Apple Maps Is Preparing to Kick Yelp to the Curb

Apple Maps Joshua Tree National Park from Spring Loaded event Credit: Apple
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Alongside the new “Guides” feature added to Apple Maps in iOS 14 last year, Apple also more quietly snuck in a new user interface for places of interest that suggested it was preparing its own native rating system. Now it looks like it’s getting ready to turn the key and activate it for Apple Maps users in the U.S. in the very near future.

Last year, a 9to5Mac reader stumbled across screens in an iOS 14 beta that not only allowed users to submit their own photos and ratings for points of interest, but even went so far as to provide an introductory overview screen announcing the feature.

While that obviously popped up in the beta by mistake, considering that the screen hasn’t been seen since, an observant Reddit user noticed its appearance in a screenshot during Apple’s Spring Loaded event earlier this week.

It’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moment during the unveiling of Apple’s new 24-inch M1 iMac by Senior Product Marketing Manager Colleen Novielli.

As the Redditor notes, an image of Apple Maps running on the new iMac clearly shows an info card for “Joshua Tree National Park” with thumbs-up and thumbs-down recommendation buttons that don’t typically appear in Apple Maps.

In fact, the buttons don’t even show up for this location in Apple Maps running on the latest macOS Big Sur 11.3 release candidate, nor on the release candidates for iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5.

This suggests it’s something that Apple needs to enable on the back-end, which makes sense as we already know that at least some of the code for this has been hiding in Apple Maps since last summer’s iOS 14 betas.

To be fair, Apple has rolled out a patchwork of these native ratings in a few other places like the U.K. and Australia, however even in those countries it’s not yet available for all points of interest.

However, as MacRumors notes, the screenshot from this week’s event is the first time the feature has made an appearance for any U.S. location.

What’s Coming

While divorcing itself from third-party services like Yelp and TripAdvisor won’t likely happen overnight, it’s clear that Apple is continuing to move in this direction.

The introduction of Guides in iOS 14 was an important first step, and while the screenshot in question still shows photos and reviews provided by Yelp, it’s likely that Apple will continue to offer these up while it’s building up its own database of reviews from Apple Maps users.

From what we’ve been able to determine so far, users will see thumbs up/down recommendation buttons for points of interest that they’ve physically visited, broken down into appropriate sub-categories for what that business or location offers, such as the quality of products in a store, or amenities in a hotel.

Users will also be able to contribute their own photos, which will presumably eventually supplant those that Apple pulls from Yelp.

At this point, however, it doesn’t look like users will be able to add any actual text — it seems to be confined to a simple thumbs-up/down rating system. Whether Apple intends to do away with text-based reviews entirely or continue linking out to Yelp for those remains to be seen, but based on the company’s usual approach to try to bring as many features as it can in-house, we suspect that Yelp’s days of priority placement in Apple Maps are numbered.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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