Losing Direction with Apple Maps
There have already been more words written than can possibly be read about Apple’s issues with its new Maps App. Many of those words are just words without meaning as they counter other words written previously. There’s a PR war going on between Apple and Google over who did what when, both trying to save some face. I won’t pretend that what I write here is any more accurate than any what you may find anywhere else, but it is just my two cents on the topic.
First, regardless of the timing, Apple goofed. Apple has been pumping up its Maps App as a tent pole of iOS 6 since WWDC. What it delivered by many accounts is a pretty shaky tent pole. Let me say that locally in my use, I don’t see any of the problems that are being reported. That said, that doesn’t mean Apple should be cut any slack. If you rely on Maps on an iPhone and Apple and its data providers don’t have accurate data, or if that data is assembled and presented to the user doesn’t yield appropriate directions, there is a problem. Some have said Maps should have been labeled BETA in the same way that Siri was an is. Perhaps so. But someone at Apple thought that wasn’t a good idea obviously. Thus the shaky tent pole.
Maps is more than just Maps and directions. It is tied directly into Siri, search, and many other functions of iOS. Or at least that’s the plan. Location and more specifically local search are supposedly the Holy Grails of the future when it comes to mobile advertising, and remember these gadgets are being designed to deliver that. Or rather deliver consumers to those who want to deliver our info to advertisers.
Google may or may not deliver a Maps App for iOS, and Apple may or may not approve it. Either way, don’t think we’ll see such an App tie in with these other aspects of iOS. And quite frankly those tie-ins are what this is all about in the long run. If Apple can’t have a credible Maps App that ties in with Siri it has a big hole in its entire strategy going forward.
And speaking of Google, yes, it is easy to put a bookmark on your home screen to Google’s web version of Maps. But there really is no comparison to what that web version offers compared to what the previous Map App offered or what the new Maps App wants to offer. By the way, on at least three occasions in the last year, the previous iOS Map App, (not the web version) using Google data, yielded inaccurate info for me locally.
The other piece of this story is third party navigation developers priming the PR pump to get you to use their solutions. But again, none of them will tie-in with the OS. If all you’re looking for is navigation in the way we think of it with a stand alone GPS, these solutions certainly work well enough, will get you where you are going, and often give you more options. But if you want a complete experience from speaking to Siri to arriving at your destination, we’ll, that’s not going to happen any time in the near future.
Apple, based on what an unnamed exec told David Pogue seems to be owning up to this mess. The money quote is “We own this; we manage the vendors. This is no one’s issue but ours.” Other media types have been having a hard time getting Apple to confirm that comment it should be noted. But whether or not Apple will own up to the quote, Apple does indeed own this mess.
Will Maps get better? Yes. At some point. Will it matter? On some levels yes, but on others, Apple has given itself a lasting black eye with this first outing with Maps. You won’t see that discoloration fade any time soon. In fact, until this is solved, Apple is going to need to address Maps under some severe scrutiny going forward.
There are always issues with new releases of hardware and software. 1.0 releases are never easy, and yes, creating a Mapping solution from scratch is a challenge. That doesn’t help if your Maps search sends you to the wrong location though. To put it another way, this issue will surely makes some consumers who use navigation on their phones think twice about iOS, when there are comparable solutions out there on other platforms. (Keep in mind though that Apple will still sell tons of iOS devices regardless.)
The larger issue here though is this. Apple spent considerable time and effort pumping up Maps. Surely they knew there were going to be some problems. There are now two issues Apple is facing with its latest release of hardware and software. Maps, and scratches on the new black iPhones. Both issues make me think that Apple has lost some direction and/or focus when it comes to quality control. I hope that’s the case. The alternative is that Apple just doesn’t care and I have a hard time believing that. It also makes me wonder about the decision process leading up to announcing Maps as a tent pole. Obviously you have to talk about Maps if you’re releasing a new App to replace a standard. But Apple obviously mismanaged that from the get go.
If you’re going to chart a new direction into parts unknown, you deserve a little slack if you get lost or the journey is not so smooth. If you’re going to layout out a roadmap to replace a well worn path with a different approach you can’t be caught off guard if your passengers complain along the way.