Why Apple pulled the plug on Google Maps

“Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been feeding geographical information into Google’s mapping database for years — searching for addresses, sharing my location, checking for traffic jams on Google Maps,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports for Fortune. “Google, for its part, has been scraping that data for every nugget of intelligence its computers can extract.”

“Apple, by building its much-loved (and now much-missed) iPhone Maps app on Google’s mapping database, has been complicit in this Herculean data collection exercise since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007,” P.E.D. reports. “In Saturday’s New York Times, Op Ed columnist Joe Nocera asks: ‘If Steve Jobs were still alive, would the new map [sic] application on the iPhone 5 be such an unmitigated disaster? Interesting question, isn’t it?’ No Joe, it’s not an interesting question. It’s the No. 1 cliché of the post-Jobsian era.”

P.E.D. reports, “Besides, the decision to pull the plug on Google’s mapping database at the end of what was probably a five-year contract had to have been made while Jobs was running the company. ‘Not doing its own Maps would be a far bigger mistake,’ says Asymco’s Horace Dediu, who addressed the issue at length in last week’s Critical Path podcast. ‘The mistake was not getting involved in maps sooner, which was on Jobs’ watch. Nokia saw the writing on the wall five years ago and burned $8 billion to get in front of the problem. The pain Apple feels now is deferred from when they decided to hand over that franchise to Google at the beginning of iPhone.'”

Read more in the full article here.

130 Comments

    1. Jordan. How have you personally “suffered” in the last week that iOS6 has been out. Sounds like your buying into the FUD. So far my maps have flawless. Have patience and you will be rewarded with the beat mapping app we have ever witness.

      1. You are 100% correct. Every time a new iPhone comes out the competition has to create a flaw to attack. With the hardware being rock-solid and a work of art, they are desperate to grab on to something negative.

      2. I am by most measures an apple fanatic I have Macs for my desktop and laptop computers, I use an iPhone and annipad and my iPod is a permanent resident of my car. I have no desire to spread FUD and have frequently argued Apples case in the past. It is this that makes the new maps such a slap in the face. Where I live in York, UK there is no useful satellite images and like everyone else have list the use if street view and do not have any 3d images to replace it. (That leaves aside the question of whether 3d images are a suitable replacement for street view). I prefer apples computers and mobile devices to any competitor but think I have the right to be annoyed when Apple swap out a useful service for a half baked inferior one.

        1. Lmao! Really?! after all you said in your post you’re going to call the ios6 maps half baked inferior one. Yes, it has issues now but as the article says we’ve all made google maps successful for all the data it’s mined from us all. As we use it, it will become superior to google maps. We all benefit from growing pains of a flawed system. Remeber MobileMe, now the iCkoud is solid because of it.

        2. Don’t despair, Jordan, with so many here who disagree with you. You did, after all, come to one of Apple’s shrine and start speaking heresy against Apple (also known as The One©™®) while the others with shaved heads and orange robes look upon you with furrowed brow.

          Yeah, the Google version of Maps proved reliable and accurate enough. I’m from Washington state but am here Massachusetts for several months doing consulting. The roads here are hard to fathom and I would be truly lost were it not for my iOS 5, Google-based Maps app. I simply can not afford to be given any more half-baked routing suggestions than Google’s offering is already giving me in these parts.

          This isn’t about “Religiously Worshiping All That Is Good and Holy About Apple” and being an Apple fanboy. I count myself as an Apple devotee because their computers are infinitely superior to Windoze machines and enable me to be twice as productive. When I landed at this company here as a consulting engineer, I had to fight one of my “Mac battles” that essentially amounted to “You don’t tell me what tools I can’t use to do what it is I do and tie one arm behind my back.”

          I need my Google-branded Maps app to do what I do efficiently without one more aggravation to deal with (not being routed onto dumb-ass routes). And, frankly, Street View is damned handy and whereas Apple’s version may give slick, 3D-live-modeled aerial views of buildings, I look at buildings from the street level.

          So I’m sticking with iOS 5 on my 64 GB, 4S. When Google comes out with their Maps app for iOS 6 and when Apple comes out with iOS 6.1, then I’ll make my move. I just do not have time to horse around having my tools of life screwed with.

