updated 10:01 pm EDT, Tue March 12, 2013
In-store availability checks, expanded Flyover and 3D buildings
Apple on Tuesday updated both its Apple Store buying app and (in a "silent" update) Maps application with expanded options. The Apple Store app (free) now features in-store availability checking, and more finely-grained delivery options -- making it possible for customers to choose to have some items delivered and some for pickup, notes AppleInsider. The Maps app, which has already received smaller "invisible" bugfixes since its debut, dramatically expanded its Flyover cities and other features in recent days.
The Apple Store application, which provides users with lists of what Apple carries in its corporate store as well as helps arrange payment and pickup options, was updated to version 2.5 -- further streamlining the process from ordering to payment to delivery. The app can now contact local Apple stores and let buyers know if the item is available for immediate pickup at a nearby location, saving them wait time for mail delivery or avoiding disappointment on a spontaneous store visit. The feature is currently limited to the US only, but is likely to expand to international stores -- likely earlier in countries where Apple has a number of locations.
The company has recently been updating its Maps application "silently" (without any need for users to update the actual application), improving existing Flyover support in some cities and adding others. Three-dimensional renderings of buildings have been improved, more international "points of interest" and more accurate address data has been added, and Chinese maps have been given a new coloring scheme to go along with improved readability and road network changes, reports The Loop.
Among the cities that have had Flyover support added are Modesto and Stockton, CA and Vancouver BC; Indianapolis IN, Minneapolis MN and Green Bay WI; Cleveland OH and Tulsa OK; Albany and Buffalo NY; Portland ME, Providence RI and Baltimore MD. Also added were Glasgow, Scotland and Cologne, Germany. Expanded Flyover and 3D building coverage has been added to London, England; Barcelona and Madrid, Spain; Lyon, France; Berlin and Munich, Germany; Copenhagen, Denmark, Stockholm Sweden and Rome, Italy.
North American locations that have gained improved Flyover coverage include Portland OR and Houston TX; Toronto, Ontario in Canada; Birmingham, AL and Boston MA. Apple has recently been seen to be hiring numerous engineers to expand the Maps team, signalling a redoubling of efforts to correct any lingering issues or errors that marred the program's initial debut and cost several Apple executives their jobs.
The program recently beat both Google Maps and third-party app Waze in a driving test around the San Francisco metropolitan area, and has previous matched or surpassed Google Maps and dedicated GPS units in other US cities. While still having some issues in some locations, driving directions in major cities appears to be functioning as well or better than other solutions.