Apple CEO Tim Cook writes open letter to customers concerning iOS 6 Maps

Apple CEO Tim Cook has posted an open letter to customers on Apple.com{.nofollow} concerning iOS 6 Maps. iOS 6 Maps, which replaced the original, Google-powered iOS Maps app with one that drew data from TomTom and others, but which was more wholly owned, controlled, and realized by Apple, has been the subject of controversy since launch due to the quality of data in many areas.

In the open letter, Cook apologizes for the current state of iOS 6 maps, and even goes so far as to recommend competing products from the App Store and the web. He also assures iOS 6 users that Apple will be working "non-stop" to make iOS 6 Maps live up to Apple's standards. (If you want to help Apple improve it, you can submit corrections using the built-in tools.)

Apple began buying map-releated companies in 2009. Earlier this year, iMore learned Apple planned to remove as much of Google from the core of iOS as possible, including at the location data level. It later became known that Apple and Google had been feuding for some time over features, branding, and data usage in the original maps app.

Interestingly, in a poll of iMore readers conducted last night, more than 50 percent reported a positive outlook on maps. Back before iOS 6 Maps was even announced, iMore reported on the realities of Apple's the upcoming Maps product, trying to set realistic expectations. That report now seems to have been largely accurate.

Due to the nature and importance of the problems with iOS 6 Maps, mainstream news organizations have been reporting on it throughout the last week. When that happens, Apple typically knows they have to issue a statement and take back control of the story. Previous open letters have included the iPhone 4 "antennagate", the lack of Flash plugin support in iOS, the health of Apple's late CEO, Steve Jobs, and the use of DRM (digital rights management) on iTunes music. In other words, It's a BIG DEAL and a very public sign that Apple is taking a situation very seriously.

Google is expected to release a version of their popular Maps product into the iOS App Store eventually, although they're playing it coy at this point. The deeper problem Apple still has to address is -- how could Apple let this happen? How could Apple release a product that could reasonably be seen to have this consequence, without internally identifying and pre-emptively addressing it at either of their two announcement events, WWDC or the iPhone 5 event, and how could they let the story run away from them for a over a week before responding? This isn't a case of measuring a response to an unforeseeable situation twice and cutting it loose to the press and public once. This is a case of risk assessment and mitigation gone wrong, and of brand currency expended.

Apple doesn't only have to fix maps, they have to fix the process that resulted in Tim Cook having to write this letter.