          You were arguing about “getting the job done efficiently,” Jordan. Next time, seek a venue besides a monastery to espouse that sort of “funny” talk.

          1. If you live near an Apple store you could check how the new maps works in your area. After updating my phone my maps works not only flawlessly but it’s immensely faster and more responsive and pleasant to use than the previous version.

            I’m more than thrilled I updated.

            1. Good idea, twilightmoon. Thanks for a helpful response instead of the combative crap that the anonymity of the Web brings out in many others.

              I can get to an Apple Store in a half hour. Then I can plug in some endpoints for which iOS 5 Google Maps does a poor job of routing (as well as some routes that it does well) and compare.

              I’m not exactly a fan of Google Maps; it gave me a totally brain damaged route south to the Providence, RI airport and still suggests a route to one of my client’s two buildings that would entail doing a jack-knife U-turn up a confluence-like road (after driving right by where one should make a simple left turn). I’d dread the notion of using something that was worse than that.

              It will be interesting to see “faster” and “responsive” too; I can’t quite imagine that because I must have gotten used to what I am currently using.

            2. To be sure if you planned to spend a lot of time outside of the nominal coverage area of the new iOS 6 maps like in India or Asia Pacific Rim I would say don’t upgrade until you can find a suitable alternate maps Package.

              But in the US you are likely going to be pleased with how Apple did. Good luck and keep us posted.

              As far as being rude I have tried to be civil to non troll posts on here. I won’t say I have been perfect but I’m willing to appologize if I do something unjustified.

          1. Oh for Heaven’s sake. Take a look at his simple, first post. Then look at his defensive post after he was assailed for lack of “Faith.”

            Your comment reminds me of the logic used when they tossed accused witches—tied up—into a river as a ”test”: they were proven a witch if they surfaced and were then burned alive; they were proven not to be a witch if they drowned.

            All that’s missing here is the visual imagery of you taking a hit of snuff up your nose as you sigh and walk away from the bubbles on the river’s surface after pretending you speak for everyone else.

          2. Why do you insist on being such an ass, ignoramus, and nitwit, althegeo. Jordan has as much right to express his observations and thought as anyone else. Does paranoia run rampant in your clan?

      3. The level of histrionics per this maps hong is becoming unbearable. No one gave a shit when Google was walking you into bays or giving you (as it still does today) 6 block ballparks for full street addresses. But let Apple come out with a maps app and suddenly the only reason anyone even apparently has a smartphone is to use it as a GPS.

        1. Hear hear. iOS 6 Maps is so much faster on my iPhone 4 that I’m more than happy to put up with an occasional inaccuracy (although I haven’t encountered one here in NYC).

        2. Yes. Thank you!
          I had a job interview. Google took me to a house about a half a mile away from the business complex. I finally had to call to get the last bit of directions because Google said I was “there” when pulling into a driveway. Ok… I didn’t really pull into their driveway, but you get the idea.

          Then, when I finally got to the address where I was supposed to be, I did Google maps again to that address and it wanted to take me from the proper place back to some house again.

          This was 6 months ago. Google Maps may have less flaws than Apple’s Maps presently, but let’s not pretend it’s flawless.

      4. So, Apple knew five years in advance that they would have to produce their own map app and failed to product a product at least as accurate and reliable as Google. Well that’s just plain stoopid. Sure, be patient, Apple will no doubt improve their map app, I doubt it will get any worse.

        1. No, I don’t believe Apple knew 5 years ago that Google would copy its operating system, which is the proximate cause of the map app switch on iPhone.  I don’t think Apple knew Samsung would copy the iPhone, either, which explains why it used Samsung components over the years.

          It is difficult enough without you contributing snide comments to feed your inflated ego.  If you have something to contribute, then please do.  If you don’t, then do everyone a favor and go ahead to the next article.

          1. And of course, even if Steve Jobs had been clairvoyant about Google’s impending betrayal, it’s not like he didn’t have other things on his mind, like oh, let’s see…DYING? Major surgeries? Creating the iPad, or iCloud? How much is one man or one company supposed to be able to do perfectly at one time?

            Google has been the ultimate sociopathic thief. I don’t care if maps never works flawlessly on Apple products, as long as I don’t have to use Google and have them collecting every scrap of information they can about my private life so they can sell it to the highest bidder, or roll over and deliver it to any government that demands it. Some things are more important than convenience.

