updated 10:25 am EST, Tue January 6, 2009
iPhone nav patent
Apple is laying claim to the navigation interface provided by the iPhone, a new patent application reveals. Published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the filing is simply titled Touch Screen Device, Method, and Graphical User Interface for Providing Maps, Directions, and Location-Based Information. Apple begins its claim by noting that as the number of functions presented by handhelds grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to build a matching interface, and multiplying the number of buttons present may be useless when dealing with applications such as Google Maps.
By providing a touchscreen interface, the patent suggests, it is possible not only to avoid adding buttons, but to allow apps to dictate the interface layout rather than the other way around. Similarly, it becomes possible for users to focus on the app rather than key combinations or menu hierarchies.
Apple's filing goes on to describe a device like the iPhone, and specifically the interface for iPhone version of Google Maps. Concepts such as contacts and bookmarks are detailed, as well as the various finger gestures used to enter commands or move around a map.
Google Maps has often been considered one of the primary selling points of the iPhone, as until devices like the T-Mobile G1 appeared, it provided one of the few (if not only) easy map interfaces for a cellphone. The iPhone 3G improved on this functionality with a built-in GPS unit, allowing Maps to more accurately pinpoint a user and find nearby businesses and attractions.