Apple Maps: 18 months later

“The common theme is that Apple messed up big time when switching to a home-brewed mapping system for iOS 6. It got so bad that Apple even fired a long-time executive, Scott Forstall, although there may have been other reasons that hastened his departure,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “”

“No matter. It was quite true that, during the early days, Maps could be quite flaky, and in ways that were easy to document with big, bold, lurid screen shots. So when the 3D view showed a landmark melting into the background, such as Hoover Dam, you just knew Apple would be getting tons of bad publicity. Any instance involving wrong directions or locations simply added to the perception that Maps was a huge miss for Apple,” Steinberg writes. “I suppose if Apple called it a public beta from Day One, and treated the mistakes with a touch of humor, the media wouldn’t have reacted so critically. Maybe offer a prize for the silliest mistake, and invite iOS users to document the worst ills, so Apple could fix them. Don’t take it seriously, and the criticisms would be blunted.”

“The perception remains that Apple Maps is bad, Google Maps is good. But the truth lies in a gray area where both are imperfect in different ways. I’ve documented situations where Google Maps screwed up big time, but Apple was mostly correct,” Steinberg writes. “This, however, doesn’t mean that Maps is fixed and is, in all respects, a superior service to Google. But it’s also clear that Apple has invested considerable resources into improving the product, and it shows. But it still may be less accurate in other locations. The problem with the Apple is bad and Google is good brigade is that they are suspended in time. They simply do not understand that Apple has had 18 months to improve the mapping service, and the results should be evident to anyone who checks out rendering and navigation accuracy. It’s a lot better, and Apple deserves the credit for doing the right thing.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote before the Apple firings and Cook’s upper management reorg, back on September 28, 2012:

One thing we would like to know is: Who’s responsible for opening Apple up to this overblown shitstorm and why are they still working for Apple Inc., if they still are?

…No matter what Apple does, no matter how much better they make Apple Maps, it will now always “suck” in the minds of a large segment of the population… The fool(s) responsible for preparing Maps for release and then releasing it with obvious issues (overblown as they are) and therefore tainting Maps forever should face severe consequences. As in: Pink slip(s). If you don’t get fired over this debacle, what exactly does get you fired at Tim Cook’s Apple?

Here’s a little hint for the future: Everything that requires widespread customer use to develop a rich database before the product becomes fully usable should be clearly labelled “beta” upon release. Apple did it with Siri, but they forgot to do it with Maps. Had Apple been smart enough to simply place a “beta” tag on Maps, all of this rigamarole would never have occurred.

Related articles:
Apple’s Maps just might have the last laugh with iOS 8 release – March 12, 2014
iOS 8: Apple improves Maps data, adds public transit directions service – March 11, 2014
Apple’s 3D recording patent could bring user-generated ‘street views’ to Maps – January 7, 2014
Apple patent filing reveals interactive maps with dynamically adjusting content layers – December 19, 2013
ZDNet: Apple Maps’ worldview is now better than Google Maps – November 30, 2013
Google Maps usage on iPhones plummets 70% in UK – November 26, 2013
Apple Maps makes killer comeback as Google Maps loses access to world’s most desirable mobile customers – November 12, 2013
Apple Maps puts the hurt on Google Maps – November 11, 2013
WIth iOS 7, Apple’s Maps has arrived; it’s now better than Google Maps – September 25, 2013

55 Comments

  1. I agree Maps should have been released as a beta to blunt the obvious goofs, but I don’t recall anyone complaining when Google Maps also melted the bridge by Hoover Dam into the riverbed.

    That said, I’ve been waiting for over a year to see a local restaurant moved down the block to it’s correct location after I reported it in the app. I’ve been reporting the location error weekly since I discovered it. I hope they’ve just been gathering up all the corrections to roll them out together, but that that seems silly. Apple has enough resources to staff a unit to handle these minor and easily fixed errors.

    1. @ Dave Marsh

      I completely agree. I’ve made many error reports to Apple via the report a problem function within the Maps app, and I’m yet to see any change. And I’ve been making almost weekly reports (our street name changed). The added frustration is that Google Maps made the change after making the first report!

      With Apple making roads into car systems with CarPlay, they really need to react faster with user reported submissions via their Maps app. Either have those already working on the Maps app work harder and longer, or hire more people!

      1. Agreed that if they don’t take care to up the response time to mapping error reports there is no doubt it will taint the public reception of CarPlay. Publicly come out already and say Maps is a work in progress (say it is back in Beta if you have to) and acknowledge that users are helping to make it better over time. I see no way Apple can go at this alone w/o the help from their user base.

