Besides the main 64-bit A7 processor in the new iPhone 5s, Apple has included a dedicated motion co-processor called the M7. The chip powers many of the sensor technologies in the iPhone, such as the accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope in order to move the weight off of those technologies from the phone’s main chip. This, in turn, will make the new iPhone more efficient for both performance and battery life for the user.
Apple briefly explained some of the consumer-facing abilities of the M7 motion chip, highlighting that the chip could greatly enhance fitness apps such as those from Nike. But, just like with the new iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner, Apple’s ambitions for the M7 are greater than those discussed earlier this week. According to a source with knowledge of the chip’s development, Apple plans to tightly integrate the chip with its own Maps service in the coming years.
On its official website, Apple presents a brief teaser of what the M7 can do, highlighting a feature in the iPhone 5s (which was not discussed during the keynote presentation):
M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Since M7 can tell when you’re in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won’t ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn’t moved for a while, like when you’re asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery.
As Apple explains, the M7 can tell when an iPhone 5s user is in a moving vehicle. With this knowledge, the iPhone 5s will not try to join WiFi networks that come up around your car (which will save battery life). An even more helpful feature is that Maps will be able to automatically transition from driving directions to walking directions as you leave your car. While this functionality is interesting, we’re told that Apple is working on further enhancements for the future.
Sources say that Apple is testing a tool for its Maps app that, with the M7 chip, could analyze when your car is parked. When you park your car, the iPhone will register the car’s location. Now when you return to the parking lot, your iPhone will be able to help you assist with finding your car since it knows the vehicle’s location.
Besides the car-finding feature, Apple is also working on other mapping features. Apple is said to be planning notable updates to its Maps app in iOS 8, and the company is currently working on implementing both public transit directions and indoor mapping features (which Google already has on iOS). Over the past few months, Apple has acquired several companies that focus on transit, so it should not be too surprising that the company is working on integrating its new data into its Maps app. It is currently unconfirmed if Apple is on target to ship the new Maps with the next major iOS release, but it is the current plan.