Here comes the map spin from Cupertino

The rule of thumb for following Apple is that if you want to know what Apple PR’s official line is, you just need to read the top-tier Apple apologists like John Gruber and MG Siegler. They’re pretty much operating as unpaid Apple spokesbots. Apple briefs these guys, but instead of having the balls to do it on the record, Apple feeds them some spin with the condition that they will write it up while attributing their info to “sources who are familiar with the situation.” It’s a bit like being a Kremlinologist and reading Pravda and Izvestia.

And, sure enough, in the wake of the Mapocalypse, today come Gruber and Siegler with Apple’s spin. Gruber pens “On the Timing of Apple’s Map Switch” and Siegler provides “Ripping Off The Bloody Band-Aid.”

Both fail to discuss the suckiness of the maps app itself and instead spin the story to one about timing. Meaning, why did Apple do this now? Why not wait and switch later? And, of course, in this version of events, Apple is doing the right thing. And, of course, the villain is Google.

So this is the best Apple can do. They can’t try to pretend that their maps app isn’t a huge step backward. They can’t try to pretend that they aren’t putting their own squabble ahead of the needs of their customers. They can’t try to pretend that they’ve actually devoted sufficient resources to solving a very difficult problem.

What’s left? Stories about Band-Aids, and timing. Yes, by all means, let’s all talk about timing. Timing timing timing. Let’s talk about why this happened now instead of next year. It’s called misdirection, and it’s mostly used by magicians and PR people.

Remember when Bill Clinton was on the ropes with the Lewinsky mess, and every day some Clinton shill like Lanny Davis would come on TV and raise a stink about Ken Starr’s law firm having some kind of conflict of interest, and try to spin the story to be about Ken Starr rather than about whether Clinton was lying or not?

Don’t look here, look there. Oh, hey, up over the hill — is that a flying saucer?

This is pure Apple. They knew — had to know — when they first showed off the new maps earlier this year that the app was a piece of shit. How could they not know? So they did what Apple always does, which is to go out full-blast saying that this new maps app was the bestest, smartest, superduperest maps app ever created in the history of mankind. Oh, and Flyover! Wow! Look at how amazing Flyover is! Why it’s so amazing that TechCrunch said it made Google Maps look antiquated! “Are you listening Mountain View?” is how they put it, saying Apple had just released its own “stunning” maps app.

Remember that now? Apple’s new maps were going to kill Google. This was the death blow. Same for Garmin and others who, the Telegraph noted, were stubbornly “not conceding defeat.” (Fools!)

See, this is how it works. When you’re foisting a turd off on your customers, you don’t call it a turd. You cover it with shiny sparkly fake jewels and call it a tiara. If it’s FaceTime, the videoconferencing that nobody uses and that just does what loads of other products have done for years, you talk about the Jetsons and how we’re entering a magical space age thanks to Apple and you make a call to Jon Ive and act like you can’t really believe it and oh my God are we actually looking at each other and talking to each other the same time?

If it’s Siri, the voice assistant that doesn’t really work, you talk about the power of the revolutionary artificial intelligence that is going to change human civilization and is the product of profound research that has taken decades to perfect and now is “heralding the future,” as Siegler gushed on TechCrunch.

Fortunately Apple still has shills who will carry water for them. But it seems significant to me that they’re down to only Gruber and Siegler on this one. I’m sure Apple is briefing others, but so far it appears they’re not going for it. Even Pogue couldn’t bring himself to hold his nose and read from the script this time.

For what it’s worth, there’s still no word from Gruber and Siegler on how they never noticed any problems with maps when they were writing their original reviews. Siegler, for the record, wrote in his original review for TechCrunch that he’d “come away impressed” by the new maps, saying “they’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination.” Now it’s like tearing off a Band-Aid.

And, painful as that might be, it’s actually a good thing. See how we did that? The new maps app sucks, but we’re ripping off the Band-Aid quickly, so that’s a good thing.

Steve is dead, but the reality distortion field lives on.

52 Responses to “Here comes the map spin from Cupertino”

  1. Phil L

    I’ll say that iOS Maps is not as good as the Maps on Android, but it is on-par overall with the Maps app that was on iOS before…and better with turn-by-turn navigation. So imho it is not a step back from where it was…just not as much of a step forward as it could have been…

  2. Ganesh

    MG and Gruber are ‘Professional Apple Trolls’.. No point in finding logic in whatever they write

  3. Bob

    Yeah, it’s pretty disgusting. And I see that at least one of those mentioned here launched an embarassing attack on you personally. I guess even they realize their shilling for Apple crossed a line this time and don’t appreciate you highlighting it.

  4. Jessica


    Refreshing to read this! I’m beyond weary of alleged tech journalists’ reviews of products/services that just do not work. Period. And this isn’t a new problem (nor is it constrained to tech).

    Thank you for calling these guys out! Shame on them – and all their ilk. Whatever happened to quality journalism? Due diligence? Professional integrity? Honor??

