Apple allegedly working on Maps car-finding feature

iPhone 5s promo (A7 chip closeup 002)

Apple hasn’t talked much about its new M7 motion coprocessor that was specifically designed to work alongside the A7 chip inside the iPhone 5s to improve battery life by offloading some tasks that don’t require the full power of the main A7 processor.

Some of these tasks include polling motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass sensors without waking up the A7 chip

According to a new report, Apple has bigger plans for the M7 chip and could use it to enable new geolocation Maps features in a way that won’t bring a significant hit on the battery…

Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac learned from his sources that a new car-finding Maps feature is being tested:

Sources say that Apple is testing a tool for its Maps app that, with the M7 chip, could analyze when your car is parked. When you park your car, the iPhone will register the car’s location.

Now, when you return to a parking lot (for example) to locating your car, your iPhone will be able to help you assist with finding your car since it knows the vehicle’s location.

So far, the M7 silicon inside the iPhone 5s gathers data from iPhone sensors without having even to wake up the main A7 processor. It can also determine when you’re in a moving vehicle so the device doesn’t try t join Wi-Fi networks constantly and knows when you’re transition from driving directions to walking directions.

iPhone 5s keynote (M7 specs slide)

Apple on its part describes the M7 coprocessor as the A7’s sidekick:

The new M7 coprocessor is like a sidekick to the A7 chip. It’s designed specifically to measure motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass — a task that would normally fall to the A7 chip.But M7 is much more efficient at it.

Now fitness apps that track physical activity can access that data from the M7 coprocessor without constantly engaging the A7 chip. So they require less battery power.

More importantly, the M7 works in tandem with clever software to deliver power-savvy Maps features:

M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot.

Since M7 can tell when you’re in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won’t ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn’t moved for a while, like when you’re asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery.

Gurman also states that “other” mapping features dependant on the M7 chip are being planned.

“Notable updates” to the in-house Maps app are in the cards for iOS 8. Apple also continues work on implementing both public transit directions and indoor mapping features, the blogger claims, adding it’s currently “unconfirmed if Apple is on target to ship the new Maps with the next major iOS release, but it is the current plan”.

As for the Maps car-finding feature, I’ve tried a bunch of apps that attempt to solve this modern society problem and could get my head around using any of these. There’s too much mind work involved in having to remember to start an up when I park my car.

If Gurman is right, Apple is about to solve another first-world problem for its users. Knowing the company’s penchant for keepings things simple, its solution should “just work”.