Regular readers will know that I often are willing to give Apple the benefit of the doubt. But with iOS 6 released today they have actually made a mistake that makes you wonder “whether Steve would have allowed it.” The mistake was to drop Google Maps and replace it with an in-house Maps app with fewer features. To be sure, it has some additional features like turn-by-turn navigation if you have an iPhone that is less than a year old. But what it drops is public transport directions.

This is a huge mistake because this is a feature used by many iPhone users. It is part of the mobile experience with maps. Now if you want public transport directions you are directed to a third party app. If you happen to be in Toronto, none were coming up. This is really, really bad. You can, of course, go to maps.google.com but that is a browser experience. It will get the job done but it is not the same. It is definitely not what we were told to believe was “the Apple way.”

To be sure, I think it is highly likely Apple will fix this. But to leave users without a function for months is very bad form. I can only imagine it was one really poor deal Google were asking for that led to this. But maybe it is a leadership failure within Apple. All in all, the reputational damage to the “put consumers first” value from this is large.

There are lots of good things in iOS 6 but if you don’t have an iPhone 4S or 4, I’m not sure it is worth upgrading. And if others agree, then all of a sudden, Apple’s, “all our users are on the same system,” advantage starts to slip.

10 Responses to Apple’s big mistake

  1. AB says:

    So you know you can download Google Maps in the app store, and have all your awesomeness right back …

  2. Simon says:

    “I can only imagine it was one really poor deal Google were asking for that led to this.”

    Your Apple fanboy is showing…

    This seems similar to the new YouTube app, I guess Google just wants control over the app itself rather than be beholden to Apple…

  3. Tony Healy says:

    Josh, you’re aware that Google started charging volume users for accessing its Maps API? The future for Apple and others as captive users was not bright, so they responded.

    Steve would have approved.

  4. Joshua Gans says:

    @AB that would be news to the world. I don’t see it there.

    @tony Steve would not have approved to harming the customer experience. If it was Google upping the price, then it is appropriate to develop an alternative. But until that alternative is there you continue paying so consumers don’t suffer.

  5. AJK says:

    Not sure about other outside-US locations, but the UK maps seem to have lost almost all their detail (and usefulness).

    Still, Apple’s motto always was ‘take it or leave it’.

  6. HvS says:

    Biggest mistake sofar is that it is still not possible to search in iPhone through notes in contacts. Unbelievable…. But true.

  7. Tony Healy says:

    @josh, what if Google demanded a five or ten year commitment as the price for continued access to the Maps API, and acceptance of price rises determined by the provider?

    The issue here is really one of how well Apple executed rather than whether they chose the correct direction. Mapping is a huge infrastructure and technology task, so I think their achievements have actually been huge, notwithstanding some edge case glitches.

    If Steve Jobs had still been around, I doubt the effects would have been different. But possibly he would have hyped it better. He would have promoted driving and drivers and denigrated public transport usage.

  8. DavidN says:

    It might have been a mistake (depending on the counterfactual Apple accepting Google offer and what that offer might be) but I don’t think relatively speaking it’s a big one. What’s the proportion of iOS users who relied on public transport directions regularly? And of that set how important is the omission compared to the other benefits they get over the alternative platform?

    Remember iOS use to not have ‘cut and paste’, multi-tasking etc. etc.

  9. d. a. morn says:

    “edge case glitches” – that’s rich. but it makes kind of sense if one believes “anywhere outside USA = edge case”.

    It’s not only public transport, there are whole countries and cities that have lost basically everything thats important and the rest is wrong. just google (haha, the irony) the thing – if one is not among the casualties of Apples business decision it’s acutally quite funny to look through all those blogs collecting those “edge case gliches”.

  10. […] maps problem By Joshua Gans On Sep 27, 2012 · Add Comment · In Limits Since my post last week, Apple’s iOS6 maps problem has become this year’s ‘-gate’ issue. […]

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