ED#142 : Why Apple Maps-gate Could Have Been Avoided (Or Not)
The furore over the new Apple Maps doesn't seem to be abating anytime soon. Every day, there are new articles on how the new Apple Maps has just directed someone to walk into a river, or converted the mighty Derwent River in Hobarts, Australia into a lake... This may seem like your typical fare from Apple detractors, but the fact of the matter is most of these people who are complaining are... Apple users!
At the same time, there is a constant slew of articles or commentaries defending Apple Maps as anything from "a good start" to "no one gets it right the first time". They may be right, or they may just be die-hard Apple fanatics. But it doesn't seem like the tit-for-tat is going to end anytime soon.
Even here in Tech ARP, we have different opinions on Apple Maps and how well they handled the aftermath. Let's take a look...
Does this look like the KL International Airport (KLIA) to you?
Of course, not... It's the ELITE (E6) Highway!
Update @ October 1, 2012 : Apple CEO Tim Cook did something rare for Apple - he apologized for Apple Maps! Rightly so, because Apple Maps was a real disappointment for Apple users and fans. For those who have not seen it yet, here's the full text of his open letter :
To our customers,
Courtesy of Mad magazine
At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers.
With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.
We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.
There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. 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.
While we're improving Maps, you 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.
Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.
Adrian Wong : Steve Jobs Wouldn't Have Released Apple Maps In iOS 6
I agree with Joe Nocera of the New York Times that Steve Jobs was a perfectionist, and wouldn't have released Apple Maps in its current form if he was still alive and in charge of Apple. He would have delayed it until it was actually working properly.
Apple's key marketing advantage is that their products work "out of the box". These maps obviously don't.
Granted, Google not allowing them to go turn-by-turn would eventually mean they have to migrate off Google Maps... BUT they should have waited until their Maps app was actually working before shipping it. Now, we end up with an app that's not even accurate in its basic premise - geographical location.
Forget about turn-by-turn instructions or even basic road navigation for the moment. The app cannot even pinpoint many locations properly on the map in the first place!
After the backlash over ridiculously inaccurate POIs, Apple issued this terse press statement :
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 appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.
So what if it's a cloud-based solution? Google Maps is also a cloud-based solution... Where you park your data doesn't affect your data. It sounds like they are trying to deflect blame away. Of course, Apple Maps will improve over time, as users fall into rivers and lakes and inform Apple about these mistakes (assuming they survive!) but how did they get the initial list of POIs so wrong in the first place?
I doubt it's TomTom's problem... and I would be very shocked if Apple Maps development team never bothered to check if the map data and POIs were accurate. Surely they would have tested it at Cupertino, if nowhere else? Even TomTom disavowed any problems with the data they gave Apple, with this statement :
We supply maps and related content to the majority of handheld players, including RIM, HTC, Samsung, AOL (MapQuest Mobile), Apple and, yes, Google (for the areas where they don't make their own maps). 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.
They go on to do a little tai-chi move of their own, stating that "Apple isn't relying strictly on TomTom data. Apple's maps list two dozen partners, which means it's blending TomTom data with other data and its own proprietary data. Somewhere in that blending process mistakes could happen."
TomTom actually has a GPS app in App Store, and they are pretty accurate AFAIK. I used a TomTom GPS unit a couple of years back in Australia, and while there were some minor inaccuracies, it never led me off the road, much less into a river!
No matter who was at fault for this debacle, I am pretty confident that Steve Jobs wouldn't have released Apple Maps until he was satisfied with it. He was too much of a perfectionist, and he did want to go thermonuclear on Android, did he not?
This was Apple Map's debut and first impressions are the most important. Jobs would have wanted it to appear to work simply and well. That was his mantra. Well, the new Apple Maps may work simply, but it certainly doesn't work well. If that was a thermonuclear attack on Android, then the bomb was a dud.
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ED#142 : Why Apple Maps-gate Could Have Been Avoided (Or Not)