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Apple iOS 6 Maps cuts Google's exclusive lock on directions, opens door to third party apps

Siri Integration

Unsurprisingly, when you ask Siri about nearby locations or for directions, you can jump right into Maps to find your way to there, with Siri voicing your turns along the way. And conversely, when you ask Siri about nearby locations (such as a gas station) while being directed to a destination, Siri will respond with results along your path (below)

This integration is the basis for Apple's "Eyes Free" initiative to enable car makers to delegate navigation and related features to a linked iOS device, operating in Siri's voice-only mode to avoid visual distractions while driving.

Eyes Free

Live traffic information

Along with suggesting alternative driving routes, iOS 6 Maps also tracks real time traffic information and updates its estimated arrival time dynamically as this data changes. In the case of an accident or change in traffic, Apple says Maps will suggest route alternatives along with way, too, just as dedicated GPS systems do.

Similarly, if you take a different turn than what is suggested, Maps will recalculate a new path. Apple first revealed its plans for "collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database" in April of last year, noting that it planned to launch an "improved traffic service in the next couple of years."

The new iOS 6 Maps in development already demonstrates the beginnings of this new infrastructure with red highlighting on the map where traffic is moving slow (below left), and indicating traffic issues along alternative paths before you being your trip (below right). Once the installed base of iPhone users migrates to iOS 6, Apple will have tremendous amounts of real time data to present and use in calculating routes for Maps users.

On the flip side, Google will also begin losing the constant updates it gets from iOS clients, forcing it to rely on the subset of Android users who get their data from Google. It's noteworthy that a variety of Android devices are already hardwired to alternative mapping systems, including the recent mapping partnership between Amazon and Nokia.

On page 3 of 3: Walking & Transit directions