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Non-Google maps pop up in iPhoto for iOS

Apple's iPhoto app for iPad and iPhone is using different maps than what you find on the desktop version.

The new mapping tiles in iPhoto for iOS.
The new mapping tiles in iPhoto for iOS.

One of the more subtle differences between iPhoto for iOS and its desktop software counterpart turns out to be deeper than meets the eye.

The new software, which made its debut yesterday alongside Apple's third-generation iPad, has a subtle difference that wasn't advertised: Apple's using a new set of maps to show where a user's photos were taken, and those maps do not appear to be from Apple's longtime map provider Google.

That in and of itself would not be quite so interesting if not for the fact that Apple is expected to roll out its own mapping service one day, and that it currently uses maps from Google just about everywhere else.

Today, the OpenStreetMap Foundation added extra interest to the change, saying Apple's using its maps without attribution.

"The OSM data that Apple is using is rather old (start of April 2010) so don't expect to see your latest and greatest updates on there," said OpenStreetMap Foundation member Jonathan Bennett in a blog post. "It's also missing the necessary credit to OpenStreetMap's contributors; we look forward to working with Apple to get that on there."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Apple currently uses Google's maps in a number of its products, from its Mac photo editing software iPhoto and Aperture, to the built-in maps application on iOS. The change for this particular software was discovered by blog 512pixels yesterday, shortly after the new software was released.

In the new iPhoto for iOS, these maps show up when a user photo has geo-location in its metadata and is using them in slideshows, or the new journaling feature. On something like the iPhone or iPad with built-in 3G, that information can be automatically attached to photos. In Apple's iPhoto and Aperture software, users can also append this data to their photos after the fact using built-in tools.

Apple's use of maps has been under a microscope since last year, when the company said that it was collecting 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." At the time that sounded more like a layer on top of an existing mapping service than a standalone service of its own. Yet, Apple followed that up byacquiring C3 Technologies last year, the third such mapping company it's bought up, and one that specializes in eye-popping 3D imagery.

Of course the subtext to all of this is that Apple and Google have become mortal enemies in the mobile realm, where Apple's iPhone and iPad compete with Google's Android smartphones and tablets. Apple CEO Tim Cook even dedicated several minutes of yesterday's iPad unveiling to take a crack at Android apps, calling them stretched out mobile phone apps. Google has also moved into competing areas in the digital goods space, including books, music, apps and video content. Nonetheless, Apple renewed its deal with Google to use its mapping service early last year, but we don't know how long that's good for.