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Apple Drops Google Maps For New iPhoto App (UPDATE)

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When Apple unveiled the new iPhoto app for iPad and iPhone on Wednesday, there was one conspicuous absence: geotagging via Google Maps. While iPhoto does uses a mapping service for tagging locations where photos are taken, the maps used are not Google-branded.

According to Apple Insider, the maps that appear in the new iPhoto for iPhone appear uncredited (whereas Google Maps proudly display the Google logo), have a different overall look from Google's maps and offer fewer details and less zoom control.

So what's the deal with these mystery maps Apple's now using?

The company has apparently ditched Google Maps for an open source project run by the non-profit OpenStreetMap Foundation,* whose goal is to "create and provide free map data to anyone who wants them." The Foundation on Thursday posted a (somewhat surprised-sounding) welcome message for Apple on its official blog. From OpenStreetMap's post:

"[Wednesday] Apple launched iPhoto, its photo management app, for the iPad and iPhone… and we’re rather pleased to find they’re the latest to switch to OpenStreetMap. [...] The desktop version of iPhoto, and indeed all of Apple’s iOS apps until now, use Google Maps. The new iPhoto for iOS, however, uses Apple’s own map tiles – made from OpenStreetMap data (outside the US)."

As evidence, OpenStreetMap (OSM) links to a comparison between the iPhoto app's map of Spain and OSM's Spain map, in which the two maps are overlaid. Although, as Mashable points out, there are clear differences in design between the maps, their locations seem to line up. OpenStreetMap attributes any discrepancies to the fact that Apple appears to be using data from April 2010.

According to Wired, OpenStreetMap data is only being used outside of the United States.
Foursquare also cites several app makers that have also moved away from Google Maps, including real estate portal StreetEasy, property search engine Nestoria and website-builder Fubra.

According to an article on Digital Trends, pricing was another big reason Foursquare dropped Google Maps. Indeed, Street Easy's Sebastian Delmon has shared similar thoughts about the cost of Google Maps.

In a post on his Google+ page Delmon said that a recent change to Google Map's pricing structure would have cost StreetEasy between $200,000 and $300,000 per year. Instead, the company's new mapping services partnership with OpenStreetMap will cost around $10,000 per year. But it's not just the money, Delmont noted. Similar to Foursquare, StreetEasy was intrigued by the customizations that could be done using OpenStreetMap data and MapBox. "[Google Maps] had it's downsides. One is that your site looks just like every other site with maps on the Internet," wrote Delmont.

In November, Google said that beginning in 2012, it would begin charging some companies for the use of Google Maps on their websites. While Maps remain free for most websites, those that get over 25,000 Google Maps clicks in one 24-hour period would subsequently be charged $4 for every 1,000 clicks, according to BBC News. At that time there were murmurs that Apple was looking for a way to ditch Google Maps, and Apple Insider reported that Apple was working on its own mapping application.

*[UPDATE: OpenStreetMap is reportedly only being used on iPhoto iOS apps outside the United States. Within the U.S., "map data appears to be gleaned from a number of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and possibly the U.S. Geological Survey," according to Wired. ]

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