            And BTW, when was the last time Google directed you 30 miles out of your way? I’d be surprised if it was more than 30 days ago.

      5. that’s why you have no idea outside of country where people use iphone. it may work very well in US. but information, which is offered by new map app, is totally joke. name, direction are wrong in many place. GPS function is joke. don’t justify because you are fanboy. wrong is wrong. I think that apple made a big mistake to abandon such a awesome google map. there is no other company can match with google in terms of information technology. apple is just piece of shit.

        1. Gee Edward, you are sounding like a mockingbird. GIGO. No original thought, no facts to back you up. Sorry your mom never taught you that if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your trap shut.

      6. RL, it’s not FUD, if it’s the truth. And Jordan speaks truth.

        Open your eyes. The massive reporting of the poor map ap seems to have gone unnoticed by you. Just because you’re in a part of the world where all is good, doesn’t mean the rest of the planet will have the same results.

      1. MikeK,
        totally agree. I just do not know why so many have to go off the deep end. I liked the google version , for what I use it for, more than the ios 6 version.

        As for why Apple went with the new maps, I just have to say remember when Steve said…. “I am going thermonuclear war on android (google)”. With Siri, maps, iCloud, music, videos, etc Apple is slowly moving the money source from Google. And as more and more money moves toward Apple in hardware, there will be less and less for Google.

        And what happens if Samsung gets tired of being jerked around by Android? What if they go to that Baidu thing???

        Just a thought.

    2. Im not sure what everyone is actually bitching about. I agree the visual candy in Fly Over can be askew but the actual maps app is pretty amazing. They are much smoother than google maps. They load faster and have plenty of good information. The only complaint I feel people can honestly make is that the Mass Transit feature has gone away but I also know that there are plenty of great alternatives if thats how you get around. Personally Im glad google maps is off the iPhone they were so clunky and over blown that using them over cellular was not a pleasant experience.

          1. I did not say that they do. I was explaining to “Dickrichie” what everyone is ‘bitching’ about. Those in major US cities may not unerstand the problems as It appears that *most* US cities are fairly reliable – the bulk of the reported issues are coming from outside the US.

            1. I hope you didn’t think that was directed against you. I am finding it very grating that as a longtime fan and supporter of apple I find I am accused of spreading FUD when I have a legitimate complaint to make about Apple withdrawing support for a useful service when there is no equivalent replacement provided. It does not help people today if things will improve in the future or if google bring out an app of thier own one day. I’m not interested in promises of improvements to come when all I can see now is a degradation of a useful service. But what riles me most is being told that I do not have a legitimate reason to be upset when faced with a worse product than I had last week.

            2. But Jordan, the iOS upgrade wasn’t pushed to you while you were asleep. You chose to get rid of Google Mapping when YOU CHOSE to upgrade. My wife and I chose not to until we saw what Maps was like. Having seen that it wasn’t too bad, I upgraded in the end. My wife thought it wasn’t good enough and us happily using Google Maps on her iOS 5 powered 4s.

            3. How do you propose I evaluate the new maps app in my area without upgrading? Do you think it is fair to offer some upgrades to iOS in exchange for worse maps?

            4. The 5 year contract with Google was up. Apple have developed their own mapping system with added features like Siri integration, flyover, and turn by turn navigation which Google WOULD NOT allow. The mapping errors will be corrected. In the meantime, you have options if Apple maps don’t work for you. Honestly, there are much bigger things to get riled about.

            5. You are right of course. But if we need to wait for world hunger or war to end before we get down the list to fix maps we had better not hold our breath. But my level if anger is probably disproportionate to the actual slight inflicted. I think my blood boiled in the first instance when MDN called FUD when people pointed out real problems with the new system. I’ll sit down have a cup of tea and try and get some perspective. But I reserve the right to grumble when my beloved iPhone gets a sneaky downgrade to its maps when everything else seems improved more stable and faster. I am generally a happy apple customer and don’t feel like they have ever let me down before. I hope this first taste is disappointment from them is also my last.