  5. Daryel

    A friend was showing off his “3D” Maps last night to a group of people. I pulled out my Galaxy Nexus and showed the same view. I then asked… “You’re just showing a metropolitan area, what about local places?” while I pulled up Fairfield, Vacaville and Vallejo. His response was… “those will be added later”. I had to think to myself… “yeah, probably with iOS7 or when the iPhone6 comes out.”

    Having a pretty app is fine, but with craptastic data your app is still craptastic. I can design the most awesome slideshow webpage ever, but if I upload VGA (640×480) 8-bit pictures to it, it will look like the ugliest ever made. Apple needs to realize that the 5 million miles streetview camera shots, latest satellite imagery, accurate place data, etc. is a result of Google’s hard and tireless work in the area. You can’t just throw that away and go back to 7 year old topo maps. Heck, 3.2 million users of Apple’s maps can’t even use the new functions because of the area they live (Taiwan, India, etc.) They lost out bigtime. For Apple to try to spin things to put the blame on Google is ridiculous. Google provided a mapping service to Apple’s customers but reserved the premium use of the services for it’s own customers.

    Remember Apple’s spin on “AntennaGate”? They even tried to say HTC’s phones dropped calls when held wrong. How long was it before they finally made things right by sending out “bumpers”? This Maps problem is going to take much much longer for Apple to correct.

  6. Dean E.

    I should add that I have had little problem with Apple Maps other than the poor rendering which hasn’t mattered much do to my exclusive use via Siri. I do think, at this time, it is an inferior product to Google, I do believe it will get better. I don’t think Apple Maps deserves the vitriol it is presently receiving.

  7. Owen T.

    A) There is a lot of benefit to adding turn by turn navigation. If Google was never going to give to the iPhone then Apple really did have a very compelling reason to do something.

    B) To be fair to the early reviewers, the difference between good and bad SatNav is much more obvious when you travel than when you are driving around your home neighborhood.

    C) A week or so ago a lot of reviewers were disappointed about how much the new phones were similar to the old ones. They said Apple had lost its ambition. Now you’re harping on how many new applications they’ve built in (Voice recognition, video conferencing, turn-by-turn SatNav) that feel distinctly immature relative to the polish of older applications.

    It strikes me that a fair an sober analysis might come down somewhere in the middle of these two positions. Apple continues to be ambitions and innovative with a long-term vision, but is unable to produce the best of breed in every class of applications in their first attempt. The overall experience of owning their phone is still pretty good and on the whole it’s not a bad thing that they continue to aggressively expand its capabilities even if the first versions of some apps aren’t great.

    As for the negatives about their corporate behavior- keep in mind that Samsung engages in all of the same labor practices and more, and that they’ve been convicted of everything from anti-trust, price gouging and political corruption. The new Nokia/Microsoft partnership will show better corporate citizenship, but so far they haven’t had to confront the challenges of producing smartphones at scale and ramping up production at the speeds that their more successful competitors have.

  8. Joe Clark

    Can you back up your claims – which you present as fact – that Gruber and Siegler accept off-the-record briefings from Apple with predetermined outcomes? If not, you may have a defamation problem to address.

    Also, how are you “sure Apple is briefing others,” which I take to mean briefing them without attribution but with a quid pro quo in mind?

  9. Joe Crawford

    Gruber, September 19th:

    Anil is right about the bottom line though: the maps experience in iOS 6 is a downgrade. Users shouldn’t (and won’t) give a rip about behind the scenes negotiations.

    …and the day before, Gruber linked to The Amazing iOS6 Maps, which does nothing but mercilessly mock ridiculous Maps app results. Few shills I can think of link to cutting criticisms of what they shill for.

    You were always so trenchant when you were writing as Fake Steve Jobs. Bring back the insight!

  10. faddah

    i’ve said it before, but that never stopped me from saying it again: it comes down to this — silly-con valley tech reviewers going gaga over Maps by only plugging in their home address or the starbucks down the street before declaring it “brilliant!,” is just shameful. do you hear me? SHAMEFUL! these are well traveled people who could have plugged in addresses to anywhere else they have previously traveled in the world — europe, southeast asia, oceana, south america, anywhere, and seen these glaring errors. hell, mossberg and kara in NYC could have seen it just for manhattan addresses pulling up brooklyn instead. it was not ready for prime time, and that is just wrong.

  11. Rick

    I’m getting kinda bored of the map bashing. I’ve had every 2nd phone from Apple since the first rev. And they do get better and better. I thought perhaps the absence of issues I had with the map were due to my being in SF. But last weekend I took the turn by turn directions on a trip to Cayucos from San Francisco and in 200 miles of driving I only had ONE blank spot on the map during a 2 minute window along the 46 between the 101 and the coast where there was NO reception whatsoever.

    I don’t get all the hub-bub. I think some folks just like the hate Apple. The turn by turn nav is a huge improvement and the voerall map quality is very nice. Amazing what all the complaining has done to the share price this last week.

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