May 19, 2012, 7:25 AM — That Apple is working on a substantial update to its Maps app seems a foregone conclusion at this point. But aside from the occasional vague rumor, any features that might be contained in such an update have remained shrouded in shadow.
Maps is clearly an important part of iOS, but Apple's let it languish even as other parties--like Android--have leapt ahead. If iOS 6 does indeed bring a new version of Maps, there are some features that might help it catch up to, and overtake, the competition.
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Turn-by-turn: Apple doesn't particularly mind playing catch-up to its competitors, especially if it means taking the time to create a fully thought-out implementation rather than be first to market. While there are plenty of viable third-party GPS apps for iOS, they're often pricey additions with hefty downloaded map packs. And it has to be galling for the company to lack a feature that Google built into Android back in 2009. This is one place that Apple's mobile competitors have had the advantage, so it seems a likely area for Apple to focus its efforts.
Siri: Earlier this year, Google added the ability to specify a navigation destination by voice, but Siri's natural language interactions are potentially an even bigger boon. While the virtual assistant already lets you specify a navigation direction, it can't yet step you through the process, or help you, say, change your destination mid-trip. Plus, it's a nice improvement over most GPS units' synthesized voices, which lack much of a vocabulary beyond "Recalculating."
Dashboard mode: The current directions interface for Google Maps on iOS is sufficient for cases when you're navigating from the passenger seat, or even on foot, but if you're driving solo, it's downright dangerous. Siri's voice navigation might help diminish that risk, but in situations when you do need to go hands-on, a more dashboard-friendly interface would be quite handy. And if you guessed that Android already has something similar, you get a gold star.