Monday, October 1, 2012

Apple Maps: A swing and a miss

For days, I was frightened to upgrade my IPhone 4 to Apple’s new iOS6 operating system.  I already have pathological fears about fresh-out-of-R&D operating systems, but with the sheer number of Apple Maps horror stories flooding Twitter, I was legitimately terrified.  But time marches on, and so I crossed my fingers, finished my living-will, and ran the installer.
4 minutes later I was breezing through an upgrade wizard, and my phone felt new and shiny again like it did on the first day.  I even forgot about the massive spider-web crack on the backside.  In that moment, I decided that the twitter hounds were definitely exaggerating.
Tonight, I finally got around to using Apple Maps for the first time. Here’s a screenshot of the first search I ran (my favorite chinese food takeout, Asia Garden 2 in New Jersey).  Note: that’s not a translation tool, the map is actually showing me another continent. 
Apple Maps Local Search for Asia Garden 2 in NJ.
Baffled, I decided to add in the town and state.  Surely Apple would get it right if I provide the location of the actual restaurant.  
Apple Gets it wrong on 2nd search for Asia Garden 2
At this point I’m stunned.  Not only did the app present me with a different language, but it gave me the wrong location twice for a single business. I didn’t care enough to see if I’d go three-for-three, so I jumped over to Google Maps in Safari knowing full well I’d get the right address.
Google Maps gets the search right.
Bing! (No pun intended).  Google maps hits the nail on the head, just like always.  But while I was glad for Google, I was also deeply sad for Apple.  They’ve let down their customers by cheapening the quality of their app just to save a few bucks on Google Maps licensing fees.  Was it worth the backlash?  I didn’t think Apple, a company that prides itself on principles of artistry and sound visual aesthetics, would make a cold business decision without prior technical due diligence.  I didn’t think Apple operated like Microsoft.
I’m sure one day Apple will have a maps tool 50x better than Google’s, and they’ll rake in the billions for it.  Or maybe they wont.  But right now, I’m stuck with an app that gives me results from 12,000 miles away.


Steven H said...

It's not the Google maps licensing fee that prompted Apple to switch map apps. The fee savings is peanuts compared to the local location-based advertising revenue to be had. Apple also gets to bulk up on more user-based profile data.

Chinu Goyal said...

@steven h:totally agreed with you