafer said, adding that he had not seen the Apple-Google contract.

Assuming that's the case here, iOS 5 users should be able to rest easy about the mapping functionality on their older devices.

Perhaps backing that up is the fact that Google says it will keep supporting the old version of YouTube, another piece of Google software removed in iOS 6. The company confirmed to CNET that it would continue serving videos inside the app indefinitely . Meanwhile, it has built its own standalone app for iOS 6 users , which is available on the App Store.

At its annual developers conference in June, Apple touted its new maps app as one of the major features of iOS 6 -- and a big step up from Google's offering. But now that they have it in hand, many consumers beg to differ. While impressive in places, critics have found the application less accurate and complete compared with Google's offering.

Still, Apple has published data showing that users are upgrading to its latest software at a very speedy clip. According to metrics released by the company yesterday , 100 million of Apple's 400 million iOS users have upgraded to iOS 6 . The software, which was released as a free update last Wednesday , can be installed on the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, along with the second- and third-generation iPads, and fourth-generation iPod Touch. That keeps those with older devices -- a number Apple does not share -- on older versions of the software.

One prospect that remains for those who have upgraded is Google delivering its own Maps app. So far the company has kept an almost Apple-like veil of secrecy around the project, saying only that its objective was to make the software "available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system."


 

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