Apple Maps: One Year Later

Apple Maps

When Scott Forstall showed off Apple’s own mapping service at WWDC12 as part of iOS 6, it was somewhat well received until developers got their hands on it. After that, things sort have gone downhill from there. This is Apple’s maps one year later.

In iOS 6, Apple transitioned away from Google Map–which was included in iPhone software (now called iOS)–since 1.0. Moving towards their own in-house mapping cartography with a brand new Maps application, the new Maps are vector-based, allowing for smooth scrolling and panning and very detailed text and graphics. Apple partnered with several mapping firms like TomTom as well as integrating services like Yelp.

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Maps in iOS 6 features turn-by-turn navigation available on newer devices with support for real-time traffic updates providing accident reports and estimated time of arrival. Turn-by-turn navigation even works on the lock screen. You could ask Siri, “Are we there yet?” and she’ll respond with the ETA. All of this sounds great. [​IMG] There is also a new feature in Maps called “Flyover,” which lets you see cities and landmarks from the air with stunning 3D view. The 3D is amazing and I suggest you view a gallery of some 30 cities supported here. Tapping on a pin will reveal any phone numbers, address, reviews, and photos for the selected location along with directions how to get there. Siri was also been optimized to work better with Maps, helping you to find your way and locate destinations. Moreover, a new local search feature allows for you to discover details about locations around you. All of these features sounded just awesome. But there was a deeper truth.

“Turn Left”

No don’t! From the moment you look at the icon, there was already something wrong with it, compared to the previous icon. The icon showed the surrounding area around Apple’s headquarters at 1 Infinity Loop. However in reality the icon suggested users to turn off an overpass. There was no true turn.

“It just doesn’t work”

Gizmodo ran a story showcasing the location of the earth’s oceans in iOS 6. Except the locations were all wrong, so wrong that they were on top of continents. This wasn’t the way geography was taught to me! iOS 6 seemed to have just put a dent in the universe. These errors although major in a sense, were shortly fixed. Several “Downfall” movie parodies surfaced on YouTube bashing maps.

However shortly after that a Tumblr page was created. Showcasing the failure Apple’s mapping service was about to become. “We want Google Maps back” they protested. Several people believed that Apple would revert back to Google Maps during the beta period. This was far from the truth.

“We’re here Martha.”

Google Maps Coming to iOS

google maps icon Google promised to bring its own maps application back to iOS “in the comings weeks” back in June 2012. The public fretted that they wouldn’t see the application until after the public release of iOS 6. Weeks turned into months. Some believed that Google employees were just sitting on their asses laughing at Apple. Or that Apple “accidentally” hit the disprove button during the app review process. Forcing its users to use their own maps. Google finally released the ‘solution’ in December 2012. In just two days the application achieved ten million downloads. It was said that the adoption rate of iOS 6 increased by 30% after the ‘solution’ was released.

iOS 6 Released

iOS-6-logo-official (1) On September 19th 2012 Apple released iOS 6 to the public. Things didn’t go well during the reviews. Several times the new mapping service was bashed. It may have well hinder the release of the iPhone 5 two days later. Users weren’t happy. Tension brewed. Nine days later Apple finally responded to the negativity. Tim Cook published a open letter on 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 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

In a rather embarrassing letter Tim Cook had to admit firsthand that Apple failed. It failed to satisfy its customers. The worst part of this was that Tim Cook needed to recommend other alternatives to its service. Suggesting users to download Bing or Nokia maps. As well as adding mobile websites to your home screen. Although unlike Apple’s voice assistant — Siri which launched a year earlier, which also faced criticism. Apple choose not to tag its maps with a beta tag. Which may have at least loosened the lasso around their neck. It’s too late now.

“You’re Fired!”

