Apple has issued a lengthy apology for the botched maps app on the new iPhone 5 and iOS 6 and encouraged users to try out alternative software – including a Web-based version of Google Maps. In a statement entitled "A Letter To Our Customers Concerning Maps," Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was "extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers."
Apple would continue to work on improving the Apple Maps app, he added.
"There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day," Cook wrote in the letter. "In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you."
Some background: For many years, Google provided the default maps app on the iPhone. But Google, which develops the Android mobile operating system, is increasingly an Apple rival; with iOS 6, Apple decided to boot Google Maps. Unfortunately, as New York Times critic David Pogue has noted, Apple probably realized at some point that "digitally representing every road, building and point of interest is a task of almost unimaginable difficulty."
At times, Apple Maps is perfectly fine. At other times, Apple Maps is a mess. (Or, if you prefer, a "flop," a "debacle," and just plain "ugly.") It can't find some locations, and its 3-D mapping function turns other landmarks into pixelated mush. Compare that to Google Maps, which even at its most sluggish, was accurate and easy to use. In the statement today, Cook seemed to fully acknowledge the failings of the software.
More surprisingly, he also suggested that users look elsewhere in their hour of frustration. "[Y]ou can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app," Cook wrote. (Waze is pretty good, as it turns out.)
"This has been blown so out of proportion that it’s incredible," Jobs said. "We think some of that problem is inherent in most every smartphone, but having said that, we care about every user and we are not going to stop until every user is happy."
It was something short of an apology.