Source: Apple.com

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

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

91 Comments
  • Blah blah blah... we're working on it... blah blah blah... There are also apps from Garmin, TomTom, Telenav and a host of others... and he pimped Waze? Really? Waze is worse than Apple's own maps...
  • You seem to know what you are talking about....NOT! Considering Waze has better customer rating and reviews then any of those Apps you mentioned...combined!
  • Waze was crapola for me. Hated it. Sucked worse than NFL replacement refs.
  • LOL NFL replacement refs! Not sure when you last tried it, but they have done a lot of improvements.
  • Waze is an amazing app and that's all I've used. It is an open source map in that users are allowed to edit map changes themselves. Sure, when it came out it wasn't the best, sorta like wikipedia, but as more people have been editing out the changes, it's gotten really good, sorta like wikipedia too. I recommend it to all my friends.
  • Comparing Waze to Wiki - that's a selling point. Any idiot can edit Wiki, and they often do with blatant lies. If Waze is all you've ever used, you might think it's cool. If you've ever used something from Garmin or TomTom, etc. you'll know just how bad Waze is.
  • I have used them all, even the expensive ones. I used to stick mostly with TomTom until I went back for another test of Waze. It is dramatically improved. The traffic data is really good. It has even saved me from cops several times which is something TomTom will never do. Even the voice prompts are much better in Waze. It actually sounds like a human which is surprising for a free app. I have also done a few road corrections for some local roads that had just been created and were already in Waze but weren't named yet. The changes that are coming in 3.5 looks really exciting too. It is getting Glympse like functionality for texting links to people so they can track your progress and get a real time ETA. You can also do a caravan and track every one in your group. Also when you arrive at your destination it gives you the option to save the location of your parking spot. The guys behind Waze are getting very creative. Apple will never add this sort of stuff to the built in Maps App. It isn't like Apple to add lots of features to the built in apps. Hell they still don't have a freaking snooze button for calender reminders which is a total joke.
  • I'd have said the same until recent months. It's the shyt, now.
  • Blah blah blah... suck! Blah blah blah... hated it! Blah blah blah... crap. Blah blah blah...
  • *where I live* (and that's important), outside the US, Waze is about 100 times better than google maps and 200 times better than apple maps, as far as navigation goes. I only remember one destination waze got wrong in the 2+ years I've used it, and that one destination was closer to reality than either google maps or apple maps ever got. Waze can point me to my parents' place, almost, right street but 3 blocks away from their place. Google maps puts me about 4 kilometers away, in a totally wrong area of the city they live in, and Apple maps puts me about the same distance away but on the other side of their place. So...maps, like everything else, is as good or as bad as your experience dictates...for me, Waze kills everything else.
  • Either you are delusional, haven't really tried Waze or haven't tried it in a long time. It is the best Nav app in my opinion and it is free. The should be releasing version 3.5 soon.
  • Amen!
  • I think his point was to point out a few popular, but more importantly, FREE, apps. Had Tim suggested a $30, $40, or more app, people would raise a bigger $#!tstorm for Apple to reimburse or provide a free GPS app. In the way chosen, he is not only admitting the issues, but highlighting the strength of Apple's solution. Choice. A robust App Store. Web Apps. Remember, at the end of the day? Apple users have the most choices. We will get a Google Maps app, we have access to it on the web, we have tins of choice in our App Store, plus we will get Apple's offering that will become the best due to the sheer volume of users. It is like movies, tv shows, books, etc. All other platforms will have the Google, the Amazon, including iOS. But only iOS will have the Apple versions of these items IN ADDITION to the others. And I know kch agrees, too. He just happens to have an issue with Waze, so what?
  • Well said.
  • As a iPhone user I am concerned that nobody at apple stood up 1 year to 6 months ago and said "hey this map thing isn't working out how we imagined it would, we should do something about it!"
  • But with the wealth of data and reports provided by 100 million+ iOS devices, it's a lot easier to comb through and find these problems to fix them. Real usage is how Google Maps got to be what it is today, Apple is betting on the real usage of their maps app to improve it beyond what they could do in house, most likely.
  • +1
    We are all beta testers for Apple- each device, each new feature they roll out, it's never really final or they wouldn't keep updating. Like it or not, this is the way it is. I personally prefer it this way because we all have a say in what may be integrated into the next version. Apple usually listens to our feedback so give them constructive ideas not just "maps suck, fix it."
  • It's fine for them to improve their products based on user feedback but that does not excuse the creation of a subpar product - especially in the absence of pre-existing, superior product.
  • Yes, I agree with that also. I haven't personally had any issues with the maps app as of yet. I used it extensively last weekend while out of town and it worked beautifully, I never got lost and it was able to find places like "the closest Starbucks" or "where can I get breakfast" and then direct me there efficiently. Maybe I just got lucky ;)
  • Im sorry was google maps a great product when i first rolled out? I highly doubt it was, google maps is a great app now because of millions of people using it in past few years, and don't act like google maps was perfect. apple maps will get better in time, and they had to do for their users with google not willing to give ios users turn by turn,