            6. There’ve been many instances where Apple software has had problems. Particularly in version 1.0 releases. However, to call it a “downgrade” is completely subjective. For me,, it’s an absolute upgrade. The maps are very accurate in my area (LA) and the hands free Siri integration and Turn by Turn implementation is by far the most elegant of any mapping solution I’ve seen or used.

    3. I’ve used the Apple Maps several times since I got my new phone on Friday morning, and it’s worked perfectly for me. I’m not driving outside the greater Seattle area so I’m not going into mountain backroads or tiny rural communities, but I found that it worked perfectly for me. I haven’t yet seen the sorts of issues I’m reading about. Time will tell I guess.

    4. Yeah its annoying how a minor flaw that will obviously will be corrected as quickly as possible is blown up as an unmitigated disaster Jobs would not have made (Ping, the cube Mac, etc. among Jobs failed ideas). Desperation obervation by the competition. This thing is great and much better than Google’s Maps in potential. You either put your faith in Apple or you don’t that this thing that’s very good now will be great tomorrow. Plus as many noted in many areas the Maps work just fine now. The world is a big place to map and no Version 1 of anything is perfect. There are also temporary stop gap applications from Garmin or TomTom available to anyone as well if Apple Maps are that bad for you.

      1. “You either put your faith in Apple or you don’t…”

        Agreed. It is really tiresome when people complain about every little thing that doesn’t meet their expectations.

        1. Also when people use the word “all” when they are referring to their own specific local problem. As in Jordan saying “all users of iOS 6” when at worst it’s certain international buyers.

          Also: with over 7 billion people on the planets and literally billions of map locations, likely in excess of 2 billion, there’s absolutely no way to get accurate results on all of that and even covering the majority of the developed world takes time. Google isn’t perfect here either. It will take some time for Apple to catch up here but they have a solid foundation with a superior app that is vastly more responsive and pleasant to use.

          When Jordan gets local data we will hear posts about how great the new maps are. Right, Jordan?

            1. For the record I never bad mouthed you for complaining nor claimed your issue was minor. To you it’s a big deal.

              All I said was you should not globalize your complaint with “all” which unfairly includes people like me who have no beef, and you should give Apple a little slack as they tackle something extremely hard. Google has done an exceptional job but no one has done this flawlessly, and everyone will benefit if Apple can pull this off and there is some competition in this area.

        1. Lets see, there’s the Apple 3, the eMac, the treatment of Apple 2 users, the Mac XL, no color in the original Macs, the treatment of Independent Apple Dealers, etc. Do I need to continue?

    5. Suffer? I have not found any problems in fact so far after the upgrade with my 4s the new maps has made things faster, more accurate and smoother than the junky, clunky, slow, non-vector maps.

      Vector is without a doubt the best way to make a map work on a mobile device.

  1. Apple was allied to google at that time until steve Jobs found out that The EVIL Google CEO was an industrial spy.

    So Apple made no mistake in NOT going to map early.
    They had their trust slammed in their face.

    So now is payback.
    BUT..IF Cook knew of the Maps issue yet release it as a calculated risk , while passing off TURN BY TURN as a great attribute in the OS6 is worrisome.

    Customers dont matter? A software that is half baked?
    I agree that Apple is new to MAPS< but they have never sold a software they know is imperfect eh.Or have they ??

    1. Well, would it have been better an iOS 6 release without Maps? Would FUD and complains have been absent right now or would there have been the same FUD, the same people who complain and a horde more predicting Apple collapse? As I said a couple of posts up here, stop complaining or change your name to Hansel or Gretel and go to other forest to miss your Google crumbs… I’m in the Apple forest and I here don’t miss Google a crumb.

  2. No one disputes that getting away from Google Maps is necessary.

    Now how about, in addition to fixing the known issues, we also get these maps (and ability to report corrections) through a desktop browser too? Even if you have to log in via iCloud. This is a vital tool and if depriving Google of data is the end-goal, we should be able to do away with it no matter what device we’re using.

  3. Hopefully the feedback from users will ensure that the errors get corrected rapidly. If users report errors as soon as possible, that will speed up the process. That’s exactly how the system is supposed to work.

  4. Go to safari and visit maps.google.com click the little arrow and choose add to home screen. Now you have a google maps app. I realize its not exactly the same, but it works. If you really don’t like the first rev of Apple’s new map app you also have access to Mapquest, dare I say Bing and others. With Apple you get the best of everything.

