Apple won't remove its admittedly-flawed Maps app from iOS 6, so Apple CEO Tim Cook posted an open letter apology to the company's website on Friday morning, also updating its App Stores with a special section dedicated to alternative maps applications customers can use while Apple engineers fix its problematic self-branded Maps app behind the scenes.
Cook’s apology felt sincere, but was it enough to ameliorate the issues created by removing Google Maps in favor of a not-ready-for-primetime app?
Think of it this way: Each new iOS update has included a major upgrade: iOS 4 introduced folders, iOS 5 introduced the Notification Center and Game Center, but what about iOS 6? Besides the Passbook application, which is similarly not quite ready for major usage, Maps was the biggest feature in this year’s iOS upgrade, yet it’s Maps that makes iOS 6 feel like a major downgrade.
“At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers,” Cook wrote on Apple’s website. “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”
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Apple is reportedly hard at work fixing a multitude of issues in Maps, but when can we expect an update with some bug fixes? A week? A month? Two months? We mobile users desperately need directions and maps to get where we’re going on time, and while Cook’s apology feels heartfelt, his message doesn’t fix the actual problem. If I still need to get across town, or find a local destination, or find out which trains are working, my default map application in iOS 6 doesn’t work as intended.
“We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS,” Cook wrote. “As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.”
Although the company reportedly had another year in its contract with Google Maps, Apple apparently cut its ties with Google early because of its desire to use turn-by-turn directions and Siri, but Google wanted to add features like Latitude; in the end, the companies could not agree on renewal terms, and after the split, both Apple and Google were left scrambling to build new maps applications for iOS.
Without Google, Apple knew its Maps software would not be fully ready for delivery – that could take years – but it needed user feedback and support to make it better. Apple knew Google Maps wasn’t built in a day, but felt confident enough to debut with 75 to 80 percent of the application ready to go. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for most users.
To Tim Cook’s credit, Apple is promising fixes and Maps on iOS will surely become a fantastic application, but it just isn’t right now. Some of the hatred towards Apple Maps is being spurred along by Apple competitors like Google and Motorola, and many people may be enjoying their schadenfraude by dogpiling on Apple, which is fun since the company typically gets nothing but praise. However, there are real issues in iOS 6’s Maps, and nothing will make them better – no apologies, no iTunes or Apple Store credit – until they actually are better. The degree to which Apple can release timely updates and upgrades to Maps on iOS 6 will be the real determinant of how much Cook’s apology was worth.