iOS 6 Maps App, Facebook Integration Top List of Apple WWDC Announcements

Apple showed off gorgeous hardware at its WWDC keynote, but its Maps app, as well as Facebook integration in iOS 6, are the announcements expected to have the most profound impact on its ability to beat back Google.

Apple€™s introduction of a new Maps app in iOS 6 is expected to not just seamlessly guide users to destinations with the help of spoken directions, but to fortify the Apple empire as it does battle with rising numbers of devices running Google€™s Android OS.

With the addition of Apple€™s Maps to iPhones and iPads, Google€™s Maps€”said to be the second most-used app after iTunes€”is no longer so necessary.

Piper Jaffray analysts believed Maps and iOS€™ Facebook integration€”both expected announcements€”were still the biggest takeaways from the keynote address at Apple€™s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) June 11, indicating that €œApple is strengthening not only the interaction within its own ecosystem, but also creating a consortium of powerful Web partners to offer an experience that largely falls outside of Google€™s walls,€ they wrote in a research note the same day.

Since Google is unlikely to ever engage in a similar partnership with Facebook, the result is that the iPhone is €œthe de-facto €˜Facebook phone,€™€ they added.

9to5Mac and others reported that Apple, working to create a mapping app, had purchased Swedish 3D mapping solutions company C3 Technologies, which uses declassified missile-targeting methods to create 3D maps.

Engadget reported June 12€”showing a screen shot of the Maps acknowledgment page€”that Apple has also received help from TomTom. The mapping company confirmed to the tech site that it €œhas signed a global agreement with Apple for maps and related information.€

Google recently showed off updates to its mapping software, but these can be taken advantage of only through Google Earth on a computer. Contrary to Android€™s fragmented platform, which makes adoption slower, Apple is in a better position to swiftly change its ecosystem.

One out of two Google Map searches comes from an Apple device, financial advisor Zvi Bar wrote in a June 12 article on Seeking Alpha, also highlighting the importance of this small part of Apple€™s major announcements.

Given the competition between these €œtechnology powerhouses,€ Bar wrote, €œit could be expected that Apple may eventually also integrate its mapping technology into its Safari browser and Mac OS, only further reducing the volume of map searches made through Google.€

This would hurt Google in two ways, Bar explained. First, it would minimize Google€™s opportunities to monetize each of those searches with ads€”a primary source of Google€™s outcome€”while also, over time, lessening the quality of Google Maps.

€œGoogle uses data from mobile searches to not only improve its mapping service but also to provide integrated features such as real-time traffic updating,€ said Bar.

Apple€™s iOS enhancements, wrote the Piper Jaffray analysts, gave them greater confidence that, while Android will maintain a €œhealthy market share lead,€ Apple now has the groundwork in place to gain market share €œfaster than Android in the U.S. and potentially in Western Europe over the next year,€ which they estimate to account for nearly 65 percent of iPhone shipments.

While iPhones currently account for 23 percent of the smartphone market, they expect that to increase to 33 percent in 2015.

Apple said that iOS 6 will be available in the fall, the Piper Jaffray analysts added, which coincides with an expected October launch of the iPhone 5. Apple, however, gave no €œmeaningful clues€ at WWDC, they added, about what the newest iPhone might look like.

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter @eWEEK_Michelle.