Apple is taking a painful public beating right now on its new mapping app. Some people are even starting to get a bit hysterical over some of its failings. It’s turning into the iPhone 5′s version of “antennagate.” Indeed, much more negative publicity might cause some “fence sitters” to hold off on upgrading or buying the device.
It’s curious that the product is so glitch-ridden. One would have assumed that the company had some indication of these problems from developers who’ve had the new OS for several months.
Yet the scale of feedback now is much greater. While Apple has thousands of developers it now has perhaps millions of iOS 6 users — just 24 hours after the update was released. That has unleashed this massive wave of feedback/criticism.
Apple might have avoided some of this if had positioned Maps as a beta product and solicited crowd-sourced feedback accordingly. In the absence of such messaging, everyone had inflated expectations.
High Expectations Leading to Harsh Criticism
Apple must have also known that it would be judged harshly if Maps didn’t live up to an Apple standard of quality and that it would be compared unfavorably with Google Maps. While my personal experience of Apple Maps has been generally positive, people around the world are obviously finding lots of errors and problems.
Apple provided a statement to us, very similar (but not identical) to the one it issued to AllThingsD earlier today:
“Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service. We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn-by-turn navigation, and Siri integration. We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We’re also working with developers to integrate some of the amazing transit apps in the app store into iOS 6 Maps. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.”
The UK-based Guardian has speculated (like us), based on unnamed sources, that a Google Maps app is in the works and may have already been submitted for Apple’s approval. We’ve asked Google for confirmation of this but have not received a response.
Would Apple Block a New Google Maps App?
If a new Google Maps app is being readied for submission or in the queue for approval and Apple blocks it there would almost certainly be a second wave of negative publicity. But what grounds might Apple have for blocking a Google Maps app?
Several years ago Apple initially blocked a Google Voice app because “it appear[ed] to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience” and duplicate or supplant “core functionality” of the device. Might a similar argument be made to block a Google Maps app?
It would be much more difficult to do so because the iTunes App Store already features numerous maps and navigation apps, as well as apps that provide local business information. Thus it would be hard to see a move to block a Google Maps app as anything other than singling out a rival.
Google would be foolish to not submit a new Maps app to Apple. And Apple would be politically unwise to try and block it. Hopefully Google will submit (if it hasn’t already) a new Maps app and, hopefully, Apple will allow it.
That would provide consumers with a better set of options and hopefully further motivate Apple to improve the quality of its “places data” and fix the other glitches right now being cataloged by tech bloggers everywhere. Regardless, Apple is clearly motivated to fix these problems. And the cloud-based nature of the product means that at least some of these issues can be remedied behind the scenes and won’t require a full-blown software update.
Apple has indicated that it’s trying to address the problems that have been identified. We can probably expect that it will do so fast as it can. There’s too much at stake for the company to not work “around the clock” on this.
Postscript: While there’s discussion and debate, there are a number of sources now reporting that Google has not yet submitted a native Maps app for approval to Apple.