*Guest Post from Simon Drew
When Apple unveiled the beta version of iOS 6 back in the summer, the new Maps app was one of Apple’s proudest additions. Dispensing with Google Maps, the new app promised an impressive 3D flyover mode and turn-by-turn navigation for the first time. But while Apple promised the world back at WWDC it seems that most iPhone owners who have used the new app are less than impressed.
Ungoogling the iPhone
The new app resulted from Apple’s on-going disagreement with Google regarding Android. Apple has been keen to remove the search giant’s presence from its iPhones and iPads including the YouTube and Google Maps apps that have been present since the first iPhone. Apple announced it would not renew its YouTube license and would replace Google Maps with a new app.
Aside from penalising Google the new app would allow Apple to introduce many features that had long been absent from the Maps app on the iPhone. While Google includes turn-by-turn navigation on its Android app it did not offer the same feature for iOS. By having complete control over the app Apple has been able to introduce turn-by-turn navigation by teaming up with TomTom. The 3D flyover mode was developed in-house to give the new app an edge over Google Maps, and local business information would be provided by Yelp instead of Google.
While most reviews of the iPhone 5 have been largely positive the new Maps app has been the biggest source of criticism. Professional critics have dismissed the app merely due to the loss of core Google features, but Apple’s problems seem to go far deeper than that. There has been a barrage of complaints from iPhone owners who have updated to iOS 6 in the past few days and found the new maps app to compare fairly poorly with the old app.
The complaints cover a wide range of problems. Even though many famous landmarks have come out looking great, 3D maps are sometimes badly rendered. Businesses are located at the wrong locations; many bus stops and train stations are either missing or in the wrong place; in the UK, shops which have been out of business for many years, including Our Price and C&A, are still displayed in their former locations; and many people have accused the TomTom navigation system of sending them in the completely wrong direction. Even major towns and cities are labelled incorrectly or not labelled at all.
TomTom insists there is nothing wrong with its navigation software and that the fault lies with Apple and the way the feature has been implemented. It seems that much of the faulty business information which has come from Yelp has not been updated for some time, and in some cases is years out of date.
As for the 3D rendering problems, Apple has already started looking for new developers with experience in the field who will hopefully be able to smooth over the problems. Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller stated “We are continuously improving it, and as Maps is a cloud-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get.”
Google Maps has benefitted from years of user submitted content for things like business locations and so it is no surprise that Apple Maps is a little Spartan in comparison. As Miller points out, the service will improve as more people use it and most of the initial discrepancies regarding business locations should be ironed out fairly quickly.
However, people are right to be angered about businesses being labelled incorrectly or being navigated in the wrong direction. It seems to many people that in this instance Apple has cared more about screwing over Google than the user experience it offers to its customers.
There have been rumours that amidst these mapping blunders that Google may launch a new Google Maps app to the App Store like they did with YouTube. Although Google has not made any official comment some Google employees have indicated that the company has no plans to release such an app.
The iPhone 5 went on sale globally today and is expected to become the biggest selling smartphone in history. Apple already managed to shift 2 million within the first hour of online pre-orders.
Simon writes for UK comparison site Best Mobile Contracts