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Apple CEO says sorry for Maps, suggests customers use rivals' products

Many have asked how Steve Jobs would have handled the Apple Maps fiasco - or whether it would have even happened on his watch (answer: yes. Remember antenna-gate or the Ear of Death?).

Now we know how the new guy is playing it: on the front foot, publicly apologising, as Mr Jobs did over antenna-gate in 2010 (if by letter rather than via public appearance).

Apple CEO Tim Cook has made an abject apology for Apple Maps, a signature feature of iOS 6 (the latest free upgrade to the software that runs iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch).

"We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better," the chief executive wrote in a letter posted to Apple's website today (see RAW DATA below).

More, he takes the extraordinary step of recommending Apple customers use rivals' mapping services when Apple tries to fix its own product:

"While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app."

iOS 5 had Google Maps pre-installed. But with Google and Apple drifting apart, the iPhone maker has removed YouTube and Maps from iOS 6 (Google has released a YouTube app, but has yet to even start work on a version of Google Maps to place on the iTunes AppStore, its CEO said this week - that change seems more abrupt and unexpected).

Maps has been widely mocked for out-of-date data, squashed and surreal images, and landmarks located in ridiculous places - the latest of many blunders spotted by users has Dunedin Airport in the Tasman Sea.

Best interface, fed by the worst data
NBR has reported many of the bloopers.

But also that when its data is correct - which it has been, for all but one of your correspondent's trips around town - Apple Maps actually has the slickest, fastest and easiest to use interface of any mapping app out there (although the Street Views of Google Maps are missed). For moving from point A to point B around Auckland, it has often performed like a dream. It's the best interface, fed by (at times) the worst data. 

And NBR's praise had limits. Yesterday, ironically en route to pick up an iPhone 5, NBR was unable to find the Sofitel hotel on Auckland's Viaduct using Apple Maps - even though rivals Google Maps and TomTom iPhone had caught up with its name-change from Westin.

Apple Maps was developed in house, using mapping data from headline partner TomTom and two dozen others. TomTom says it stands by its data, and something does seem to have got lost in translation as NBR's experience trying to find the Sofitel shows.

Apple is crowd-sourcing fixes (more here), and says corrections are constantly being made to the cloud-based Maps.

If the data does come right, then NBR would be inclined to stick with Apple Maps - whose turn-by-turn instructions and slick interface give it a solid edge over Google Maps on iPhone.

Apple shares [NAS:AAPL] closed down 2.09% to $US667.11

ckeall@nbr.co.nz


RAW DATA: Tim Cook's letter

To our customers,

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. 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.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. 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.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook
Apple’s CEO

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions
5

I found out the other day that Apple Maps thinks Britomart Transport Centre doesn't exist and instead locates Auckland Station in the Hauraki Gulf.

It is a great tool that will be top of tree once they sort the bugs.

I used it for the first time last week and although it located my destination exactly, enroute it got confused with another street with the same name spelt slightly differentley and attempted to get me to drive to the nearest (incorrect) location.
As soon as I ignored it and moved further towards my destination it's instructions became accurate once again.

Its all good they can sort the bugs out, but who wants to wait years for that to happen.

When marketers get to set delivery timetables thinking a can-do attitude can change the immutable laws of software creation.

Google Maps comes with Turn by Turn instructions on Android phones, obviously it's missing on iOS