Apple’s upcoming iOS refresh will have a lot of surprises but one thing is almost certain. Apple will upgrade its native maps application, voice control integration, and cloud features. Google’s Android operating system has been churning out more and more innovative updates in these areas and now has a mature native mapping framework that does turn-by-turn-satellite imagery, 3D, etc. Android even has some fantastic voice navigation software to top off the package. They are rumored to be working on (and even have shown off) iTunes in the cloud as well.
There isn’t much else that puts Android over Apple so eliminating these strengths is a core mission for Apple in iOS 5. Over the past few years, Apple has been at work creating a superior maps application, a true voice navigation system, and new cloud features. This year, with iOS 5, Apple will put their purchases to use.
First is maps. Apple purchased a company called PlaceBase in 2008 to create their own maps application without the use of Google’s backend. This would not only give Apple even more control of their operating system (which they obviously love) but would allow them to issue updates more frequently. For example, the look and feature set of the Google Maps application on the iPhone has gone virtually unchanged since the first iPhone.
Next is voice navigation. Besides the report from the well-informed Wall Street Journal about voice navigation in the next iPhone, Apple bought a company recently called Siri. Siri built a technology that couples accurate voice recognition with powerful search tools. Apple has also been looking for people to work on “Google-voice like voice navigation” for iOS. Apple even has a rudimentary Voice Control application in iOS, but it’s not that great. Apple has had foundation for powerful voice navigation since the iPhone 3GS and now with the proper tools they are working on something great. Full-fledged voice navigation in iOS 5.
Finally, Apple purchased Lala mostly for the talent but that talent was geared towards building a Cloud locker for music. We know Google is working on a similar iTunes in the sky so getting it right is important.
These are three areas we’re likely to see major innovation in iOS 5, but obviously there will be much, much more.