Apple Maps one year later: The good, the bad, and the future
A look back at Apple Maps as they launched with iOS 6, and a look at where they are now as we approach iOS 7
Some love it, some tolerate it, some ridicule it, and some have all but abandoned it. When Apple made the decision to cut their Google-ties and go it alone with their own mapping service, it was a gutsy move. Google Maps makes people feel safe; it's been around for so long and offered so freely it's become the de-facto map service for many, many people.
Apple Maps, launched with iOS 6, was also free, had a gorgeous interface, gimmicky features like Fly Over, but for many people it simply failed at getting them from point A to point B, or getting locations or points of interests anywhere nearly right. Since then Apple has edited, apologized, reorganized, and poured considerable energy into making Maps better. So how are they doing?
iMore iOS 6 Maps poll - September 2012
Apple Maps launched to something of a fiasco. The issues were well documented, to the point CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology, acknowledging that Maps wasn't up to scratch, and that they would keep working at it until it was the same quality product you come to expect from Apple.
Reputation matters. On release it was bad so like bing maps even though it's usable NOW, the perception has been set.
Cook even suggested downloading alternative apps from the App Store. The CEO of Apple, recommending someone elses product. That was unprecedented, and demonstration of both the enormity of the problem, and Apple's recognition of it.
Beside some of the common bugs, It's seen as a departure of quality for Apple
Perhaps, because we're so used to a quality product from Apple, the disappointment with Maps escalated further than it might have otherwise. Perhaps because Maps are such an important service today, and the consequences to getting them wrong so potentially dire, that any problems when it comes to location need to be taken seriously. Apple doesn't make a habit of releasing software as error-filled as Maps was, but they also had almost no experience in mapping to draw upon, certainly not the years TomTom, Nokia, and Google have put in.
Those experiences are not unique to Apple Maps... It happens on Gamin Nuvis... TomToms... and has happened to me with Google Maps & Navigon too
That said, all navigation services have problems. It's incredibly hard to ingest, aggregate, cleanse, and sanitize that much information, and keep it updated. Anyone who uses GPS/sat-nav routinely will come across occasional problems, be it with TomTom, Nokia HERE, Google Maps, Garmin/Navigon, Co-Pilot, Waze, etc. It's the overall quantity of errors, the egregiousness of them, and the time it takes to fix them that matters.
iMore Maps app poll - December 2012
iMore Maps app poll - July 2013
It's also apparent that location played a big part in the quality of Apple's initial Maps release. Downtown San Francisco had far better data than rural Australia. Apple hasn't been standing still over the past year, but people's trust in Apple Maps still seems to vary widely depending on where they are.
I myself have no issues and it works every time I use it. There are always going to be exceptions but from launch until now it is a totally different app that deserves it's chance
Mapping the world on launch day, even mapping the world a year post-launch is non-trivial, but it's the promise Apple made by launching their own, home-grown mapping service, and for many people in may parts of this world, it's still a promise they're waiting on Apple to fulfill. For others, it really has gotten better.
Yes, they used to be wrong but just the other day I used my iPad to get to a destination and I left my phone(Nexus 4) on charge and it had no issues taking me there. NOTE: I do NOT live in the US, I live in a country called New Zealand.
With iOS 7, Apple seems to have redesigned everything, and while they haven't shown off the iOS 7 Maps app on the iPhone or iPad yet, they have shown off an iOS 7-looking maps and navigation system for iOS in the Car feature. Gone, as expected, is all the rich design and road sign-style interface elements, which to some were the best thing about Apple Maps. How the new system feels in actual use, and more seriously, how it works on phones, on tablets, and in cars remains to be seen.
More interestingly, with OS X Mavericks, Apple will be bringing Maps to the Mac, including features like pushing maps from the Mac to your iPhone or iPad so you can look things up at home and at work, and then take them with you on the road. Data quality not withstanding, will that grant Apple Maps a another chance to win us over?
Both iOS 7 Maps and OS X Mavericks Maps will ship this fall. iOS in the Car ships with several auto-makers in 2014.
Its nice, it works where I live too. I still use Google Maps, old habits die hard, but when I get Mavericks, the incentive to use Apple Maps more will be there.
Personally, I'm a Google Maps user, and for very specific reasons. But, I do appreciate that Apple is working hard to refine a product that is still only 12 months old, and is competing against much older, more refined products. Whether or not Apple can overcome initial bad impressions and get people to try them again, and again if needs me, and again until they prove themselves a great product for everyone, in all places, is the question.
What do you guys think? Now, one year later, how is Apple Maps working for you? There's also a discussion brewing in the iMore forums, so be sure to drop over there too and join in!
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