Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple May Have Ditched Google Maps Too Soon

With the recent release of iOS 6, Apple dropped support for Google maps as the default navigation application instead replacing Google with their very own mapping app. This move however has not been a smooth transition as Apple's new Maps app is already facing criticism around the world over a slew of omissions, poor directions and other geographic errors.

For example, reports are already pouring in saying that Apple Maps is coming up with some strange ideas about how to get places. Directions have been reported as being totally inaccurate and possibly even dangerous at times.

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According to reports from the BBC News several locations in the U.K. have been moved or are missing from the app.

Stratford-upon-Avon and Solihull are both nowhere to be found. The town of Uckfield in East Sussex is in the wrong location. Certain schools are missing, while the app apparently placed a furniture museum in a river. Satellite images of different locations, including ones in Scotland, are covered by clouds.

Users in Asia have noticed similar discrepancies. According to Japanese blog site Japan Mobile Tech some users have complained of poor quality in the level of details, while others say the app doesn't show train station exits or it shows multiple instances of the same exit all in the wrong locations.

Web sites, such as the Huffington Post, have already created lists of the worst or funniest mistakes found in the app. There's also this Tumblr that keeps growing with examples of "Amazing iOS 6 Maps."

This might not be a complete disaster for Apple but it certain is a black spot that might not be easily fixed. Apple licenses mapping data from vehicle navigation systems maker TomTom. TomTom said it stands behind the quality of its maps but didn't develop the app.

"During the process of turning mapping data into an app, every manufacturer does it their own way," said TomTom spokesperson Cem Cohen. "We are not part of that process. Apple uses exactly the same maps as our other customers."

While in theory it may be possible for Apple to update Maps with a software fix, the problems appear to be "pretty profound and pretty fundamental," said Marcus Thielking, co-founder of Skobbler, maker of the popular GPS Navigation 2 app. "The question is really how much expertise do they have in-house and what they sourced from third parties," Thielking said, adding that Apple requires people with a very specific skill set to fix this.

Apple has responded via a public statement issued to AllThingsD:

"Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service," said spokeswoman Trudy Miller. "We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn by turn navigation, and Siri integration. We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better."

Later in his piece, AllThingsD writer John Paczkowski says the developer team assigned to the Maps app is "under lockdown" working to fix the app.

Sadly users wanting to revert back to Google Maps simply can't. Apple dropped all support for Google maps as a stand alone application and there isn't as of yet an alternative. If you want to use Google Maps you'll be forced to do so through your browser. If you are looking for a better more accurate mapping application you'll probably be forced to look for a paid solution either from TomTom, Garmin or another third party vendor.

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