Apple’s in-house mapping solution was widely anticipated following the deterioration of its relationship with Google and its acquisition of three mapping companies. In iOS 6, Apple finally introduced its own mapping solution with an ambitious tagline – “[iOS 6] Maps changes the way you see the world.”
With the public launch of iOS 6 yesterday, Apple’s ambitious description is coming true to a certain extent, although not exactly in the way Apple would have wanted. Millions of iOS 6 users all across the world are now realising that Apple’s mapping solution is inferior to the Maps app in earlier iOS versions, which was powered by Google’s data.
Google’s mapping ambitions began way back in 2005, with an acquisition of a Sydney based company, and since then Google Maps have amassed enough data to span most popular locations across the world. The company also puts in a huge amount of resources to capture street level imagery of major cities.
Mapping is difficult and Google’s head start in the mapping arena can’t in anyway be offset by Apple’s three acquisitions and countless partnerships. But that’s no reason for users to sympathise with Apple, since the company has maintained a perfectionist attitude towards whatever it does in the past, be it old or completely new.
Here are a few examples of the shortcomings in Apple’s mapping solution:
- Transit directions are missing, which Apple hopes to compensate for by relying on local app developers.
- However cool Flyover 3D mode might be, it’s not nearly as useful as Google’s Street View. Even if it were as useful, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 users, who had access to Street View in earlier iOS versions, are left without either of those features in iOS 6.
- Directions support isn’t as expansive as Google Maps. Same goes for a lot of other iOS 6 Maps features like turn-by-turn directions, 3D buildings, business reviews, local search and traffic.
The locations of certain points of interests are also pretty hilarious, as are some screenshots from Apple’s 3D maps. Here are a few images illustrating that:
Goof ups in Apple’s Maps app have also spawned a Tumblr, titled “The amazing iOS 6 Maps.”
Apple’s competitors and other players in the Mapping business are making most of this opportunity by promoting their own solutions. Nokia, for example, put up a blog post highlighting how its own mapping solution is better than Apple’s. MapMyIndia, an Indian mapping firm, reduced the price of its Indian iOS navigation app from $49.99 to $29.99. We’re in fact surprised that Samsung didn’t use this point to its advantage in its latest string of commercials.
TomTom meanwhile issued a statement to MacStories indirectly putting the blame on Apple for an unsatisfactory Maps app. TomTom, in case you do not know, is one of Apple’s mapping partners for the new Maps app:
When people use a map, their experience is determined by two things. Firstly, the underlying content, notably the maps. This is what TomTom is currently supplying the mobile industry with and it is what gives their maps the best foundation. Secondly, user experience is determined by adding additional features to the map application, such as visual imagery. This is typically defined and created by the handset manufacturers and third party software providers on the basis of their own vision and needs.
[W]e did not develop the map application. Rather, we only provide the data to build a car-centric map foundation. Everything thing on top of that – routing, visualization, etc. – is determined by the supplier.
CEO of crowdsourced navigation app Waze didn’t have good things to say about Apple’s Maps either. Why are his statements important? His company, just like TomTom, is one of the many third party sources that provide data in Apple’s mapping solution:
“What’s going to happen with the Apple maps, is that you’re literally not going to find. When you do find them, they might be in the wrong place or position geographically. And if you do have it, the route to it may not be the optimal route.”
To Apple’s credit, its vector based mapping technology really shines on even a 2 year old device. Zooming and panning maps around is very quick and responsive. Sadly, though, data remains the primary feature of any maps app, which currently is Apple’s weak point.
Google hasn’t provided a definite date for the release of its iOS Maps app. Till an official Google Maps app comes out, you could bookmark maps.google.com on your homescreen, although zooming and panning on the web app isn’t even close to the native app. You could even give Nokia’s Maps (maps.nokia.com) and Bing Maps a spin, while you wait for a better solution.
You can report problems in the iOS 6 Maps app to Apple and contribute to making the app better, by hitting the “Report a Problem” button located under the page curl indicator.
Apple’s risky bet of developing its own mapping solution might benefit the company in the long run, but for now, iOS users have to bear the brunt of Apple’s deteriorating relationship with Google. For the average user, who upgraded to iOS 6 and isn’t at all concerned about internal issues between Google and Apple, the Maps app is worse than before, which isn’t exactly how upgrades are supposed to work.
With time and crowdsourced data, Apple’s mapping solution will get better, but delivering a sub par experience to millions of users isn’t a very Apple-like solution.
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