  • You are correct. Google maps wasn't perfect when it first rolled out. But you weren't using a superior product before someone dumped it on you. That is the problem here. Apple should have rolled out an optional public beta this year, to collect user data from those willing to early adopt, don't need transit direction, or would like turn-by-turn. They still have a year on their google licensing agreement. Also, I didn't give Google $600 , but I paid that to Apple...so no, I don't want to spend time populating their mapping data.
  • I agree! Something like maps is not a brand of code that 100 people in a lab can work on for years and get right. The world is a huge place and it is going to take a lot of input from a lot of users to fix problems. I can remember when Google Maps was nowhere near what it is now. It just takes time. Maybe what Apple should have done was not tout it as being a complete experience and just put it out there in beta. Lord knows Siri has come a long way in a year because it works the same way. It has to have real world experience. But hey, its a risk. Apple did not get where they are without taking them.
  • I think part of the problem is that whenever Apple released its maps app there would have been problems. A lot of modern maps are refined and improved from crowd sourced data and you just cant get that without folks using it. On the other hand Apple made a big mistake and should have put it out as a beta, just as Siri was, and then people would have understood that their input would improve it. What is even stranger is that Apple maps is supposedly better than Google's in China, and yet they never bothered ro check the UK mapping information. Perhaps they felt that the UK mapping data would be consistant as it doesn't alter too much and China, a rapidly evolving economy, needed most resources. Whatever the case you can bet an iphone 5 that Apple will throw engineers and cash at the problem to solve it! For myself I use the maps app in the UK and Ive found the routing very good, and the app quite speedy as a vector drawn app compared to the tile approach Google uses but thats just my experience. Its usually more accurate than my built in sat nav in the car.
  • I agree, i havent seen any of the problems most people are encountering, and its been working fine for me.
  • I wonder how many people are returning their phones because google maps is gone.
  • Doubt any!
  • Probably the same number of people who divorce a spouse after discovering that he doesn't aim very well in the restroom - very few. That doesn't excuse his bad behavior or absolve him of the need to do better.
  • +1 Amen to that!
  • The letter is fine but how does the most valuable company in the world let this happen? Hmmm ..
  • Exactly.
  • what is your point, companies make mistakes all the time, them being the most valuable company does not mean anything.
  • When he says their commitment fell short, it means Apple Maps fell short as being a World Class product.
  • In almost two weeks they still haven't managed to add the second largest city in Sweden. I can understand that some roads and landmarks are off, but when big cities are missing it's just bad. At least they seem to have managed to move Berlin from Antarctica now.
  • Aww, common. Don't you know our philosophy? If it's not in the USA, it doesn't matter. j/k of course.
  • Hey, now you won't get any meatballs! Bork bork ;)
  • Question would Steve have even pushed Maps out if he was still alive? Are we going to start seeing Apple released every month now just like Android? Maps needs a search engine just like google maps.
  • Yes, Jobs would have pushed Maps out. .
  • My impulse is to strongly disagree but things like antennagate make me pause. I'm going to say *pulls hand from arse* that he would not have done this unless it was concurrent with the Google option's availability.
  • Well, I would assume it depends on how accurate the maps were around where Steve was. Antennagate, you can dismiss in that he might never have encountered it while using the phone. Maps, if they didn't give him accurate results, I believe he would have tossed it back immediately and ripped them a new one. Which means they're probably accurate for the areas they tested (Apple campus area. :) ).
  • At the risk of seeming like a newb... I'm activating my IP5 today from IP4 so Siri and stuff will be new to me but what, specifically is so horrible about Maps? I've been using the handicapped version on my IP4 (no voice or fly over features) and it's worked quite well at getting me to my destination. And it loads WAY faster than Navigon - which is an otherwise great map app as well.
  • There isnt anything wrong in my opinion. Its a fairly decent app, it almost looks the same as the Google app, again this is my opinion.
  • Many users in many different locations have found poi and navigation to be subpar for their areas. Simple as that. Salt on the wound is how well those things worked on the previous GM app. Voice or no voice, whatever navigation is provided sound be accurate. It's too important not to be. Then there is the absence of Street View. And thus, my choice to remain on 5.x. (Also, YouTube, jailbreak, etc)
  • you could always just download the youtube app that google released. its really great,
  • transit directions have also been removed. lot of people in big transit cities like nyc, chicago, etc, depended on them. i know apple maps gives suggestions on replacements. not sure if they are as good.
  • Location search is also extremely poor -- if you are used to searching by general terms, be prepared to start searching by exact name instead. Example posted in other thread, if you search for "Padres" in San Diego, their stadium Petco Park does not come up in Apple Maps, but it does in iOS5 and in Google's webapp. Even when their data is accurate, their engine's ability to adapt non-exact search terms to it is years behind what they used to ship.
