Rumor: Apple Adding Photorealistic 3D Maps to iOS 6, Dumping Google Tech

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C3 Technologies / YouTube

Goodbye Google Maps for iOS, hello Apple in-house developed mapping tool with a stunning, unlike-anyone-else 3D angle? That’s what 9to5Mac says it’s heard from “trusted sources,” and that the overhauled Maps app is in the offing for iOS 6.

Apple will jettison Google’s mapping backend in its next major iteration of iOS, say these sources, in trade for a brand new Apple-crafted map tool that will function much like the current version, only powered by backend Apple technology. According to 9to5Mac, the new version is said to be “a much cleaner, faster, and more reliable experience,” too.

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The rumor lines up with Cupertino’s purchases of mapping companies Placebase (in July 2009), Poly9 (in July 2010) and C3 Technologies (in August 2011). The obvious question: Why else would Apple snap up three mapmaking outfits?

When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, it selected Google to drive iOS’s mapping tech, and it’s testament to the power and facility of Google Maps that Apple’s stuck with Google this long — the two companies extended their partnership prior to iOS 5’s launch. But that partnership will come to an end when iOS 6 arrives, says 9to5Mac, adding that the app will be renamed “Maps,” though…isn’t that what it’s already called? (Hint: Check your iOS map app shortcut.)

The feature 9to5Mac calls “incredible” (preemptively — they’ve yet to lay so much as an eyeball on anything) is the new app’s 3D mode, which they say employs C3 Technologies’ mapping tech: The company claims to offer photorealistic three-dimensional models of street-level views (that’s a snapshot from a C3 demo video rendering Hoover Dam above). If Apple’s somehow managed to get that working on the iPhone, at that level of detail, capable of loading and rendering quickly over a 3G connection, it would indeed be a sight to see.

Another point 9to5Mac sees as indicative the technology is incoming: C3’s top execs recently jumped ship, suggesting they’ve finished whatever it was Apple had them working on.

That’s a lot of reaching, and these “sources” get things wrong (or the timing for them) as often as they do right, but word is we’ll see Apple’s new mapping technology along with iOS 6 at Apple’s WWDC conference, which runs from June 11-15 in San Francisco.

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