Is Apple Taking Its Maps to New Places?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent Thursday that hints at some future plans for Apple Maps; the iOS-based maps could be making their way to the web.

When Apple released iOS 6 in the second half of 2012, it replaced Google Maps as the standard map application with its own proprietary Apple Maps app. But, anyone familiar with the application probably know that it was plagued with problems. Sometimes it wouldn’t show locations, it had visual deformities, and it even guided people along risky routes to their input destinations.

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Since the launch of Apple Maps, the company has been doing a good bit of work to improve it. It canned the man responsible for the app, Richard Williamson, who was recently reported to have moved over to work with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). Some changes to the application and improvements — like 3-dimensional flyover imagery — have been added to the maps recently, but those changes didn’t make them perfect…

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook even went so far as to suggest other map applications, including the displaced Google Maps, as alternatives for users while they waited for Apple Maps to improve to acceptable levels. The patent describes a feature that may not be what brings Apple Maps to that acceptable level, but it certainly could be considered an improvement — if it’s actually implemented.

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The patent describes a feature for printing off paper versions of maps and directions that are organized better than current map printouts. The patent suggests that other printouts “are often cluttered or poorly laid out, and can be confusing.” Apple has tried to solve that.

Just as Apple sought to gain protection for the layout and style of its Apple Stores, this patent application is particularly focused on layout and organization and suggests that map images and relevant guidance data would be kept on a page together…

One other big note in the patent is that Apple mentions using this printing technique for web-based mapping software. Currently, Apple Maps only run on iOS devices. So, the wording suggests that Apple could be looking to expand the presence of its maps to include web browsers, opening it up to a much wider audience. Though, considering that the iPhone maker still has some things to fix for Apple Maps, it may be a little while before the company actually implements the technique.

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