Apple Built Separate Maps App for China

Apple built a separate Maps app for China, according to The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper said that mapping restrictions in China and other issues specific to the communist country resulted in Apple building a special version of maps for customers inside China.

You Are Here (in China)

According to the report, there are only 11 companies who have a license to perform comprehensive mapping services within China, and at least half of those companies exclusively service the Chinese government. TomTom, the company Apple partnered with for the rest of the globe, is not one of those 11, which means that Apple needed to turn to a China-specific map services company to do business in the world's largest market.

Apple turned to AutoNavi, the largest map company in China. AutoNavi powers Baidu's—China's equivalent to Google—maps, and even Google itself incorporates AutoNavi's data into its own Google Maps data. In other words, Apple's working with the top dog in China mapping.

The Journal said that Apple hasn't incorporated the AutoNavi data with its data outside of China, possibly due to restrictions on that data. At the same time, customers inside China don't get access to some street-level features when looking at an area outside of China, and they also can't see anywhere outside of China when choosing satellite view.

Inside China, Apple hasn't implemented spoken driving directions or the 3D flyover mode Apple developed for other parts of the globe. Users can get text-based driving directions inside China, however.

All of which underscores the complexity of doing business inside China, a market of over one billion people.