Welcome to Berlin, Antarctica.
Apple is known for, among other things, making great phones.
Their mobile operating system iOS, which runs on iPhones and iPads, until now had always come with Google Maps as standard. In the latest iOS6, Apple has decided to dump Google and provide their own mapping software. The results leave a bit to be desired.
There is some history between Apple and Google. They used to be best friends. Eric Schmidt, who was CEO of Google until 2011 and is currently their executive chairman, used to be on Apple’s board of directors as well. When Google launched its Android operating system to compete with Apple’s iOS, the late Steve Jobs was outraged and vowed to «destroy» Android. It’s fair to say, Apple and Google are friends no longer.
So it was probably a thorn in the side of Apple’s management that they were shipping Google software on every phone and tablet they sold. After all, Google Maps is a considerable source of revenue for the search giant. So we understand why Apple would want to get rid of Google Maps and create their own alternative. A bit ironic perhaps, considering they are dishing out lawsuits left and right to companies who appear to copy their ideas, but anyway. Onto «Maps» in iOS6.
You really have to wonder if, in their enthusiasm to dump Google Maps, they didn’t overlook a few issues. First of all, the quality of sattelite images is poor for most regions with a few exceptions. It’s nowhere near the quality and resolution offered by Google Maps. People on the internet have, as expected, been posting pretty funny examples.
Something is not quite right here, but I can’t put my finger on it.
Second problem is that the maps really aren’t all that accurate. Apple essentially bought them from TomTom, a huge firm specialized in electronic maps. They’re not quite as good as what we have been used to until now.
Not much to see here.
But finally, and this is where we can blame Apple’s software engineers directly: the routing is terrible. The new maps can happily send you miles off course if you’re unlucky. Considering that people usually use navigators when they don’t know how to get somewhere, it’s a pretty significant issue.
The software sometimes seems more confused than the user.
It seems then, that Apple has done its users a disservice by dumping Google Maps before they were ready to launch a credible alternative. iOS Maps is simply an inferior service to what Google offers. It should come as no surprise actually, considering that Google Maps has been around for 7 years already, and has been the result of a huge investment by Google. You can’t skip years of development and simply buy maps from a third party and expect good results.
Meanwhile, Apple has gone into damage limitation mode and is promising improvements. I’m sure there will be many updates as time goes on, but be assured it will take time to catch up.
Meanwhile, Google has submitted an application that will allow iPhone users to install Google Maps onto their phone themselves. Apple is caught between a rock and a hard place here. If they don’t approve the application then they are forcing their customers to use an inferior navigation service or spend money on a third party navigator. If they do approve it, they can expect many people to abandon iOS Maps for the time being.
It is often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and it’s probably true. Nevertheless, Apple have given themselves a bit of a black eye here, by releasing software that is simply not ready. On the upside, they have given us a good laugh, which is appreciated. Now go and fix it, please.