With an extremely embarrassing letter now following Apple forever. Tim Cook’s Apple needed to make changes. These changes would lead to what we believe is the design of iOS 7. These changes resulted in the dismissal of long-time Apple employee — Scott Forstall. Forstall was the head of iOS software who also showed off the new mapping service at WWDC12. It was reported that Scott didn’t want to put his name to the embarrassing letter. Scott also tried to portray Siri as a completed product in several ads. In an interview Tim Cook expresses why he fired Scott:

But the thing that ties us all is we’re brought together by values. We want to do the right thing. We want to be honest and straightforward. We admit when we’re wrong and have the courage to change.

And there can’t be politics. I despise politics. There is no room for it in a company. My life is going to be way too short to deal with that. No bureaucracy. We want this fast-moving, agile company where there are no politics, no agendas.

The dismissal of employees continues with Richard Williamson who was once the former Maps product manager. It is also to be believed that Richard was also the head belonging to “Find My Friends” service. Which also faces criticism. He lost his position for the mishaps surrounding the mapping service. Leaving Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services in charge. Dare I say I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.

“We’re Lost”

In news report. Six motorists had to be rescued after being giving the wrong directions through Apple’s maps. After this incident police shamed the service saying “Tests on the mapping system by police confirm the mapping systems lists Mildura in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park, approximately 70km away from the actual location of Mildura”. Later discerning that it could have been a life threatening situation without food and water. As well as recommending other services. “Anyone travelling to Mildura or other locations within Victoria should rely on other forms of mapping until this matter is rectified”. With Apple given iOS 6 the slogan “it will take your device to an entirely new directions” it certainly did. This isn’t the only the service was shamed by officials. In London officials recommend after the release of iOS 6 that users revert to the less intuitive paper maps. As the mapping service was wrong. In Portland Oregon, Todd Steele, a bar owner is fed up with the service. Citing he’s losing revenue because it’s taking potential customers to the wrong location of the bar. Causing him to lose revenue “We’re guessing on the low-end $500 to $1,000 a night. That’s around $50,000 since mid-September.” Steele repeated asked Apple to solve this issue even asking his mother to help. “It got so bad at one point that my mom, who is a partner in the business, actually walked into Apple headquarters in Cupertino. She didn’t have any success.”

“I want you…”

Apple has reportedly asked its employees in the retail division to help solve the mapping fiasco back in October. In a report from ifoapplestore.com via Macrumors:

Apple is piloting a program to tap into its vast number of retail store employees to help improve the company’s new Maps app for iOS 6. Details on the initiative remain unclear, but multiple sources have indicated that participating stores will dedicate 40 hours of staff time per week, distributed among a number of employees, to manually examine Apple’s mapping data in their areas and submit corrections and improvements.

Apple has not only asked its retail employees, but the generally public. An Apple spokesmen told MacWorld in September:

Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service. We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover and Siri integration, and free turn-by-turn navigation. We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it. We are continuously improving it, and as Maps is a cloud-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get. We’re also working with developers to integrate some of the amazing transit apps in the App Store into iOS Maps. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.

What did the spokesmen mean by “the more people use it, the better it will get”? Well he was likely referring to the “Report a Problem” ‘feature’ in the application Where users can report incorrect data and suggest the correct address. It seemed that if Apple was going to solve these issues. You — the public is Apple’s only hope.

Image credit: Macrumors.com

The Cost

The Guardian reports that this flop service cost Apple at least $30 billion from the shock that struck Apple’s share prices. Here’s the history of the stock price from September 21st the launch day of the iPhone 5 to the 28th, the day Tim Cook apologized. Apple’s stock is still only recovering from this downfall.

Why?

Why did Apple feel the need to launch its own mapping service? We’re not exactly sure. However Placebase was a company acquired by Apple in July 2009 for an undisclosed amount. So Apple understandably was already planning a mapping service. However was it ready for the big show just three years later? The answer isn’t looking to good. So why did Apple have to launch it so early? AllThingsD explains:

Apple pushed Google hard to provide the data it needed to bring voice-guided navigation to iOS. But according to people familiar with Google’s thinking, the search giant, which had invested massive sums in creating that data and views it as a key feature of Android, wasn’t willing to simply hand it over to a competing platform… There were a number of issues inflaming negotiations, but voice navigation was the biggest. Ultimately, it was a deal-breaker.