  • The point of interest thing I heard on another podcast is to search for Hospital. Tried it on mine recently. It works great. If your pet is injured that is (shows the nearest veterinarian hospital)... Not so good if you're looking for human hospitals. One of those things that can be tweaked on the back end for the search, but it's still funny.
  • Maps being a joke, iPhone coming out of the box being scuffed up, and iOS 6 being all hateful against wifi. All this and I can see why Apple has for the first time in a while has fallen in customer satisfaction surveys. It's a tiny drop but they usually go up with each new OS release. Hopefully Apple will be able to fix the OS and with support from the users get the maps App to become somewhat usable.
  • Partner with map quest or hell purchase them. I believe apple can do street view there are other companies that do the hole camera while driving thing. Apple has some deep pockets. Better start throwing down if you want this to be a flag ship app.
  • People are so stupid and whiny. It's a new app, of course there are going to be a few problems. But in my experience so far, the core functions of the new Maps have worked perfectly; I don't give a crap if the 3D view of some stupid place in *insert country name here* looks contorted. How were Google's Maps at first? Were they perfect?
  • People ARE stupid. They're especially stupid when they think that their experience must match everyone else's experience. So if it works for them then it works for everyone, everywhere. Like you said, stupid.
  • I never said that since my experience was good, that everyone's else's would be, too. Why don't you learn to discern; reading's only half the battle, you twat.
  • I discern quite well. You say the core functions work for you but call others "whiny," suggesting that theirs work fine or that they're dissatisfied with what YOU think should be enough for them. Your experience doesn't necessarily reflect that of any one else. It is stupid to suggest otherwise.
  • What, are you really blaming the customers? FFS, the CEO had to write a letter apologizing to the customers and suggest them to use other apps. Don't you think that is because the app is faulty? Good for you that the App is working fine for you.. but you know this is a MAP application right? People use it as guidance on the road.. and when it's not working properly, can you imagine how frustrating it would be? Sitting in your car in the middle of nowhere and try to make it work. Nobody is talking about perfection here, why do you have to take it to the extreme? It's about having a Map app that could work decently.. and its not even the case here. The effing CEO had to write a letter to apologize.. and you dare blaming the people using it? Who's the moron here.
  • I commend Apple for owning up like this, but this does little to restore consumer confidence and they had already publicly stated that they were working on it. What they should be doing is fixing the issues with Maps starting with the low hanging fruit by going through all the map errors reported on blogs, etc and publicly letting people know they have been fixed. They need to keep up that momentum and continue to feverishly fix other errors that are reported through the app and work with Yelp and other services to improve their data. For any errors that would be considered fairly major like city and town names not appearing they could start a blog listing everything they have fixed if they're really serious. As another example, there is a McDonalds about a mile from my house, but if I search for "fast food" it doesn't appear, while several other fast food chains do show up further away. However, if I specifically search for "McDonalds" that place appears in Maps and even has Yelp reviews, so Yelp knows about it, but it is either wrongly categorized or their search isn't very intelligent. Making sure their POIs are correctly categorized, especially for big chains, or making sure the search picks this up surely would be relatively easy to fix and test and would resolve a whole slew of problems on a large scale.
  • Steve would be very upset. MS, Nokia, and Google are probably rofling right now.
  • How do any of anyone give apple a pass on this? I swear to fucking God, you idiotic iTrolls will let Apple get away with anything they want. A poster above said he actually PREFERS it this way. Another said people are just whining. The Map feature has got to be a top 3 used feature of a smart phone, and this abortion of an app does not work. What is wrong with you people, Apple doesn't pay you for this cult like behavior.
  • I think your question was rhetorical, but I heard a pretty good answer for this recently. Back in the day, Apple was the upstart company. They were the underdog. They were the one whose aspirations were so much higher than their stock price. People therefore became protective of them. Now, they are the largest or among the largest companies in the world. Apple doesn't need our protection anymore. They aren't kids anymore. But it IS time to grow up.
  • I figured Phone, Email, and Messages would be the top 3 features of a smartphone, followed by calendar, Internet, then maybe maps. Honestly I never used my iPhone before for directions because without turn-by-turn I'll stick to my old GPS thank you... yes there are glaring issues that need to be resolved, but I would have traded it any day for turn-by-turn directions. After I upgraded to iOS 6 is the first time I ever used the maps because it is finally useable. All the other stuff will be fixed with time, and like many of the images going around the errors have to do with satellite images and nothing to do with maps and directions.
  • Had google provided apple the same features on android phones, we probably would still have google maps on iOS devices. It's a shame really.
  • Yep. Too bad Apple was unwilling to reach into its deep pockets to provide that experience to its users. Google had a list of demands, (that would help them continue to accrue revenue from the iOS base) that they wanted met, before allowing iOS users to have some of the features currently limited to Android. If Apple was unwilling to provide them, you know what would do it? Cash. Mo