iOS 8 Said To Take Maps To The Next Level With Added Data And Transit Directions

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Apple has just shipped iOS 7.1, which brings a number of small enhancements and some considerable performance improvements to older devices, but now the way is clear for iOS 8, and already the rumor mill has started cranking. 9to5Mac, which generally has reliable information for first-hand reported rumors, revealed today a couple of details about Apple’s next big mobile OS, which should bring significant changes for Maps.

The Maps saga began when Apple dropped Google Maps for its own, homespun version with iOS 6, and the reaction wasn’t exactly overwhelmingly positive. Apple earned praise for its Maps visual design, but the data was lacking compared to Google, which is understandable given that Google had a massive head start on building its own mapping effort. With iOS 8, the gap should narrow, according to 9to5Mac’s new report, however, as acquisitions of small companies like BroadMap, Embark and HopStop are leading to a major overhaul of the iOS Maps database, making information more reliable.

The breadth of info will also increase, with new points of inters, new labels and better labeling and presentation of streets and other visual representation of information. Finally, after leaving them out of its own Maps solution two years ago, Apple is planning to add public transit directions, which is an oft-requested feature by users. iOS 8 transit directions will be based on data obtained through the acquisitions mentioned above. Embark and HopStop specifically offer a lot of expertise with public transit, so that’s a very promising signal that we’ll get something good with transit in IOS 8.

9to5Mac reports that iOS 8 wil be able to do train, subway and bus routes, and to offer “enhanced directions to major airports,” which might mean taking into account additional, specialized modes of transit like shuttles. It’ll launch in major cities in the U.S. first, and then should expand to smaller metro areas and internationally following that, the report claims. A new mapping view will also be included in addition to transit directions, letting you see nearby stops clearly. Users can request directions for a later time, too, which will take into account route closure times.

Another feature coming later is an augmented reality interface for Maps, which would allow users to see nearby points of interest overlaid on top of a live feed, sort of like Yelp’s Monocle feature. That’s not necessarily going to hit with iOS 8, but instead should arrive in “the coming years.”

Added to 9to5Mac’s earlier report about iOS 8’s so-called ‘Healthbook’ app, this is shaping up to be yet another substantial major iOS update. It’s not likely going to be as dramatic a shift as the visual overhaul of iOS 7, but sounds like it should add a lot in terms of features and functionality for users across a range of different categories.