Apple wasn’t happy that Google wanted to keep voice-guided navigation all to themselves. Apple needed to found a new solution. With iOS’s voice assistant — Siri Apple was able to integrate voice-navigation right into their maps. Forcing Apple to split ties with Google and release their service premature. This was a disastrous decision that left a 30 billion scar on Apple reputation and Tim Cook. Above all else nobody uses voice-navigation. Nobody uses Siri. The saddest part of all of this? Google Maps for iOS includes voice-navigation. During an interview with NBC, Tim Cook admits that Apple “screwed up,” and discusses the reasoning behind Apple maps.

We wanted to provide the customer turn-by-turn directions. We wanted to provide the customer voice integration. We wanted to provide the customer flyover. And so we had a list of things that we thought would be a great customer experience, and we couldn’t do it any other way than to do it ourselves. We set out to give the customer something to provide a better experience. And the truth is it didn’t live up to our expectations. We screwed up.

The Future

iOS 7 Earth It’s going to hurt a whole lot more before it’s going to get a whole lot better. It’s going to continue to hurt haunt Apple’s reputation amoung other things. They will continue to solve and fix errors that you report. One of the things Apple is doing is investing in acquiring other companies. Apple has acquired several firms hoping to makes maps a better product. Here is a list of currently known companies Apple has acquired relating to geography:

  • Placebase – A mapping service similar to Google Maps, July 2009
  • Poly9 – A Canadian based firm with focused on web-based maps, July 2010
  • C3 Technologies – A 3D firm which products 3D map, August 2011
  • WiFiSlam – A technology to improve the accuracy of location services indoors, March 2013
  • Locationary – A crowdsourcing service which creates a data base of popular locations, July 2013
  • HotSpot.com – A service which offers transit directions all over the world, July 2013
  • Embark – Another transit based service, August 2013

Transit based directions, currently nonexistent in maps, has to be found through the App Store. Apple should have plans to solve this soon rather than later. C3 technologies, likely purchased for the “Flyover” feature has to be improved — drastically. While cities are still missing which is understandable. The current 3D supported cities lack foundation. For example the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, the roof is suspended by air. (Although depending on who you ask that’s normal.) The London Eye, the ferris’ wheel in London is lacking spokes. The Big Ben also in London shows four different times on the clock faces. You can find thousands of errors plagued throughout the application.

Yes, that's during an Apple keynote

Yes, that’s during an Apple keynote

While iOS 7 won’t fix maps. It still adds several features, although relatively minor. They changed the icon, allowing you to trust the icon once again. iOS 7 also will ask users if they want to help improve maps and send data to Apple anonymously through ‘frequent locations’. As well as a new night mode feature.

Apple has still a lot of work head of them. Even with a lot of polishing, and bug squashing. Apple will still be lacking one major feature from its competitor — Google and that’s Street View. Apple Map’s will continue to improved over the years. They will eventually add transit directions and make the way over to OS X 10.9 Mavericks this fall and “iOS in the Car” in 2014. Perhaps even to your browser. However I don’t think we’ll see Apple cars driving in your neighborhood anything soon. Find My iPhone In a year Apple acquired mapping companies and hired several Google employees in the process. Fired senior vice president of iOS Software Scott Forstall and head of the maps team Richard Williamson. The chief executive officer of Apple — Tim Cook sent out an apology because “we screwed up.” With the share prices of Apple dropping significantly with at least 30 billion lost in value. All of this because of voice-navigation. Which Google now includes in their standalone application.

What reason is there for me to use Apple’s maps? Google maps has everything Apple’s has, including their own variation of “Flyover” and then some. On top of that — it’s trustful information. Apple is seen as the company that comes in with their new product and blows the competition out of the water. Not with maps. Not yet that is.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride though mud and dirt for Apple’s maps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, some might argue that Apple’s maps was. They’re going to need strong leadership to pull through this. Tim Cook, who being ruling Apple for two years now has got the world on his shoulders. Literally.

Apple Maps Richard Williamson Fired

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