iOS now uses Apple’s own location database

Sat, Jul 31, 2010


It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that Apple relishes controlling as much of the underlying technology in its products as possible. That being the case, Techcrunch points us to a telling, yet until now overlooked, portion of Apple’s response to a congressional inquiry regarding Apple’s policies as they pertain to privacy and user data.

On page 5 of Apple’s 13 page response, the company notes:

To provide the high quality products and services that its customers demand, Apple must have access to comprehensive location-based information. For devices running iPhone OS versions 1.1.3 to 3.1, Apple relied on (and still relies on) databases maintained by Google and SkyhookWireless (“Skyhook”) to provide location-based services. Beginning with the iPhone OS version 3.2 released in April 2010, Apple relies on its own databases to provide location-based services and for diagnostic purposes. These databases must be updated continuously to account for, among other things, the ever-changing physical landscape, more innovative uses of mobile technology, and the increasing number of Apple’s customers. Apple has always taken great care to protect the privacy of its customers.

Apple had previously relied on location databases from Google and Skyhook, and indeed devices running older versions of iOS still do, but it appears that iOS devices will eventually all make use of Apple’s own location database. This is just the latest sign of Apple’s growing desire to minimize the influence of Google in its mobile software.

Previously sharing a abnormally close relationship by Silicon Valley standards, Apple and Google are now clearly on the outs, a process which got underway with Google’s Android push and culminated with Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigning from Apple’s board. Since then, Apple has upped the ante by pushing into Google’s core competency with iAds, not to mention all of the attention Apple has been paying to mapping services as of late.

Back in July of 2009, Apple purchased “PlaceBase”, a mapping company specializing in map customizations and unique aggregation options such as the ability to aggregate crime data and overlay that information over corresponding map locations. More recently, Apple purchased a Canadian based 3D mapping company called Poly 9, a firm widely respected for their talent and and creativity.

And so Apple’s never ending quest for self-reliance continues.



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