Two years ago we had “Antenna Gate,” a non-issue created by hyper-incensed tech media to create sensational headlines over an issue that essentially didn’t exist – that Apple’s new external antenna on the iPhone 4 was poorly designed and for the most part didn’t work (in part based on how a user chose to hold their device). That was followed by “new” iPad Wi-Fi issues that also led to overwrought sensational headlines that then immediately died off – no small wonder since the problem did not really exist except for a tiny few scattered cases.
Now we have Apple Map Gate, an overwrought, sensationalized non-issue driven by hyper-incensed tech media – although this time around we can also add business media to the mix. The entire thing has reached a level of silliness not seen since – well, perhaps we’ve reached a new high. How can we be sure? As we write today an article appeared elsewhere this morning that suggests that even Apple’s Map icon is messed up – since it shows directions that seemingly suggest that a user should take a left turn off a road that crosses over (so let’s say a bridge) Interstate 280, so that in essence the icon suggests taking a left turn directly off a bridge. You can’t make this stuff up.
Image via www.apple.com
Most people we’ve checked in with find it – as we do – “serviceable.” It isn’t by any stretch a polished super app – GarageBand it certainly isn’t. At least not yet. But the maps show the right streets, the satellite views aren’t nearly as distorted as some might want one to believe, and the Siri directions work well. Or at the very least they’ve worked well to date in our tests. There have been no strange anomalies, we have not been directed to drive off any bridges, into any lakes, or into any dead ends, and in fact we haven’t seen enough lack of anything to make us actually miss Google Maps.
Certainly the Apple app is not as feature rich as Google Maps, and it most certainly lacks Nokia’s slick “Public Transit” capabilities. Perhaps we’re just not in need of these things as much as others are, since we don’t much miss them. But they will appear in Apple Maps soon enough and we expect that the next iteration of Apple Maps will be much closer to GarageBand (but without the $4.99 price tag).
We’re also sure that deep down inside Apple CEO Tim Cook feels the same way. Alas for Cook, though, he can’t simply post what we can – he has to be highly sympathetic to the über-offended. So it comes as no surprise that Cook has now issued an official “We are extremely sorry” apology, in the form of a customer letter:
To our customers,
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.
Tim Cook Apple's CEO
It’s a very nice apology as apologies go. We ourselves highly endorse the recommendation of Waze – a great app that we’ve put to very satisfied use. Well worth adding to anyone’s collection of travel apps.
Do the Business Reasons for Apple Maps Matter?
Well, yes, they do. Various news sources have pointed to a breakdown between Apple and Google on voice-based driving directions as being the culprit behind the split. Does anyone really doubt Google wanted to keep this capability solely within Android? The reality, however is that at this point in time mapping apps are only scratching the surface of map app-driven monetization capabilities. There is big business to be had here, and Apple – of course – wants to ensure it keeps all the dollars.
As we’ve pointed out elsewhere, the single greatest reason Apple needed to get this first merely “serviceable” version of its map app out the door was to ensure huge up front and immediate market penetration. Over 100 million users updated their older Apple devices within days to iOS 6, immediately adding to the 10 – 20 million new iPhone 5s that will go out the door over the next several months. That is simply an enormous number – and if history is any guide, the 100+ million iOS upgrades will turn quickly enough into 250+ million upgrades across all Apple devices in current use.
That enormous level of market penetration cannot be understated as a business driver. Nor can the fact that the vast majority of iPhone 5 users and those who upgrade older devices to iOS 6 won’t switch map apps – they will be perfectly happy to use Apple Maps. This means that Google itself will have 200+ million less users than it used to, another business advantage.
We will say, however, that Apple must deliver on a hell of a stellar version of Apple Maps next time around. If they blow the next iteration all bets will be off and the headlines can be sensationalized to the max (Cook Apology Meaningless as Apple Skewers 300 Million Users on Maps!).
Until then, it’s time to give it all a rest.
TechZone360 Senior Editor
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