LONDON -- Apple is expanding the capabilities of its maps app in Europe to help users charge their electric vehicles or find bike rental hubs, in another bid to keep iPhone users away from rival Google.
The company has added the locations of many of the UK's EV charging stations by incorporating data from Munich-based Cirrantic's Moovility service, which lists charging points for cars made by Tesla and Nissan, among others.
It has also added public bicycle rental and drop-off points to maps of London, New York and Paris in a catch-up to long-time mobile navigation leader Google, which has listed such stations in multiple countries for some time.
Improving its mapping products has become a key focal point for Apple in its battle with Google. In May last year, Apple's CEO Tim Cook said his company would open a new Indian development center in Hyderabad, with a specific focus on speeding up the development of more competitive mapping tools. It plans to employ as many as 4,000 people in that facility.
In December, Bloomberg reported that Apple is assembling a team to use drones to create and update map information faster than it can currently do with camera-equipped road vehicles.
"There are thousands of layers of useful information that could be added to digital maps as an overlay," said Martin Garner, an analyst at CCS Insight, "and there's a benefit in becoming known for adding as many as possible. But adding overlays like this is an enormous undertaking and needs an industrial approach in order to source, manage and maintain the information for a large number of layers across many countries."
Apple first integrated transit information for the UK into Apple Maps in December, which includes route information for trains and buses across the nation, as well as London Underground services in the capital.
According to data compiled by Zap-Map, there are just under 4,400 locations in Britain for recharging an EV. More than 3,000 of these will now be marked in Apple Maps. To identify these, Apple is using live data provided by Cirrantic, a mobility services company founded in 2014, and pinpointing EV charge points on a map. Google lists charging points globally but doesn't explicitly label them with easily identifiable icons.
"We think that consistent, live information of the growing charger infrastructure increases the confidence of EV drivers and, especially with Apple Maps, attracts new user groups to sustainable mobility offerings like EV cars," said Arne Meusel, CEO and co-founder of Cirrantic. "In the UK we started with supporting the major charger operators, including Podpoint, CYC, Ecotricity, NPower and NewMotion. Any interested operator is welcome to set up a connection with us."