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Apple rolls out Maps redesign to all US users

The tech giant hopes the latest version of its app will woo users away from Google Maps, Waze and other rivals.

Apple says its revamped Maps app will arrive in Europe "in the coming months." 
Angela Lang/CNET

Apple's redesigned Maps app has arrived.

The company on Thursday said its revamped app is now available for US users and will arrive in Europe "in the coming months." Apple Maps' redesign makes navigation faster and more accurate and gives users "comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls and more."  

Apple rebuilt its mapping service from the ground up by outfitting hundreds of planes and cars with custom sensors and lidar, which then covered over 4 million miles. It hopes the latest iteration of its Apple Maps software will be enough to woo users away from Google Maps, Waze and other rivals. 

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"We set out to create the best and most private maps app on the planet that is reflective of how people explore the world today," Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of internet software and services, said in a press release. "It is an effort we are deeply invested in and required that we rebuild the map from the ground up to reimagine how Maps enhances people's lives -- from navigating to work or school or planning an important vacation -- all with privacy at its core."

Along with the new Maps apps, real-time transit will be available in Miami starting Friday, in time for the Super Bowl. 


An iPad Pro showing the feature Look Around from Apple's revamped Maps app


Apple's Maps journey

In September 2012, Apple released its own homegrown mapping program along with its iOS 6 mobile software. The company previously had preloaded Google Maps on its devices, but tensions between the tech giants led Apple to create its own software. The trouble was Apple Maps didn't really work. iOS users immediately noticed problems with everything from navigation to simply searching for an address. 

Apple apologized for the problems, fired its head of software and worked to improve its mapping app. 

Since that time, it has continually rolled out updates and added new features to its Maps, such as real-time transit information, flight status updates, indoor maps for airports and malls and a flyover feature to give 3D views of certain cities. In 2018, it started rolling out a revamped version of Apple Maps that provided more detailed information and more accurate navigation. It started in Northern California and expanded to the East Coast and other areas. 

At its developer conference in June, Apple unveiled the more-detailed Maps app. At the time, Apple said it would roll out to US users by the end of 2019 and to more countries by 2020. 

iOS 13, released in September, brought several other new capabilities, including the ability to explore major cities with the Look Around feature. It offers interactive, street-level imagery (think Google Street View but made by Apple) of areas like New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston and Oahu.

And the Collections feature lets you build shareable lists of your favorite restaurants or locations you want to visit in a city. The company also added features that make it easier for users to navigate to places they frequently visit, such as home and work. 

Apple on Thursday noted that it's focused on keeping personal information safe. It doesn't require you to sign in to use Maps, and it's not connected to your Apple ID in any way. Maps uses on-device intelligence to do things like suggest a departure time to make your appointment. Any data collected by Maps -- like search terms, navigation routing and traffic information -- "are associated with random identifiers that continually reset to ensure the best possible experience and to improve Maps."

And Apple uses a process called "fuzzing" to obscure your location on Apple servers when you're searching for a place. "Maps converts the precise location where the search originated to a less-exact one after 24 hours and does not retain a history of what has been searched or where a user has been," Apple said.