    2. I have reported shop location problems in my area through apple maps, and these error are still there, apple haven’t fixed them. Unlike apple customer care which was brilliant and instant, this apple maps problem of not fixing error still persists. Recently I was in Brussels, a major European capital and apple maps didn’t work properly in the hotel and cafe wifi, but google map did. Apple maps may be better in the US but not in England and Europe, this I can vouch for personally

    3. Google Earth melted the Golden Gate Bridge when I had the 3d function turned on, and it never “unmelted” when I turned it off… that’s just one example, there are many. Neither one (Google and Apple maps) are perfect. But, I find them both useful. Competition is good.

  2. It’s this continual force feeding by Apple of imposing a horrid 2-D aspect to every app, no matter how inappropriate, that makes Maps a less than ideal mapping tool. Do we live in a 2-D world? Are terrain features not filled with 3-D rises and depressions?

    The 2-D aesthetic is a look to the past where green phosphor dots could not accurately reproduce 3-D images on screen. Yet, Apple persists with the ugly 2-D aesthetic for reasons best known to itself despoiling many of its better apps like Notes, Maps, Calendar and others.

    As for accuracy using Apple Maps vs Google Maps, Google Maps still outclasses Apple Maps in terms of accuracy. Google Maps look better with streets that are drawn wider for main streets and narrower for side streets whereas Apple Maps makes little distinction between main and side streets that can be seen clearly on the map. The almost monochromatic green of Apple Maps makes map reading more of a chore than it should.

    I thought Ive was supposed to be a design genius which was why Scott Forstall was displaced to make way for this genius to take over the design of iOS. If iOS 7 is any indication of Ive’s design genius, then I would categorise this genius as a form of unexpressed autism.

    Cook has to get a handle on Maps.

    1. I’d love to see you walk up to Ive and tell him what you think of him.
      He’s built like a brick shit-house, and I for one wouldn’t mess with him.
      And I would also suggest that you spend some time learning something about design before criticising someone of Ive’s stature.

      1. You don’t have to know anything about design to like or dislike something. Some people like iOS 7. Some don’t. It’s not up to you to decide who is right and who is wrong. Some people like chocolate ice cream and others like vanilla ice cream. There is no right or wrong. Except your comments, those are wrong.

  3. I have never had a problem with Apple Maps. I assume the reported issues were real, but at the same time I know that the media always exaggerates and focuses exclusively on Apple supposed shortcomings. I am certain there have been many weaknesses with Google Maps and with Google in general, like security and pain in the ass ads and privacy invasions. But these real significant problems are never given the same level of hysterical treatment as a small issue with Apple products.

    And the MacDailyNews take in 2012 was way off. It assumed the hysterical media was right. And in reality the Maps were very good for a first release of a complex application. Not perfect by any means, but an important new wrinkle for Apple given how Google had used its CEO to try to steal product innovations from Apple.

    1. I have never had one problem with Apple Maps. In Australia, Hawaii, Utah, Arizona, several countries in Europe and not one glitch. Often I open up Apple maps and the little blue pin is hanging over my head. 😉

      However, I have tried to locate addresses in these same area with Google Maps and have been sent either several kilometers in the wrong direction or it couldn’t find the spot at all.

      Maybe, I’m just lucky.

  4. I got screwed by Apple Maps twice just this week. It still has major problems. In one case, I was directly in front of a restaurant and, despite the Apple Map pushpin showing the correct location of the restaurant, Apple Maps was telling me to drive miles in the wrong direction.
    Interestingly, the free app called “Waze” has accurate apps and provides traffic, police and hazard reports.

        1. Try to plot a course for this destination for yourself. The restaurant is right at the exit from Route 33. You get off Route 33 and you are there. If you are coming from the south, Apple Maps wants you to go to the next exit and come back.
          Google Maps directs you perfectly.

        2. Interesting… Google puts that address on Saladworks, and Apple puts it on CiCi’s Pizza. Both of them have me taking the Easton-Nazareth Parkway exit. Google shows me going into the mall, and Apple shows me at the location before turning into the mall driveway. So with Apple, I’d have to figure out that I’d have to actually drive into the mall. Big fucking deal.

          Regardless, what it comes down to for me is that Google cares about their advertisers, and Apple cares about their customers.

          1. When you’re driving, you don’t have time to safely interpret the wrong directions and convert them to correct directions. Apple Maps does not take you to the Easton-Nazareth Parkway exit; it takes you one mile north to the Stockertown exit and then tells you to do a U-turn and drive one mile back. If you think driving two miles out of your way is not a “big fucking deal,” you’re an idiot.

