When Apple replaced Google Maps on iOS in favor of its own app in 2012, critics noted that Apple Maps was sorely missing the ability to provide transit directions. And in its absence, third-party apps have been filling the transit-direction role ever since on iOS. But Apple may be looking to get into the commute and transit game with its own solution, as detailed in two patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patents, titled “User Interface Tools for Commute Assistant” and “Location-Based Features for Commute Assistant,” go into great detail about Apple’s take on a mass transit and commuting app. The first invention describes a user interface designed to show routes and schedules for several modes of transit, such as buses, trains, shuttles, subways and planes. The second invention rolls in various location-based features, such as points of interests and live mapping features. Combined, the patents point to a unified transit app that covers almost all modes of mass transportation.


Apple Dynamic Focus Table A patent illustration of Apple's Commute app "dynamic focus table" Photo: USPTO/Apple

The technology relies on a “dynamic focus table,” which is best described as a list of transit options that can be updated based off location, time and even third-party data, such as service advisories and route changes from a transit operator. In some embodiments of the patents, users have the ability to see future transit options, countdown timers, save favorites and set up advisory alerts as well.

It’s unknown if or when Apple plans to introduce the app in a future version of iOS, but it’s a feature that has been requested by its customers for some time. And at Apple’s WorldWide Developers Conference earlier this year, the feature was highly rumored after a screenshot of iOS 8’s maps app displayed a transit icon during a WWDC session, according to BGR. The patent applications, filed on Nov. 15, 2013, came as Apple acquired a number of transit and mapping-related technologies last year, including Embark, HopStop, Locationary and Broadmap. In lieu of a transit feature in Apple Maps, the company has continued to redirect direction requests to other third-party solutions such as Transit, and Google's own mapping application.


Apple commute service advisory A Patent filing illustration detailing the commute App's ability to notify users of service advisories Photo: USPTO/Apple