Apple’s iPhones could get significantly better maps of Australia soon after the company committed to new ground surveys. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
Apple’s iPhones could get significantly better maps of Australia soon after the company committed to new ground surveys. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Apple prepares Google map attack

Apple is preparing to launch a serious challenge to rival tech giant Google, revealing plans to send vehicles throughout Australia over the next year to develop an advanced and privacy-friendly version of its Map app.

Experts say the move is a direct challenge to the stranglehold of Google Maps, and could appeal to smartphone users "concerned about the use of their data by Google".

Apple's announcement comes just days after Australia's consumer watchdog launched legal action against Google over claims it misled users about when it tracked their location information.

Apple says its updated Maps app will deliver more detailed information. Picture: Supplied
Apple says its updated Maps app will deliver more detailed information. Picture: Supplied

The iPhone maker revealed customised Apple cars and planes would cover all eight Australian states and territories over the next 13 months, starting today.

"Apple is conducting ground surveys around the world to collect data to improve Apple Maps, and in support of the Look Around feature," the company said on its website.

The vehicles are expected to capture 360-degree images for Look Around, which will be a direct challenger to Google's Streetview and promises to offer "street-level imagery of a city with smooth and seamless transitions".

Apple is also expected to use its new data to deliver greater details of road coverage, pedestrian access, and addresses to improve its existing Maps app.

Faces and licence plates captured by Apple's cars would be "censored," it said and, unlike Google, Apple would continue to scramble and separate navigation information from users' profiles so no companies would "know your entire route".

Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said Apple's challenge to Google Maps was a smart move as it would likely appeal to users concerned looking for "better data privacy" from their smartphones and apps.

Apple plans to launch improvements to its Maps app, including 360-degree Look Around view that will challenge Google Streetview. Picture: Supplied
Apple plans to launch improvements to its Maps app, including 360-degree Look Around view that will challenge Google Streetview. Picture: Supplied

"Increasingly, Apple users are concerned about the use of their data by Google and Google's apps on the iPhone platform," he said.

"While it might seem futile to be replicating a service that works well for most people, the option of having something that doesn't use your data in the same way Google does will be quite appealing to Apple's user base."

Apple's challenge also comes just days after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed a case against Google Australia in Federal Court, alleging that the tech giant misled its users about what information they were collecting from them.

The watchdog claimed that between 2017 and 2018, Google did not adequately educate users about how to stop the company from tracking their location in smartphone apps and using it to sell advertising to third parties.

The ACCC is seeking "significant" penalties against the company, as well as published corrections, and a compliance program.

A Google spokeswoman said the company was reviewing the case and would defend its actions.