updated 12:22 pm EDT, Tue October 30, 2012
Filing dates back to before iPhone 3G
Apple has won a patent on the interface for the Maps app in iOS, notes AppleInsider. The patent is officially titled Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for providing maps, directions, and location-based information, and was originally applied for about a month before the iPhone 3G launched in July 2008. Maps debuted on the 3G as a part of iPhone OS 2.0.
The patent's language compares Maps against then-current phones and GPS systems. "Some portable communication devices (e.g., mobile telephones, sometimes called mobile phones, cell phones, cellular telephones, and the like) have resorted to adding more pushbuttons, increasing the density of push buttons, overloading the functions of pushbuttons, or using complex menu systems to allow a user to access, store and manipulate data," Apple writes. By switching to an adaptive, software-based touch interface, the company suggests it should be possible to avoid a "time consuming requirement to memorize multiple key sequences and menu hierarchies."
The patent illustrates a number of the interface concepts that still remain in Maps, such as pinching to zoom or hiding extra options behind the main screen. The app has evolved substantially since 2008 however, and this year ditched Google content and features, generating a firestorm of complaints.