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Apple's iOS now uses its own Maps location databases


Starting with iOS 3.2 for the iPad in April, Apple began relying on its own databases for location-based services, in addition to utilizing Google's map data for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

As first noted by TechCrunch, Apple revealed the change earlier this month in a letter to two U.S. congressmen, who inquired with the Cupertino, Calif., company about its privacy policy for the iOS mobile operating system. On page 5 of that 13-page letter, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell revealed that beginning with iOS 3.2 on the iPad in April, his company began to integrate its own database solutions.

"For devices running iPhone OS versions 1.1.3 to 3.1, Apple relied on (and still relies on) databases maintained by Google and Skyhook Wireless ("Skyhook") to provide location-based services," Sewell wrote. "Beginning with the iPhone OS version 3.2 released in April 2010, Apple relies on its own databases to provide location-based services and for diagnostic purposes."

However, the default Maps application within iOS still reads "Google" in the lower left corner, showing that Apple continues to on the search giant for the maps themselves. In addition, all iOS devices still rely on Google's Street View feature as well.

But the change in iOS 3.2 means that Apple now controls its own location services, through GPS tracking, and could signal that Apple plans to rely solely on its own technology in the future.

Such a move wouldn't be completely unexpected, as Apple has made a number of key acquisitions related to mapping. Last year, it acquired Google Maps competitor Placebase, and this month it purchased Poly9, a Canadian company that creates interactive 3D maps.

Some have speculated that the acquisitions of Placebase and Poly9, along with the growing rivalry with search giant Google, is a sign that Apple plans to create its own mapping software for use on mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Further evidence that Apple could pursue its own comprehensive mapping database came last November, when a company job listing sought to hire someone to help take the iPhone's Maps application "to the next level." It said that the company intended to "rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things. We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way. We've only just started."