Apple’s Maps app: The next turn

“Apple hasn’t been a mapmaker and knows it. Five years ago, Steve Jobs himself favored partnering with companies like Google, for search and mapping backend services,” Kontra writes for Counternotions. “Jobs wasn’t likely thrilled to have to rely on Google or any other company for these services, but others had a significant head-start in digital maps, and Apple had its hands full reinventing the phone at the time.”

“The intervening five years brought Apple unprecedented success with the iPhone but also a well known systems design problem: it’s very hard to change user habits and expectations once set in. Due to contractual circumstances now being breathlessly analyzed in the media, Apple finds itself having to part with an app powered by a one-time partner, now its chief rival,” Kontra writes. “Regardless, users are rarely comfortable with the loss of what’s familiar, no matter how rationally justifiable the reasons might be. Enter, Mapgate.”

Kontra writes, “Tim Cook telling customers to use other companies’ mapping products must have taken some guts at Cupertino. It’s perhaps a conviction on his part (with his inside knowledge) that Apple can and over time will do better than the competing apps he so forthrightly listed.”

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.


    1. Agreed. Apple will quickly fix the 3D view bugs, and it will exert tremendous pressure on its data providers to get their act together. We may even see Apple open up the wallet and even overpay for a data company which can quickly get Apple Maps up near Google’s level.

  1. Kontra’s a moron.

    The new Maps app DOES license all of the mapping tech. Map data is from TomTom, which also supplies maps for BlackBerry, HTC and Samsung phones, and even for parts of Google Maps. Restaurant and store listings are from Yelp, traffic data from Waze. There are more than two dozen sources.

    Given that, Kontra’s point is…. I have no idea. The licensed map data source is suspect and needs to be updated. But the actual mapping is fantastic. People love it. 3D maps are amazing.

    1. What you don’t mention is the satellite mapping, which is very badly implemented, I can promise you.
      Unless, of course, you happen to live in a large, American metropolitan area, in which case it’s just fine and dandy.
      But most of the world doesn’t.

      1. Too bad for the rest of the world…. Maps works great in the US…. Apples biggest market…. Buy a different phone with a map system you like or wait for apple to catch up on googles 5 year head start… My guess is that because of Apples superiority in every other area you will wait… While you do, quit bitching… I’m tired of it

        1. “Bitching” is one reason why Apple’s stuff is usually best-of-breed. Because Apple’s harshest critics were their own users, demanding it work better than the competition. Always has been.

          Seeing as you don’t care about if the Maps app works anywhere except the US, thank goodness you’re not in making any decisions at Apple.

          Because while the US might be the biggest *individual* country market, the Americas (all of N and S America, not just the US) make up just over 38% of Apple’s revenues as of 2012 Q2, down from 43.4% a year ago.

          In other world, “the rest of the world” makes up the majority of Apple’s revenue.

        2. To say Google has a 5-year head start is to imply that Apple just started making maps last week, or that Apple didn’t show Google 5 years ago how to make a great map app.

      2. Not so, I live in upstate Moooo cow country NY, and did a 5 hour rural drive trip using Maps. I was on roads that were getting quite small and untraveled with Amish buggy poop on them, but I trusted the maps and it worked flawlessly. Got me across a chunk of the backwoods of NY no problemo.

  2. I agree, it does have some annoying limitations at present but already you see it’s potential be it UI, ease of use, far superior data efficiency and the potential for 3rd party and Apple specific add ons. Also flyover is brilliant and so much more useful for me than street view which manages to bring to computers the oncept of being lost in an unknown place and hoping to stagger round till you ind something familiar. The Apple solution is simple, less pretentious, laborious and static while being more flexible, responsive, natural and with far greater potential over time, at least for me. You can see how it can respond to new and improving technology while street view simply once you become bored with its superficial interaction becomes bogged down in added complexity to show a series of static unimaginative imagery

  3. Map works perfectly here in the UK – and Sweden last weekend (Gothenburg which some newspapers said could not be found by the Map app). We used it to guide us to the mid park at Stansted airport from a little town called Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. Took us there turn by turn, showed the distance and time – and guided us right to the the entrance of the parking area.

    Same thing in Gothenburg every time we asked for an address and how to get there. Cook has nothing to apologize for!

  4. “Tim Cook telling customers to use other companies’
    Or perhaps it just take to love so much your customers that you prefer to make them happy giving them options even if those options came from rival companies. Don’t u think?

  5. I am perfectly comfortable losing the limited-function Google Map app in exchange for the Apple Maps app that works so much better. Maybe I would feel different if I lived in an area where its database is shaky; but for me here in the Seattle area it’s worked flawlessly, and with much more utility than the Google version. I’m not looking for a Google app now, and couldn’t care less if they do provide one.

  6. Kind of makes you wonder why people didn’t cause more of a fuss that the Model-T didn’t get 45MPG, at 350HP, with a full navigation system and the accoutrements of a Mercedes on the day of its introduction. Imagine that!

  7. It’s important that people remember, OSX 10.0 was unusable garbage. Visually stunning, but completely lacking necessary features and third-party apps, and lagged even worse than Android does on a $5 disposable phone from the gas station. But they kept at it, and look where it is now…pretty much universally agreed to be the most efficient, refined, usable, supported, and beloved desktop and laptop operating system on the planet.

    Apple Maps will get better, just give it time. It won’t be long before Apple Maps makes Google Maps look like Windows.

  8. Geez, it’s just freaking data. It will get better. The app is fine, elegant intact. The data needs to be upgraded. It’s like drinking diet Coke from a champagne glass until someone gets back from the liquor store.

    1. Not just data. Results algorithm too. Searching for a ski town close to my location turns up not the town (less than 1 hr drive away), but their small marketing office (a Yelp result in my city). Even typing in “town, province” returns the office.

  9. I drove back and forth across the country when maps was in beta.. way worse than now.

    And you know what? It worked great. Especially the turn by turn announcements. Nothing like getting to the end of a 100+ mile stretch of I80 to hear siri announce my exit was coming up. The vector based graphics alone make it far superior to goog-tiles. In about one year it will be the new defacto superior map app and no one will barely remember mapgate outside of being a footnote in the perennial blogger apple-gate lists rehashed time and time again.

  10. Tim Cook’s response, which made it ultra-easy for iPhone purchasers to find, and procure, a range of third party apps for mapping was a very clever and well-thought-out response to the issues raised at launch. Firstly, Apple heads off any customer lawsuits by acknowledging Maps is not perfect, and clearly defining options; secondly, Apple makes it clear it is not going to provide, free, an alternative. Thirdly, Apple will have determined that very few iPhone purchasers will bother to download, and pay for, an alternative and that this issue will have only a minor impact on sales. Finally, Apple will be confident that the minor issues identified at launch will be fixed, quietly and quickly, by free updates over the next few months, and the problem will go away. That will leave Apple with a superior mapping application, without any dependence on Google.

    1. They won’t need to do any free updates, except perhaps as a symbolic gesture. The major flaws noted are in the data, not the programming, and the data self-heals as you automaticaly download new tiles of map.

  11. Google is just the default… not the best… Tim Cook is pointing to all solutions to get people to look around and start comparing the feature sets of the different mapping solutions… it is a way of leveling the playing field before Apple disrupts it. It is also a way to get jaded eyes to evaluate apple maps anew.

  12. Last night my wife got lost in a city 800 km from here. I opened up Apple Maps on the ‘Pad, fixed her position, found her destination and talked her through the route. This was not in a major US city, it was in South Africa, where half the streets have been renamed in the last two years. Apple Maps had all the latest street names down pat. I have NO qualms recommending it.

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