            This isn’t customer service that Apple is providing here; this is Apple’s attempt to screw Google. This is all about Apple; not the customers. And, the bigger problem is that this is a trend these days.

      1. The other screw-up is at the intersection of Routes 419 and 501 in Pennsylvania.
        Compare Apple Maps to Google Maps. You will find that they are not the same thing. Again, Apple Maps is wrong.

  5. One thing that I have experienced multiple times with Maps, is that it switches routes midstream if you select one of the “alternate” route options.

    Just last week, leaving the Chicago area, I selected an alternate route that took me due south through IL, instead of the slightly shorter default route through Indiana. But Maps switched the route midstream and I didn’t realize it until I was flying by the appropriate exit (I-57S) at 60 mph with two lanes of traffic between me and the exit.

    This scenario has happened to me several times.

  6. I cannot ever agree that Apple Maps is good and it pains me. I HATE going over to Google Maps, but here’s where Apple Maps still fails.

    * Corrections have been ignored still. This includes locations of addresses as well as phantom stores in malls that haven’t been around in the last 3-5 years.

    * Asking Siri for a street name either comes back with no results found or a matching street name a few states over. Give Siri the city or zip code and location services finds it. WHAT? Why can’t it find the street name based on current location and then expanding to neighboring areas? What algorithm has it looking in Kentucky when I’m in PA?

    * New roads instantly show up in Google Maps, Map Quest, and even Waze (prior to Google’s purchase), but Apple Maps still doesn’t have an over-one-year-old new bypass. WHAT?

    They really need to get it together. I won’t let Apple have a free pass on this one.

  7. I just want to be able to look up maps and directions on my phone, and have it be accurate and easy. Right now my best bet for that seems to be Google Maps, but I’m hopeful Apple Maps will become a better alternative in the future.

    I could not care less about this fanboy pissing contest between “Everything Google sucks” vs “Apple Maps sucks”.

    1. Probably because Siri does not share the language context algorithms present in at least nascent form in Google Now. I understand Google Now is present available for iOS.. Try comparing it with Siri to find the strengths and weaknesses of both.

  8. I never saw the whole maps thing as a failure. The only failure was in not making it clear that maps are *always* beta, and get better over time. For the vast majority of people Apple’s Maps worked just fine. For the hordes of people who then went looking for errors, they found them.

    I found errors in Google Maps that did not exist in Apple Maps for the area I live in but no one cared. The Meme was Apple Maps sucks.

    1. Quite true that, but when your company has a reputation of not releasing anything until it’s “ready” (ala SJ approved) you set yourself up for a pretty big fall.. With a reputation of ‘perfection’ it hurts more when you neglect to say it is a work in progress.

    2. I’m sorry but you’re an idiot.
      Nobody ‘went looking’, they simply typed in an address and got bad info. They found their home town gone or were led across a runway.
      Maps was rolled out as full featured and ready to go. It was not and still is not. End of story.
      Apple’s map effort is a magnificent FAIL, so bad blogs are devoted to it. Like others, I’ve wasted my time reporting errors that have not been correct.
      I stopped bothering.

    1. Apple Maps also re-routes on the fly depending on traffic problems. I know that the 5 is the shortest way into LA, but if there’s a shitstorm on the 5, Apple maps will take me up the 405 to the 710 North to avoid it. It works great, at least in Los Angeles.

  9. Apple Maps is the Hubble Telescope of the astronomy field. Originally declared a failure, then went on to become the most famous and valuable telescope in the history of astronomy.

  10. People actually CHOOSE to drink at Starbucks? Seriously?
    I’d be pretty pissed if I asked Siri to find me a coffee shop, and all she could find were Starbucks.

  11. I know that my address is not that important to Apple in the grand scheme of things but Maps still shows my address as one complete block off. About once every other month I send repeated notifications from Maps to Apple to clarify the problem. Apparently Apply does not listen. I checked it today on Maps after the latst iOS update earlier this week. Maps is still off.

    I have some friends traveling from several states away to visit next week. I asked what they use for directions. “Not Apple Maps” they replied. So I didn’t have to tell them to not use their iPhone for directions.

  12. I reported an error in my address three or four times over the past 18 months. May be a coincidence, but since upgrading to iOS7.1, I am now correctly located in Altrincham (UK) rather than Sale 5 miles away and my Postal Code is now correct with all 7 alphamerics instead of being truncated to 5. So, some progress, even if slow.

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