Killer app?

Much is being about the problems with the new maps issue on iOS 6. The best piece I’ve seen so far is this one on The Verge. The key angle to this story, the one that might resonant with customers, is this: “Apple’s decision to swap out Google Maps is a rare example of the company openly placing its own interests above those of its customers,” write Nilay Patel and Adi Robertson.

I’m not sure how rare that is, but anyway. I don’t expect to see anyone getting out of line at the Apple store just because the maps app has some flaws.

But the Mapocalypse does raise a question: If the new maps app is truly this bad, how come none of those glowing first-round reviews made any mention of this fact? Thousands of words were devoted to the thinness, the lightness, the wonderful way it feels when you hold it in your hand, but there was hardly a quibble about maps.

Mossberg did the best job of covering his ass, writing that maps was the “biggest drawback” and “in other ways a step backward” — but he also pointed out that the new maps app “has one big advantage” over its predecessor, meaning turn-by-turn navigation.

Scott Stein of CNET also quibbled a bit wasn’t too upset, saying, “Odds are, you’ll own a couple of maps apps and swap back and forth.”

Pogue called the new maps app one of the “chief attractions” of the new iOS.

MG Siegler of TechCrunch wrote, “Testing the maps these last few days, I’ve come away impressed.”

Jim Dalrymple of Loop Insight wrote, “I really should mention Maps, Apple’s new turn-by-turn direction app on the iPhone. I love it. I used in Cupertino and I used it at home — it worked equally well in both places.”

Ed Baig of USA Today touted the new turn-by-turn navigation, saying “Apple has generally done a very good job with its own turn-by-turn feature,” and made no mention of any problems with maps.

Gruber’s review ran several thousand words but made no mention of maps at all. (Though yesterday, after people started howling, Gruber conceded that, ahem, the new maps app is “a downgrade.”

This is weird, isn’t it? How could all of these top reviewers have early access to the device, test it thoroughly, and not notice anything wrong with the maps app?

I’m sure there’s a good explanation.

25 Responses to “Killer app?”

  1. Mark Littlewood, The BLN

    Well it might be because they probably spent a bit of time doing some mapping in and around Cupertino and the valley so when all the people that mattered – i.e. SV journos took a look, they saw their own houses and coffee shops and put a big tick in the box.

    Definitely not because they are all brainwashed Apple fans. See you soon!

  2. Keith Shaw

    Could it be that the early advanced reviewers might be afraid of saying something negative that might prevent them from getting early advance copies of the next Apple device or lose their privileged access?

    I’d also agree with Mark’s comments – most of the mistakes I’ve seen published are for maps over in Europe (and New York City), i’m sure we’ll see more mistakes published once the general public gets their hands on the device and plays around with them.

  3. Richard C.

    Wasn’t Gruber leading the charge against The Verge for not disclosing in a review of an HP desktop that it’s design was inspired by the iMac? However, its OK to not disclose that iOS 6/iPhone 5 maps suck!

  4. Paul

    You mean you’re looking for objective reviews of an Apple product by mainstream media? Dan, stop tilting at windmills…

  5. Ravi

    They’re all Americans who primarily drive, I think. That’s the one perspective where what you gain and lose with the new maps seems possibly comparable.

  6. Ville

    Maybe they did not have any problems using that?

    The first evening that I updated my phone to iOS 6, I scrolled around my city (Helsinki), and was very impressed of the update. POI:s and Yelp reviews looked very nice and fresh after years of using old Maps app. The next day I also used it for navigation, and it found the places nicely. I did not have addresses of the places, I just wrote the name of the places where I wanted to and it found them precisely. Routing was also efficient and fastest way I could think of. It was only later when I stared to hear stories online that there is problems with the map content.

    So yes, it is possible to use new Maps without noticing any of those weird hiccups people are seeing. In my opinion this whole thing is getting over exaggerated.

  7. Paul Kirsch

    Dan, great job of writing what a lot of people of been thinking!!

    I raised the same questions to many my coworkers earlier today. Thank you very much for a brilliantly written article!!

