Google Maps has been banished from the iPhone 5 and iOS 6. Some people are angry. Other people are counseling patience. Google, for its part, is reportedly working on a new iOS 6 mapping app, which could hit handsets and tablets by the end of the year – providing Apple gives the app a green light. As Google chair Eric Schmidt said earlier this week, at an event in Tokyo, "it’s their choice."
So what exactly did iOS users lose when we lost Google Maps? Well, New York Times tech critic David Pogue recently posed that question, and offered his own answer: We lost quite a bit. "Entire lakes, train stations, bridges and tourist attractions have been moved, mislabeled or simply erased," he writes in a review of Apple Maps. "Satellite photo views consist of stitched-together scenes from completely different seasons, weather conditions and even years."
In short, he adds, "[Apple] Maps is an appalling first release. It may be the most embarrassing, least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed."
Pogue doesn't think that Apple Maps will be bad forever – he suggested looking at MobileMe, a "rough" offering that eventually led to the much smoother iCloud. But he does think Apple learned a lesson. "I suspect that Apple has just realized the same thing I have: that we may live on a small blue planet, but digitally representing every road, building and point of interest is a task of almost unimaginable difficulty," he wrote in a separate blog post.
New question: What went wrong, exactly? How did Apple, typically an extremely astute company when it comes to the needs of its consumers, manage to bungle such a major offering? Over at Search Engine Land, Greg Stirling suggests that Apple failed to adequately test Apple Maps – and then, compounding the problem, failed to label in such a way that users understood it was a work-in-progress.
"Apple might have avoided some of this if had positioned Maps as a beta product and solicited crowd-sourced feedback accordingly," Stirling wrote. "In the absence of such messaging, everyone had inflated expectations." We agree. And maybe, in retrospect, so does Apple.
"Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get," company reps wrote in a statement to All Things D earlier today. "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.”
Horizons readers will remember that Apple has run into launch problems in the past, including the infamous "death grip." But the cure for that issue was simple: Free cases. Fixing Apple Maps, on the other hand, could take months.
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