    1. And while the web-mobile version of GMaps lacks Street View, check out the StreetViewer app–paid and lite versions available. Not as smooth as the old Maps app, but does the job in a pinch. Also has a neat jog wheel for zooming in and out.

  5. Apple doesn’t do many things wrong but this certainly stands out. I don’t think it’s as big a deal as MobileMe or Ping but it does suck. They’ll get the maps whipped into shape quickly. However without Street View they’ll always lag behind Google maps. I agree with the article, that this should’ve been taken care of long ago. And it did happen on Steve Jobs watch. But perhaps there’s more to it than we will ever know? At least they are separating themselves from Google. And even if it’s late at least they are doing it. Google is evil.

  6. Memory lane is apparently very short for some. It took years for Google Maps to add roads world wide. Even longer for public transport. Out of the gate the current Apple Maps is far better than what Google offered when they started. Let it mature and it will be awesome. Otherwise you could argue that no one else beside Google should offer maps – which is beyond being silly.

  7. A link from the article that MDN linked to:

    “If you’ve seen enough examples of the boneheaded mistakes Apple Maps is making and want to get a sense of what’s involved in correcting them, I recommend Mike Dobson’s Google Maps announces a 400 year advantage over Apple Maps.”

    http://blog.telemapics.com/?p=399

    The content is sound, despite the cheeky title.

    1. Siri was something new and additional, not a substitute product. Maps, on the other hand, is a direct substitute. So calling it beta would still bring on all the criticism (maybe more from the “I didn’t pay good money to be a beta tester” users).

  8. The article above offers no information we didn’t have, and only additional speculation.

    What it does do though is offer a link to this article:
    http://blog.telemapics.com/?p=399

    I sent that link to MDN yesterday or the night before I believe.

    It is the finest piece of writing on this issue bar none. There is no silly fan boy love, or Apple hater snarkiness, just pure scholarly analysis of what Apple is going through and what they will have to go through to create a product competitive to Googles.

    “Google Maps announces a 400 year advantage over Apple Maps.”

    The information in this article is something you should arm yourself with if you intend to have a viable opinion on this topic.

    “… Given the rage being shown by IOS 6 users, Apple failed to hurdle the bar that was in front of them. I have spent several hours poring over the news for examples of the types of failures and find nothing unexpected in the results. Apple does not have a core competency in mapping and has not yet assembled the sizable, capable team that they will eventually need if they are determined to produce their own mapping/navigation/local search application….”

  9. Am I the only one who’s been using Apple’s new maps without any problems whatsoever?

    I’ve had iOS 6 for several months, and I’ve never had a problem with Maps.

    Apple handed Google their hat when they made Andriod, plain and simple. I’m sure Google is testing their Maps app on an iPhone 5 as we speak anyways.

    1. I have had no significant problems. I have demonstrated maps to several people who were completely blown away by the 3D fly over feature.

      In fact, I demonstrated asking Siri to find a colleague, tapping the map, the colleague was located at U.C. Irvine, and then switched to the 3D view of the building the colleague was in. I then asked for driving directions to the colleague and received exactly the same directions that Google’s maps gave me.

      (Directions that were horrible in either case, but I know the traffic and ways around it.)

      I’ve performed this experiment in one way or another several times over the weekend for people with no horrible effects.

      So I completely agree with MDN who postulates that there is more than a bit of a media echo chamber here, but at the same time, (where there is smoke there is fire and all) clearly many people are getting wonky results from Apple’s map software.

      My guess, like MDN says though, is that the vast majority of people who try it are using it just fine.

      Interesting note, of most of the people I talked to, who were only concerned about maps because of the publicity, it seems very few people were using maps anyway, which I think is the tip of a bigger and more interesting story.

      I.e. do most people even use maps on their mobile phones?

      Of those who do, are most having problems?

      I only use maps when I have to explain to a cab driver how to get where I want to go. Heh.

  10. Sounds to me that the Apples map app works 99% of the time and they need to correct some basic errors.
    The notification system is really easy to use and we can all help out to fix the problems.
    I’ve used a number of iPhone map / navigation apps and they all fail to some degree. Even google sometimes.

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