  8. Mike Perry

    Early days with the new maps, but quite honestly they are rubbish. Apple marketing hype. The 3D should have been an update in the near future not marketing hype. The basics being correct at launch would have earned more respect. We don’t mean much out of the US, but Europe/UK satellite imagery is about five to six years behind Google and well behind Nokia and Microsoft.

  9. Askbal

    This is over the top. May be the maps do work well in some areas for navigation. May be it did work well for the reviewers in their one week of testing in top metropolitan areas of the US.

    Jim Dalrymple has mentioned in a later post that the maps is not ready for prime time in Europe. Gruber has linked later to this issue and indicated that this is a tough issue for Apple. So, why be so cynical?

  10. robinottawa

    It’s a minor detail. Does anyone really think there are no errors in Google Maps? Google doesn’t, and have even put in a “report errors” tool. People have died using other digital maps. Politics at work.

  11. Vince

    Seems like Dan crawls out of whatever hole he’s in every few weeks to write a facile, trolling Apple post.

    Shine on, Fake Steve Jobs.

  12. Riftstalker

    OMG, and now planes are landing right there, on the farm.

    How many map users will be affected by the new app’s imperfection? I would be surprised if anyone actually lost their way to the airfield because of the app.

    As to Dan’s question, do you think Mossberg drives around South Ireland before writing a review… just on the odd chance that they’d find a misplaced label?

    Normal usage of the map produces normal results… not mapocalypse. I bet there’s a lot of Google PRs pouring oil into the fire of this … story.

  13. jason

    It seems to me that a lot of the people who think that
    It is a minor problem for Apple can not comprehend
    how much of Apple’s future is tied into getting this mapping
    problem right. Yes, it is not only a blow to Apple’s prestige
    , but also a drawback to its efforts to further bleed and
    monetize its customers data usage through advertisements.
    Mapping technology is essential and complicated, and it has
    little to
    do with beauty and coolness.

  14. faddah

    i say: what mark littlewood & jason said. further, the hilariously over-the-top conjecture cover-my-ass money quote from gruber in his map follow-up:

    …we don’t know how much of this decision to switch was Apple’s alone. We do know that Apple’s existing contract with Google for Maps expired this year. It’s possible Apple tried to renew for another year or two and Google either refused (unlikely, I’d say) or offered to do so under terms Apple found unacceptable (possible, I’d say).

    oh sheeeeeeee-zus!! #srsly?? everything in that quote is utter conjecture bullshizzznit. it is FUD meant to sooth the apple fanboi fatihful by planting the seeds of some smokey back room negotiation that DOES NOT EXIST. the plain facts are: apple always prefers control of end-to-end technology and avoiding NIH save where the partners behave as they tell them to. apple still despises google for schmidt sitting on the apple board while they were working on android and the released it. they want their own maps, they just screwed the pooch on this release, big time. time will tell how apple pr and software updates handle this.

    vince — seems more like you just check your aging RSS feed for when dan posts just to pop back something needlessly snarky. dan gives plenty of linked examples of how tech journos got this wrong, wrong, wrong. what about that fits the definition of “facile”? that computer you use probably has a dictionary — i suggest using it once in a while.

    riftstalker – apple is a global company which, during the u.s. debt ceiling crisis last year, was at one point worth more in its cash reserves than the entirety of the u.s. gov’t. they made a huge deal in the iPhone 5 product launch spectacle about how many countries were getting both the iOS 6 software update and the iPhone 5 so quickly after the u.s. release (previously they’ve waited months or even a year or more). they went out of their way to open with video of the debut of their new barcelona, spain store. they outsource their work to chinese manufacturing. after all that corporate capitalist consumer globalism cheerleading, for them to have a map app that makes this many mistakes on a global scale is just ridiculous, especially given the global market they’re aiming at with this message. what’s more, fat ass journos who sit at their desk or behind the wheel of their car and do no more map research than the local starbucks or movie theatre closest to them and then call that geolocation review are lazy, at best. many of these are well-traveled people, it is simple for them to plug-in a european, oceanic or asian location, even from the comfort of their cubicle or home office, and know by their experience if it is correct. hell, moss puppet and kara just had to plug in popular manhattan addresses just to see that lexington ave. keeps pulling up the bed-stuy location in brooklyn rather than the manhattan one closer to them. that this wasn’t reported sooner is shameful.

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